Saturday, December 24, 2011

Did You Know?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?.... Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will calm the calm the storm with His hand?... Lyrics from "Mary Did You Know" originally written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene

This year, in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, one of my favorite songs has been running through my mind, "Mary Did You Know". Clay Aiken's voice makes the words resonate in my heart. While I'm listening and singing along to it, I think of something that is not mentioned in the lyrics and want to ask, "Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will die a tragic, painful death? Mary, did you know you will only have Him for 33 years? Mary, if you knew the pain and loss you'll suffer, would you still have been so joyous when the angel shared the news?"

Why didn't God tell her what was going to happen to Jesus? Why did He only have the angel say to her, 'He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.... his kingdom will never end.' Luke 1:32/33(b) From this statement it sounds as if life would be all good for Jesus.... not just good, but great! It doesn't mention pain and suffering...

Then I think about losing Austin. If 23 years ago I had known the exact amount of time I would have with Austin and how he would die, would I have focused more on the fact that I was going to lose him, rather than enjoying the time I had with him? Would the time I did have with Austin been clouded, knowing how it would end sooner than I wanted it to? Would I have felt pressure to make sure certain things happened before he left us, instead of loving who he was at each point in his life? Would the joy of Austin's birth been less because at the same time I was thinking I would only have 21 years with him, which is not nearly enough time in my book?

Our minds have a preconceived idea of how life should be. We're born. We grow up, get married, have kids. Our kids get married and give us grandkids. We get old and our time to leave this Earth comes before our children's. The end.... This is the way it's supposed to be. But, life rarely works out exactly as we plan. The way we think things should happen and the way they actually do sometimes conflict. In actuality, there are only 2 things guaranteed: we were born and we will die. The way the rest of our story unfolds often remains a mystery until it happens. Sure, some parts we seem to have a say in, but others not so much.

Yesterday marked the 18 month anniversary of Austin leaving us. It has been 18 months and 2 days since I last spoke with Austin on the phone, since I told I loved him. As I reflect on this and on the question, "On the day Austin was born do I wish I had known how long I would have to hug him and love him?" the answer comes to me quickly. "No. Because I know I would have spent much of that time worrying, counting down the days, all while losing out on enjoying the actual time I had with him - both the ups and downs of raising him to be the beautiful, caring young man he was becoming.

Then I think about Jesus' story some more. God sent His son to Earth, knowing what was going to happen, knowing Jesus was going to suffer terribly, but He did it anyway. Thirty three years later God allowed Jesus to be crucified and God felt the pain of His son dying (before he rose three days later) so we could all go to Heaven. God felt the same kind of pain I did when I lost Austin. God understands my hurt and sadness.

Today, as I celebrate the birth of Jesus, I am thankful that, because of Him, I will see Austin again in Heaven. I don't know when this will be, but am looking forward to that day, when I can once again hear his voice, see his smile, and give him a huge hug. In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the days (hopefully years) I have with my other two boys and husband, with my memories keeping Austin alive in my heart.

PS: Here is the link to the song, "Mary Did You Know". Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

STRENGTH - What Is It?

STRONG (adj.): firm; durable
STRENGTH (n.): toughness; durability; the power to resist attack

During the months following Austin's death several people commented to me, "You are so strong." "I can't believe your strength. I don't think I could do it."

Which led me to ask myself a couple questions:  "What does it mean, 'I don't think I could do it?'" "What does it mean to be strong, especially when you lose a child?"

Q: What does it mean, 'I don't think I could do it?'"

R: I remember when it was just Austin and me. Other mothers would state, "I don't think I could do it; I couldn't be a single mom." To which I would answer, "If you ended up in that situation, you would figure out a way to make it work. What other choice would you have?"

In regards to going on after losing a child I wonder, "What would I 'not do'? Would I not wake up every morning? Would I not be a mom to my other two sons, who still need a me? Would I stop living, even though I was still alive?" Perhaps that was/is an option, but not the one I chose. In fact, it was never even an option for me. In the days, weeks, and even at times the months, following Austin's death, there were mornings I would wake up and think, "I'm so tired, I could lay here all day." But after a few minutes I would be bored, thinking,"What use is this? If I lay here all day it isn't going to take away my sadness and pain, so I might as well get up."

Don't get me wrong, there were days that I got little or nothing accomplished. My mind couldn't focus on anything but missing Austin and I couldn't get out of my own way. There were times when I didn't answer the phone because I just couldn't talk, and then other times when the opposite happened, I needed to chat with a friend, I needed to be around people. There were tasks I couldn't bring myself to do for a very long time: painting, tending to my landscaping - other than the bare essentials, exercising (more on this in a later blog), reading, driving alone in the car without crying, and on and on the list goes. My energy level was much lower than normal and my ability to multi-task slowed substantially. But, I had to live, I had to go on, in whatever manner I was able to manage at each specific point in time.

To some this might sound like strength, but to me I was just doing what I had to do. I wonder, if instead of saying "I don't think I could do it," what they're really saying is, "I don't ever, ever want to have to endure that kind of loss. I can't imagine, I don't want to imagine what it's like, ever!"
"Some people think that to be strong is to never feel pain. In reality, the strongest people are the ones who feel it, understand it, and accept it." ~ A Breath of Fresh Air

Q: "What does it mean to be strong, especially when you lose a child?"

R: It's amazing, when we are put in situations that we never imagined being in, what we do to survive. Until you're there you have no idea how you will react. Traveling down the road of life there are tunnels no one wants to enter, because from the outside, looking in, they are so pitch-black you do not see how you'll ever survive the trip. You have no idea what you would or could do to make it through the dark, stormy tunnel. You don't know what's on the other side and cannot fathom  sunshine waiting for you at the other end.

I can tell you, today, that sometimes you're rammed into that scary, turbulent tunnel, like it or not. In the beginning you cannot see, even a glimpse of, light at the other end. You cannot turn back, though, so you keep moving along. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and sometimes you even come to a complete stop - due to construction or to get your bearings. You cannot stop for long, because everyday life keeps pushing (and sometimes pulling) you on. Before you know it, there's a little ray of light in front of you, peaking through the other end of the tunnel. As you continue your journey the light gets brighter and brighter, and you realize you're going to be OK. You're going to make it.

I think we often get confused about what strength means. When we see the word 'tough', in it's definition, we think we should never be sad, never cry, never get frustrated, never feel like quitting. But that's not true. I like the part of the definition that describes it as 'durability', because that better fits my situation. I am durable. I can make it, despite being sad, despite crying, despite getting frustrated, and wanting to yell, 'Stop the world I want to get off!' Being 'strong' means being able to acknowledge how you feel and being OK with it at that moment. It means being able to get your bearings, when your thrown for that upside down, inside out roller coaster ride, and figure out how to survive. It's seeing that the scars you're given can actually help you maneuver life's bumpy roads - potholes, detours, and all.

A few months after Austin's death, a friend sent me a bookmark with a beautiful saying, which truly sums up strength. The title is "You Are One of the Strongest Women I Know", but I think this applies to anyone who has fallen down and gotten up, who has faced life's trials and been made stronger. So, I have replaced the word "women" with "people". This goes out to all of mine and Austin's friends and family, who have walked the past 17-1/2 months with me...
You Are One of the Strongest People I Know!
 ~ Brenda Hager

Strong people are those who know the road ahead will be strewn with obstacles, but they still choose to walk it because it's the right one for them.

Strong people are those who make mistakes, who admit to them, learn from those failures, and then use that knowledge. They fail time and again, but still keep trying until they succeed.

Strong people face the daily trials of life, sometimes with a tear, but always with their heads held high as the new day dawns.
While typing the above quote I couldn't help but smile and think of Austin.... because this is how he dealt with life.... always ready to take on the new day - potholes and all!!! ...Usually with a smile!

Go take on the new dawn with your head held high!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LLL: It's Easier To Be Thankful When You Focus on the Good...

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results." ~Willie Nelson

Livin', Lovin', Life.... Choose to look at the good!

Last week I conducted software training  for a group of reps who was required to begin using the new program within the next week. There were a couple individuals who continually complained about what the program couldn't do instead of focusing on what it could. The problem with this is that looking at the negative was preventing them from learning what they needed to know to do their job successfully.

As I was flying home from the training, I began to draw comparisons between the reps' mindsets and life in general. How often do I focus on what I don't have, instead of what I do have? When has my negativity gotten in the way of my being appreciative of the blessings life has given me? When do I hone in on the idiosyncrasies of an individual instead of highlighting his/her goodness? When I focus on the negatives I find myself being more negative, but when I put my eyes on the positives I am uplifted and energized.

In my mind's typical fashion, it moved from generalities to specifics... losing Austin... and was reminded once again how blessed I have been. I know I've blogged about this before, but I think about it often - while grieving for Austin, I have been able to see the goodness of this world. All I have to do is look around and be thankful for my friends (including the friends Austin left me), husband, sons, parents, and siblings. I have a beautiful home, loving support, food on the table, a warm bed, and lots of extras. I have more than I need, both physically and emotionally. I am truly fortunate and blessed!

My thoughts continued drifting with more thoughts of Austin. One thing that made him so "likable" was his ability to enjoy what he had. Sure, he was always wanting another toy or gadget, but he also thankful for the little things in life. Whether it was an old beat-up pick-up truck, or a newer Subaru he was driving, he was proud of them. He was content with his worn out sneakers. In fact, I had to force him to let us buy him a new pair of shoes and throw his stinky, holey ones away. Did he ever get frustrated with different situations? Absolutely! But then he'd regroup and figure out what he could do to either accept or change what he didn't like. He didn't focus on what he couldn't do, but chose to take action on what he could do.

A few blogs ago I discussed the importance of embracing who we were made to be. But, I truly believe that needs to be taken one step further. We must also accept others for who they were made to be, even if they are different than us! Does it mean we'll never get annoyed or irritated with people or situations? No! What it means is that we won't expend energy dwelling on the negative, but instead allow ourselves to become energized by the positives. We will be thankful for the differences in others and see how they can compliment us. By doing this we lift others up, instead of dragging them down.

Austin loved his friends and family, even when we drove him crazy. His attitude carried over to everyone he met, he just loved finding new friends. He possessed a special gift of being able to see the good in people, and ignore their quirks (most of the time). He appreciated them for who they were. (Again, I know I've mentioned this before... but that's what made Austin so special.) I remember one time when Austin came to visit. We went to Quedoba's for lunch and one of the workers was trying so hard to do a good job. Austin struck up a conversation with the guy, showing him that his friendly customer service was appreciated. That was Austin, always taking time to chat it up with someone, to make them feel valued.

Do you ever notice how negative individuals drain you, but people who tend to be positive lift your spirit? Who do you prefer to spend time with? How much more enjoyable would our days be if we valued the good in others, and ignored the peculiarities? What would happen if we looked at the positives of life (both in people and situations), instead of the negatives? The more we appreciate what we have, the more we will realize life is good. Amongst the challenges we face, both the everyday and life-altering ones, life is still very, very good!

Today (and every day) give thanks for what you have!!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Memories Galore!

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland

One "concern" I sometimes have is that, as time goes on, I may forget things about Austin. I want to hold his memories close and never forget a single thing. But, my fear is probably unnecessary, because the opposite seems to be happening. I find myself remembering more, instead of less. I will see, hear or smell something that stirs a memory I had forgotten. It appears that the memories have not disappeared, but have simply recessed somewhere in my brain, waiting to be summoned at just the right moment. Moments like...

... Driving on Route 104 in Oswego... One day this past summer, on my way to camp, I drove by a gas station that brought me back to remembering the day Austin rode his bike (the one he owned previously prior to his last one) to his aunt's camp. I met him at that gas station to show him how to get to her camp, which was a mile or 2 on back roads from that spot. I could see the proud look on his face when we arrived at the party and people came to look at his bike....

... Surprise visit from Austin... A few years ago Austin decided to surprise one night. He drove to Massachusetts, arriving in the wee hours of the morning and unbeknownst to us, snuck inside the house (he had a key), crawled into his sleeping bag, plopped on the couch and fell asleep. I woke in the early morning and came downstairs to find this lump on my couch? I was confused at first, until I realized it was Austin... what an wonderful surprise that warmed my heart.

... 2nd surprise visit from Austin... Mike and I knew Austin was coming late at night, but his brothers didn't. They spent the night at the next door neighbors. The morning, after Austin arrived, he went knocking at the neighbor's door asking for the boys. They were so excited, saying "Austiiiiiiin!

... 5K events... Again, driving to camp, I drove through a section of a town where a 5K event was in progress. Seeing the runners conjured up the memories of the time Austin ran in the Crosswinds 5K. He hadn't trained for it at all - which was so Austin. I don't even know if he wore running shoes (at that age running shoes weren't "cool" and most of the time he was sporting "Skate" shoes). As he was running, trying to keep up with the others, he was with he kept huffing and puffing and saying, "I can't see". But he refused to stop. I'm sure he was encouraging for those he ran next to. They probably had better time than they otherwise would have, as they were most likely running faster to get away from hearing Austin's groans. Listening to the stories told afterwards just made me smile, because I could visualize Austin's run so clearly. I think the stories were told over and over many times, for many years.

... Summer's here... Every year when I open the pool, I am sure the memory of Austin picking me up and jumping in the pool with me, clothes and all, will always come to mind. Austin's brothers laughed so hard.

... Visiting the Emergency Room... Late one night, in November 2007, I took Austin to the emergency room with an abscessed tonsil. The next morning, as we were waiting for Austin to be discharged, he was still all medicated up. There was a delay in signing of the release papers due to other emergencies arriving. Austin was getting a little antsy to leave, then he stopped and smiled, saying, "I know why they won't let me go. They like me!" I couldn't stop laughing, because he was so darn cute! I can still see the silly smirk and hear his light-hearted voice, that only Austin had.

... Coming home from the ER visit... Immediately after Austin being discharged from the ER... The memories continue.... A couple hours after we arrived home from the ER visit, we were getting ready to head to my dad's for dinner. Everyone was in the car waiting. I came out and went to climb in the front seat, there was Mike in the front passenger seat and the driver's seat! The two other boys were buckled in the back seat. I asked, "What is Austin doing?" Mike stated, "He wanted to drive." To which I replied, "I don't think so! Over my dead body... He's still has the pain medicine in him!" With a grin and a chuckle, Austin moved to the back seat....

... Baby blankets with satin trim... I bet most people don't know that old silk nightgowns are perfect "blankie" material. Austin loved the silky trim on his blankie. He loved it so much that it kept coming unthreaded and I'd have to sew it back on. One day I couldn't find his blanket, which made bedtime/naptime rough. Then I got an idea.... I cut large rectangles out of an old satiny nightgown of mine and gave those to him. Problem solved! (It was great for me too, because I was so tired of the silk strip wearing out and having to sew it back up.)

... Generators needed... When we lost power this past August from Hurricane Irene, and then again this October from the Nor'easter snow storm, people either turned on their generators, bought a generator, or talked about how they had to get one before the next "storm"...every time generators are mentioned I remember Austin being excited because the store/shop he worked at, for a while, sold generators. Every time he sold one he'd offer his electrical services (for a fee) to install them for the customer. He was always excited when he got a job to do that.... Always looking for ways to make a little extra.

... The messy basement... There are certain sections in my basement that when I clean I can't help but remember Austin, as his boxes are all around.

... Yellow Subaru t-shirts.... The other day as I was folding the yellow Subaru t-shirt that Matthew "stole" from Austin when he was visiting one week-end reminded me of Austin. The next time Austin came to visit Matt was wearing the shirt. Austin noticed it and said, "Hey! That's my shirt, I've been looking for it. Where'd you get it from?" Matthew just laughed and kept it. Matthew loves yellow, Subarus, and most of all Austin, that's why he "stole" it...

... Chocolate Chip Cookies... Every time I make chocolate chip cookies I will think of Austin. He liked them best without the chips. So now I make a few "chipless chocolate chip cookies" every time I bake them.

... Homemade Mac & Cheese... For the longest time Austin was the only one that liked (no loved) my homemade mac & cheese. I would try to make it whenever he came to visit. Now, everytime I make it Austin is with me. (And both my other boys have decided they love it too!)

... That Christmas Tree's Mine!... A few years ago we were Christmas tree shopping. We still go and cut our own, it's a family tradition. The tree farm we went to actually let you drive down the paths between the rows of tree. Austin and I couldn't stop laughing that we were so lame that we were sitting in a warm cozy car scouting out trees. Then we spotted a couple looking at a tree, like they really wanted it. Austin and I started joking how we should get out and run up to the tree and start cutting it down, like we were taking it, then say, "Just kidding." We even got out of the car and started walking towards it. The couple looked at us, so we just turned and kept laughing. Mike did not find this amusing, which just made us laugh harder. Ever since that Christmas, whenever we go for our annual Christmas tree hunt that story gets brought up. It was so Austin!

Some memories seem to be always there, lingering in all my thoughts, others come for a moment and then recess to the back of my mind, not to return for a very long time, and still others appear every time I see or hear a trigger (like chocolate chip cookies and homemade mac & cheese).

Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death. ~Author Unknown

Another fear I have is that I will forget the sound of Austin's voice and laugh, but I am blessed to have a couple videos of Austin, that capture his essence to the full. Whenever I feel I can't "remember" I simply watch the video and the memories come flooding back and warm my heart - his smile, laugh, voice, and mannerism - it's as if he's right next to me.

After reflecting on how memories come and go every day, I've decided, it doesn't matter which type of memory it is, I just know I will hold each one to my heart and savor it while I can. He is always with me!

When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. ~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is...

Ever since Austin died I have had so many emotions stirred up when I return home to Massachusetts, after visiting Upstate NY. I've always attributed this to having been back in my hometown, where most of my life with Austin had been spent, where so many memories appear around every corner. Then this week I came to the realization that it's the returning to my own home, after being away, that unsettles me.

Last week I was gone for four days on a business trip. Things were good. I would think of Austin, especially when someone asked how many kids I had and how old they were, but it was no different than any other day. However, within a couple hours upon returning home, the extreme "missingness" feelings for Austin arrived. These were the same emotions I experience every time I return from Upstate NY.  This is when I realized that it's the actual "coming home" that is the trigger, and not simply NY.

I don't know why, but wonder if it may be because that's when I truly feel something is "missing". Even though Austin never lived in this particular house for more than his week-end (or on occasion week) visit, he knew this was his home. And I knew that at any time he might decide to join us for a visit, or give us a call on the phone asking, "What's up?" or "How do I get to this road?". It is when I'm away from the home and then return that I notice, even more so, what is missing (and always will be).

During our house hunting days for a home in Massachusetts, one criteria was that the place have a bedroom specifically for Austin. Even though he chose to stay in NY for college, I wanted him to know that this was his home too, the same as if we were still in the house he grew up in. So perhaps, it's knowing that Austin will never again bless these rooms with his physical presence... knowing that it will never be complete in the way I had always thought it would be... that brings an subconscious sadness every time I return home. Because even though Austin was only here on occasions, this entire house is filled with his memories. That was Austin, filling a place with his presence, where ever he went.

These strong feelings don't last long, usually only a day or two. I handle them the way I have dealt with my feelings for the past 16-1/2 months - I simply embrace them and let my mind and body process things in their own way. I understand it is because Austin was such a huge part of me that I feel his absence so strong at times. I am thankful for the fact that I have so many memories to tug on my heart. It means I was lucky to have had the time I did with Austin, because if I didn't I wouldn't have these memories - memories to hold in my heart and fill my home with (even when his presence is gone).

* Next blog is on "Memories.... they keep on coming"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Never Ceases to Amaze Me...

Leaning back in my seat, hearing the engines rev, slowly moving forward, then picking up speed, moving faster and faster, and then we're in the air, the ground is far below us.... Unbelievable!

It doesn't matter how many times I fly, I am always amazed at take off, when the plane's nose tips up, the front wheels lift off the ground and before you know it the entire plane is up, up and away, and we're above the clouds. This week I experienced four take-offs, and every time I thought the same thing, "It is absolutely incredible that this huge 'thing' can fly up in the clouds!" (No physical science / engineering explanations please. I know there is an explanation for how this works, but I'm still blown away!)

This week, my thoughts progressed to how amazing the human body is. Earlier in the week, a family I only know in passing, said good-bye to their teen daughter. When I received the call from a friend, telling me the news, memories from 16 1/2 months came to the forefront of my mind.  Since I heard the news thoughts of the grieving family popped in and out of my mind and what they were going through. I couldn't help but think back  to the day we received the news of Austin's accident and passing, and of the days leading up to and including the calling hours and funeral. And once again, I was amazed... amazed at how the human body and mind heals.

As I reflected back to June 24, 2010 I remembered the unbearable, physical pain I felt that devastating day and the days to follow. I now understand where the term "broken heart" came from, because it truly feels as though your heart has been literally broken, not just in half, but in a million pieces and it is excruciating. I have never felt such tremendous pain in my chest and whole being.

Then, my thoughts drifted to now, November 2011. That raw pain is no longer there. A hole, yes. A dull (sometimes stronger) aching, yes. Those exist, but they're not the intense, unbearable pain that accompanied me the days immediately following Austin's death. That pain slowly changed throughout the days, weeks, months, and now year that followed, and has evolved into something manageable and definately survivable. I realize that even as I run the events of that day through my mind, I can remember hurting in a way I never had before, but I do not actually, physically feel it. And I am again in awe of how the human body is made to heal and to protect itself. Because it would not be possible to live with that type of pain forever, our body protects us and our mind eases and replaces the crushing pain and sadness with memories...

...beautiful memories... of a young man who brought joy and laughter to so many... of a wonderful son who's love for life and people never ceases to amaze me!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LLL: It's So Good to See You!

My ultimate favorite grocery store just came to the area and I'm ecstatic! I have talked this store up ever since I moved to a part of the country that had not yet been blessed by it's presence. But last week that changed... they opened, just 30 minutes from us, and now I know what really makes it so very special. They are glad to see me every time I enter their doors. And it's not just me, but everyone that stops by. Or, at least that's how they make you feel, as though they're happy you are there and that they want to help you.

As I was driving home today, from one of my many visits to this establishment, I started thinking of Austin (what else is new). I realized that he had something very much in common with this store. Austin always made whoever he met feel welcomed, that he was glad to see them.... and he genuinely was! This was a gift. A gift he shared so readily with those he met. It's not something that can be learned, because if you try to fake it people see right through you. But Austin didn't fake it.... he truly loved people, and because of this he touched so many lives.

Thank you Austin for showing us how to love....

"People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." ~ Author Unknown

Monday, October 17, 2011

LLL: Are You the "Real McCoy"?

"Today you are You. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!" ~Dr. Seuss


I'm a night owl. My husband's an early bird. I have to work very hard on being neat and organized. My older sister has always been naturally that way. I'm a glass half-full kind of girl. I have friends that tend to see more the glass half-empty. I don't particularly enjoy cooking on a regular basis, that's why there's Wegman's (sorry, I had to put that in here after this week...). Some of my good friends make 5-star meals every night. I like having a pool. My husband would prefer a pond or lake. I love chocolate, but am not so fond of sea food. My husband loves sea food, but could take or leave chocolate. I love Diet Coke and wine. My husband enjoys a glass of water or cold beer. I'm an extrovert. My brother's an introvert. My kids attend public school. Other friends' kids go to private schools or are home schooled. I love to laugh. My husband is more serious and rarely laughs at my jokes. I love country music. I have friends that don't know a single country song (or at least won't admit to it). The list goes on and on regarding how my likes, personality, and skills are different than many of my friends and family's, and that's OK.
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139:14
It took me a long time to be able to say.... "I like this and you don't. That's OK." Once I not only voiced those words, but also believed them, the freedom I felt was unbelievable. I realized that I will never please everyone, that everyone will not like me, and that's OK. I could finally be me.... just plain, old "me"! If I try to change who I am simply to get another person's approval, chances are pretty good that I will be the recipient of someone else's "disapproval". So, why not be myself and start enjoying who I was made to be?

Funny thing, I had been telling my boys this ever since they were born (I guess I'm just a little slow with my own advice.)....

"There are only a couple of things that I know at this point that I want to make sure you learn and become. I want to teach you to always respect others' feelings and be careful not to intentionally hurt others. I also want you to learn to respect yourself and become the best person possible. When I say the best, I am not talking about smarts or talents, but rather the best person on the inside.I hope I can teach you to love and care for others. To try to see good in people. And to realize we are not all the same; it's alright to be different.... Life is wonderful when you respect yourself and others." Excerpt from a letter I wrote to Austin when he was 3 months old.

"It's been awesome watching you grow into an amazing young man, with an adventurous spirit, love for life, & unbelievable talent for fixing things! Enjoy life, be who God made you to be & make the years to come great ones! We love you! Mom & Dad." The message submitted for Austin's senior yearbook from his parents
Thank goodness this was one piece of advise Austin listened to, from a very early age. He wasn't afraid to be the "real McCoy" and as a result he blessed so many people!

"The real McCoy": an idiom used in much of the English-speaking world to mean "the real thing" or "the genuine article"
Austin was "the real McCoy". He was authentic! You knew from the minute you met him what you were getting. There was no guessing. Austin may have pretended, on occasion, to know a little more than he really knew (and he could be very convincing), but he never pretended to be someone he wasn't. This allowed Austin to live life to the fullest and is why he touched so many lives in the 21-3/4 years he was here with us.

"That's OK if you don't like it, I do..." are nine words everyone should learn to say. Because frankly, individuality is what makes each of us so unique. How boring it would be if we were all alike, but for some reason I see so many people, including at times myself, try to be someone they aren't.When we aren't ourselves we rob others the joy of truly knowing us, and we rob ourselves of being able to really live life to the fullest.
"If you are not yourself, if you surrender your personality, you have nothing left to give the world. You have no pleasure, no use, nothing which will attract and charm me, for by the suppression of your individuality, you lose your distinctive character." Edward Wilmot Blyden
Go be yourself and start truly Livin' Lovin' Life and in-turn bless those around you!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Who'd have thought?

I am not a huge "dog lover". In fact, I used to wonder why people would get so upset when their dog died. Then it happened. Several years ago , on a cold, snowy Saturday morning (a couple days before Christmas) our golden retriever, Cody, was hit by a car. Our vet was not open, so I had to drive 45 minutes to the "emergency" clinic. I cannot remember why I was the one elected to take a dog, one that I didn't even like, to the "doggie doctor", but there I was, alone in my car with the injured dog.

I carried Cody, all 80 pounds of him, into the vet's. He was whisked into the back for x-rays and an examination. When that was complete, the vet explained that his hip was dislocated. They had attempted to manipulate it back in place, but it popped out the back. They then put it back in place again, only to have it pop out the front. Bottom line, he would need a $5,000 surgery to fix it, but there was no guarantee that would even work. There was no way that we could afford the surgery, so I asked what would happen if Cody was not operated on. The vet informed me, in a very disapproving tone, that there was a good chance we would have to "put him down". As I thanked him for his help and paid the $800 bill, tears began rolling down my face. When I picked Cody up, to take him to the car, he looked at me with his puppy dog eyes and my heart ached. While driving home all I could think was, "I don't even like the stupid dog and I'm the one bawling my eyes out. What's up with that?"

We truly thought we were going to have to put Cody down. Mike was heading out of town right after Christmas, so with the dog by his side, Mike dug a hole. Sometime during the "digging" my then 6 or 7 year old middle son preceded to give Cody a pep talk, "I'm sorry Cody, but we're going to have to kill you." Meanwhile, I continued to shed tears (more, might I add, than all the others in my family put together). Between watching his grave being dug and the "pep talk" Cody figured he'd show us' there was no way he was going into that hole... He lived another several years, during which I became very fond of that "puppy-eyed" golden retriever. When his time eventually came, it was me, once again, carrying him into the vet's and saying one last good-bye, all while tears streamed down my face. I now understood why people are so sad when they have to say good-bye to "man's best friend".
Man's (aka Austin's) Best Friend...
Why am I sharing this? Because I realize more every day that until we've experienced certain things in life we just don't always understand. We're quick to cast judgement and say, "I'd never do that," or "I don't know what the big deal is." I've been guilty of doing this myself, more times than I'd like to admit.

What made me think of this story? The other day I was signing a card from myself, Mike and the boys and I realized that I don't know if I'll ever be able to sign a card again by writing out all of our names. Until I had experienced losing Austin, I would never have understood why a person, after losing a child (or spouse or best friend or ...), is unable to do something, even as simple as signing a card without that person's name on it.

A couple of week's ago it was my mom's birthday (which happens to also be the same day as Austin's). She loves daisies, so I decided to surprise her with a special delivery from all of us. I called the local florist in her area and put in my request. The florist asked what I wanted to say on the card and I said, "Happy Birthday!", but then I paused, as thoughts ran through my mind...

How should I sign the card? It's from all of us, so should I list all our names? But, what about Austin? Will it be "freaky" to include his name. If I do that, will it upset my mom, being an in-your-face reminder that he is not here. That from here on out she will, after 21 years, be celebrating her birthday without sharing the special day with him? But, I can't leave his name off, because even though he's not here with us, it really is from him too. I just can't do that.... Oh boy, how should I sign it. What should I do?

When Austin was alive and I signed cards (Christmas cards, birthday cards, graduation cards,...) from all of us I would sign them one of two ways: (1) list all of our names individually, or (2) sign Mike's and my name, then put "the boys"...

I decided to go with the latter, "Mike, Lori and the Boys". Wow! Who would have thought that ordering flowers would create such thoughtful agony? Sixteen months ago, I never would have. Hmmm...

"Who would've thought!?!"

"You have not walked in my footsteps, danced in my shoes, or lived in my world. Do not judge me, point fingers at me, or become experts on my life. Instead, celebrate with me in times of joy and cry with me in times of pain. Only then will we begin to understand each other."  ~Kate Baker 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Every Year I'll Wonder...

I've been sitting here for a couple hours, trying to figure out how to express my thoughts on the night before Austin's 23rd birthday. But I realize my thoughts and feelings are too mixed up to put "on paper" at this time. But, one thing has been running through my mind... "Austin will be forever 21 years old in my memory... but I wonder, if he was still here...Who'd he be today?"

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
Wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
Still can't believe you're gone

It ain't fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
The death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I've been through
Just knowing no one could take your place.

Sometimes I wonder who you'd be today

Would you see the world?
Would you chase your dreams?
Settle down with a family?
I wonder, what would you name your babies?
Some days the sky's so blue
I feel like I can talk to you
And I know it might sound crazy...

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I'll see you again someday...

Lyrics from "Who You'd Be Today" by Kenny Chesney

 VIDEO: Who You'd Be Today (by Kenny Chesney)

Thank you Austin for blessing me with the 21 years and 9 months you were here physically. And thank you for blessing me with the beautiful memories and friends you left us these past 15 months. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you. I love and miss you more than you can imagine!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

LLL - You Can't Always Get What You Want

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find...
You get what you need...
Lyrics from "You Can't Always Get What You Want, by Rolling Stones

LIVIN' LOVIN' LIFE (LLL) - Even When You Don't Get What You Want:

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is my family theme song. I would sing it to Austin when he was pouting about something he wanted, but couldn't have. When my other two boys are begging for the next best "but everybody else has it" item I look at them and sing, "You can't always get what you want. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need...."  To which they respond, with minor irritation in their voices, "Ugh.... Mommm, would you stop!"

I am guilty of needing this song sung to myself, especially when I'm pouting because my plans aren't working they way I had "planned". This was definately the case a few weeks ago. Kenny Chesney was playing at the stadium in town. Billy Currington and Zac Brown Band were the opening acts. We had amazing seats and the original forecast called for warm weather and sun. Mike and I hadn't done very much as a couple in the past couple months, so I was looking forward to spending a relaxing evening with him, while soaking in some great music. To make things even better, all three bands sing songs that remind me of Austin....

I couldn't wait to hear Billy Currington sing "God is Great, Beer is Good, People are Crazy". I can hear Austin laughing the first time it came on the radio when we were together. From that time on, every time I hear that song I always think of Austin. My smile gets bigger when I think of the story the song is telling -  I can just picture Austin being the guy singing...

This old man and me, were at the bar and we
Were having us some beers and swapping I don't cares
Talking politics, blond and red-head chicks
Old dogs and new tricks and habits we ain't kicked

We talked about Gods grace and all the hell we raised
Then I heard the ol' man say;
God is great, beer is good and people are crazy...

Last call its 2am, I said goodbye to him
I never talk to him again
Then one sunny day, I saw the old mans face
Front page Obituary, he was a millionaire

He left his fortune to some guy he barely knew,
His kids were mad as hell
But me, I'm doing well
And I dropped by today, to just say thanks and pray,

I left a six-pack right there on his grave and i said;

God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy...

Austin had that way with people, they warmed up to him instantly. So why wouldn't a stranger leave his fortune to him. I was looking forward to listening to Billy Currington sing this song and feel as though Austin was with us, because he would be in spirit. In addition, the DVD I made in memory of Austin contains songs from both Zac Brown Band and Kenny Chesney. So needless to say, between "God is Great, Beer is Good, People are Crazy" and all of the other songs, I couldn't wait for the evening to begin, which did, but not according to my plans.

Hurricane Irene was heading our way, with anticipated arrival time being the following morning. Preceding Irene was rain - lots of it - and it began before the concert did. No problem, I grabbed Austin's rain jacket and was ready for a wet evening. I wasn't going to let a little water ruin my night out. I would just make it better by bringing a little more of Austin with me, via his raincoat.

The concert started at 5:00pm. Billy Currington came on, followed by Zac Brown. We arrived at the concert at 7:40pm, missing all of Billy and catching the last 4 songs of Zac Brown. I won't go into details as to why we were so late, but let me just say I was not a happy camper. I was ticked. I stood with the rest of the crowd listening to Zac Brown, mad, grumbling and not enjoying myself. My plans had been ruined.

As I stood there pouting a conversation began in my head. I said to myself, "So, because you're mad that you missed the first half of the concert you're going to sit here, be miserable and not enjoy any of the concert, not even the part you made it to? Come on, now you're being just plain stupid. Knock it off and enjoy the rest of the evening!" It took a few songs, but by the time Kenny Chesney came on stage I was having a good time.... And the rain stopped! This was the last concert of Kenny's tour so he he was having a little extra fun. After Kenny played his set, which was amazing, he brought Zac Brown back on stage and they jammed for another hour. How awesome was that! And to think I was going to let the fact that the evening hadn't started the way I had planned ruin the rest of the night.

Austin was with me in spirit that night, not only with the songs, but with the adjustment of my attitude. Many times, as a child, when Austin wasn't getting his way he'd pout for a bit then be off doing something else, making the best of what he had and enjoying it. I remember, more times than once, when I'd grounded Austin from an activity or priveledge I knew he liked. His response would be, "That's OK. I didn't want to do that anyway." And then off he'd go, having fun doing something else.

How often have I not enjoyed what I'm doing because I have a pouty attitude for not getting my way? What have I missed out on because, rather than being present in what I am doing, even if it's not my first choice, I allow a crummy, pisspot attitude to take over? Unfortunately, it's more times than I want to admit.

As the song says.... You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find... You get what you need... And sometimes, many times, you may already have what you need... all you need to do is change your attitude.

That was Austin....
Always finding what he needed to live life and enjoy it with his uncanny ability of
Livin' Lovin' Life... no matter what!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

LLL - When Life's Not Fair

"Sometimes I think, 'It's just not fair.'" Words shared, this past week-end, between Mike and me immediately after visiting Austin's grave site.

LIVIN' LOVIN' LIFE (LLL) - When Life's Not Fair

There have been times, since Austin's death, that I begin to think for just a minute, "Why did Austin have to die when he was just beginning to really live? Why did I lose my son? Is it really fair?" Almost just as quickly I think, "Why not me? Why do I think I am immune to losing a child? Who am I that tragedy should not happen to me?"

Prior to Austin's accident I would worry about my kids. I would worry when the boys played sports, went to camp, rode their bikes up the road, were having trouble in school, were making poor choices, were just living life. I would worry when Austin was driving 6 hours to Massachusetts to visit us. These weren't stop you from functioning types of worries. They were simply "mom" worries. But, I truly never thought one of my boys would die, because that only happened in other families.

Even today, after I have lost a son in a motorcycle accident, I still cannot imagine other tragedies happening to my kids or family. If I'm brutally honest, there are times I think, "Only other parents have more than one child that dies. Only other parents have a child who: is diagnosed with Leukemia, is addicted to drugs, drops out of school, becomes rebellious and turns their back on their family, or any other 'bad' thing that can happen to a child." And I also think, "Only other couples get divorced; only other wives lose their husbands; only other familes file bankruptcy only other people's homes get destroyed by a tornado, earthquake, or fire; only others get cancer or have a heart attack; only others...."

And then I think, "How arrogant of me to think that I am exempt from the blows of life. Who do I think I am?"

Reality hits and begins to sink in. I did lose my oldest son. I am one of those "other mom's". I have been dealt one of the worst (if not the worst) thing a parent could experience. I did not have a choice, but it's not because "life is not fair", it's because "life is life". I cannot always decide what is going to happen, but once it happens I can decide how to deal with it. I can choose to let it pull me down and swallow me up, or I can look it in the face and choose to live.

This does not mean that I am never sad that Austin is no longer with me. This does not mean I don't have moments or days when I miss him so very much that it feels as if my heart is doing to break in half. Not at all... What it does mean is that I accept the cards I have been dealt and figure out how to still enjoy the life that I now have. I become present in the moments I've been given with my other two boys and husband. I look at the beauty in this world and soak it in. I laugh, even when my heart is still aching. I look at the tragedy of losing my son and allow it to help me look at what is truly important in life and then continue to live it. It is my choice, when life is not fair, to decide to still find joy in it, because there is still lots of it to be enjoyed.

"When life deals you a 'bad hand' and something tragic takes place you have a choice of either drown or start swimming. Make your choice count." Author Unknown

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


the name of Austin's electrical business.

I remember helping create a logo and business card for Austin, loving the fact that he was so proud of the name he came up with and always excited when he'd call about another job he'd picked up. Almost a year after Austin's accident the irony of the name hit me... START TO FINISH....

Austin lived his life to the fullest.... START TO FINISH!!! I can truly say "I was blessed by Austin and his life, from START TO FINISH" (something a parent never wants to have to say, ever.)  Austin's friends' lives were blessed.... People Austin had just met were blessed.... Even strangers were blessed.... START TO FINISH... by Austin's love of life and people.

With Austin's humor, I can see him smiling and chuckling about the irony of his business name. Who knew, when he came up with "START TO FINISH", how much it would truly apply to his life. I wasn't ready for him to be finished. I felt like he had just gotten started. But, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe he isn't finished. I have watched how Austin's life has affected so many people, even after he's gone. His love of life has made many of us think about life in a different way, and in a way that we may never have, if Austin hadn't left us.

I have given a hard look at why Austin impacted so many people, without even realizing it. I have wondered what I could do so that I had the love of life like Austin had. As I have reflected on this I have noticed that it was not one large thing, but many little things which, when added together, become a beautiful gift to those around.

For the next few entries I will look at ways to live life to the fullest, mostly based on things I saw in Austin. I hope this helps both myself and others to look at life differently - to soak in the beauty, even in the storms, and to live life to the fullest... from START TO FINISH!

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away.... I'd drop in and chat for a while...

"If heaven wasn't so far away. I'd pack up the kids and go for the day..." ~ lyrics from "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" by Justin Moore

Wouldn't that be nice, if we could pop into heaven and visit those that have left us. I smile thinking about walking down heaven's streets with my other two boys, seeing Austin coming towards us. I can hear my youngest say, "Auuuustin!" and going up to him, giving him a huge hug. I can hear Austin chuckling, saying, "Hey Bud. How are you?" with that sweet smile spreading across his face. I can feel his long arms wrap around me, as I squeeze him tight, telling him, "Hey, how are you? Man, we miss you!"

My middle son would give a sideways hug to Austin, saying in his now deep voice, "Hey Austin." Austin would laugh when he heard how deep his brother's voice has gotten. Then I'd point out how his brother's nose is becoming more and more like Austin's and how his muscles may be as big as Austin's. Austin would laugh, saying, "Yeah, you're right," and rub his brother's head.

"Sit on a cloud and visit for a while. It'd do me good just to see them smile..." ~ lyrics from "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" by Justin Moore

I can see us sitting on a cloud, catching up, laughing at the different things going on, reminiscing of things Austin did before he left, and soaking in Austin's stories of what he's been doing since. I'm sure he'd have some good adventures to share. As we're chatting, I can envision others walking by waving and calling out, "Hey, Austin!" with Austin smiling and replying, "Hey, how are you?" He'd be so excited to tell us about all the different people he's met and how they know others that he knew.

"Then tell him we'd be back in a couple of days. In the rear view mirror we'd all watch 'em wave." ~ lyrics from "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" by Justin Moore

When it came time to say good-bye, it wouldn't be so hard, because we'd know we'd see him again soon. I'd give him a huge hug, tell him I love him and miss him, and that I'd be back in a few days. As we drove away, the boys and I would laugh at how good it was to see Austin and comment at how much we missed him.

"Yeah, and losing him wouldn't be so hard to take.... If heaven wasn't so far away." ~ lyrics from "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away" by Justin Moore

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Uncomfortable Conversation...

My Three Sons!
"How many kids do you have?"
"Are they boys or girls?"
"All boys."
"How old are they?"
"Um... my two younger ones are over there, ages 11 and 13. And, well, ummm... my other son would be 22, but unfortunately he passed away last year. In a motorcycle accident."
"Oh, I'm sorry".... followed by an awkward pause with the speaker not sure what to say next.
"Yeah, just one of those stinking things in life. So, yep, I am surrounded by boys in the house. How's your son liking football, anyway?"....

This is the conversation I dread when I meet someone new. Inevitably, if we are at a function involving our kids and meet parents for the first time, this type of dialogue will occur. Ever since I lost Austin I find myself avoiding asking other parents one of the first questions usually asked, "How many kids do have?" or "Do you have any other children?" Because, I know if I ask this question it will be answered, followed by, "How many do you have?....."

I had this dialogue, not once, but twice, this past week-end, at one of my boys' football team's party. I can always see the question coming, and want to say, "Uh, you don't want to ask that one." But, instead, I just smile, inside knowing what's coming and knowing they will soon wish they had asked a different question.

Occasionally, when I know I probably won't see the person again or am low on energy, I answer the "how many kids do you have?" with, "My two youngest, that are still at home, are 11 and 13," and then ask a question to switch the subject. They don't realize what I've done and I have avoided an awkward moment.

I don't I feel bad for myself, when I have this conversation, but rather the recipient of my "news". I can see the surprise in their face (if only for a split second),  followed by the awkwardness of not knowing how to respond. I want to say, "It's OK. I'm not uncomfortable answering this. It is part of my life and it's OK to ask.. In fact, I'd love it if you asked more about him, even if you ask about the accident. I don't mind talking about the accident or Austin. Actually, I love talking about Austin. I always have, from the second he entered this world!"

While I'm divulging my secrets, I have a confession to make.... even after having lost a child, I, myself, don't always know how to react when I speak with someone who has also lost a loved one. Some people are very private and would rather not 'talk about it', while others want to and/or need to share their story. I am the type who has no problem talking about it, even if I do shed a tear while doing it, which then can add to the already uneasiness the recipient is feeling. But, I don't want to assume that everyone deals with their loss the same way, so I also feel uncomfortable when responding to one's loss. However, I now have an advantage, as I can simply respond, "I am so sorry. I also have lost someone very close. I lost my son last year," which breaks the ice and I simply follow the lead of the other person, as to whether they want to talk more about it, or leave it as is, knowing we now have a little more in common.

As I reflect on "talking about Austin" to people I've just met, one more thing comes to mind, but it's in regards to people who already know about Austin. I am ever so grateful for my friends who don't hesitate, when we are discussing characteristics of our children (or any other time), to ask me, "Did Austin do.... or did Austin like....?" I want to grab them and hug them, saying, "Thank you! Thank you for recognizing that, although Austin is not here with me today, all my memories of him are present, at the forefront of my mind, and just as I reminisce of how my other two boys were/are at certain ages I still (and always will) reminisce how Austin was. And just as I talk about how my other two boys were/are, I still love to talk about how Austin was. So, "THANK YOU!!!! Thank you for not being afraid to mention Austin's name, to ask about him. Thank you from making my day!"

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal." - from headstone in Ireland

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Settling In

"Ohhh, Austin." I say quietly, with a sigh, as my throat tightens and tears well in my eyes. I shake my head, take a deep breath and walk on.

This process is repeated frequently through the day, especially when thoughts of him come to mind, or when I walk by one of the many pictures of Austin I have throughout the house. It's been almost 14 months since Austin's accident and I still have "Austin on my mind" in everything I do. But, it's different than a year ago, or even a few months ago. My emotions are settling in.

After I take that deep breath and begin to "walk on" I slowly exhale, letting the "feelings" settle deep in my soul. A year ago the feelings were brand new, raw and excruciating. Today, these feelings have morphed into me, become a part of me, set their roots and made their home.

I was looking at a Dinner Plate Hibiscus I bought the other day. It needs to be planted, so that I don't have to remember to water it every day. At first it will need a little TLC (tender loving care) and extra watering, but eventually the roots will grow and take hold and only on scorching hot days when it hasn't rained for a while, will the plant require watering. It will have to be trimmed here and there, with the dead leaves pinched off, a little fertilizer added occasionally, and mulch laid down in the spring and late fall. But other than that, it will grow and grow and produce beautiful, rich and vibrant flowers every summer.

So it is with my life after Austin. In the very beginning I needed to tend to my emotions on a regular basis (sometimes hourly). They required watering (aka tears). As I did this, the roots of my new life started settling in, taking hold, and growing. Occasionally, I still need to give myself a little extra time, to weed out the things I cannot change and let the memories and thoughts of Austin settle in, grow roots and warm my heart.

I have a beautiful Weeping Cherry tree in my front yard that was given to me last year, in memory of Austin. I watered it and watered it and watered it last fall. The winter was harsh and cold this year, but in the spring the tree bloomed beautiful flowers and reminded me that we must also weather storms, but once we have we will blossom again. Austin is with me everyday, all day. In everything I do, every conversation I have, he is there. And as my life continues to grow and bloom, he will always be rooted in my heart, soul and mind.

The Austin Tree

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

On the anniversary of Austin's accident my best friend gave me a card that summed up life....

Two steps forward, one step back...
Two steps forward, one step back...
Didn't know you could dance so well!
Keep dancing.

What a beautiful reminder that life is a dance, where we take two steps forward and one step back - but the entire time we are moving and growing and becoming.

Yesterday and today were both one of those "one step back" kind of days, reinforcing the fact that even as I'm moving forward there will be days, where out of the blue, memories come, tears sneak out, and I have to let them flow - those darn "Sneaky Tears" and "Sorrow Tears (see "Who Opened the Dam?" 9/16/10 blog).

Everywhere I turn thoughts of Austin pop up and I'm reminded how much I miss him. Perhaps it's because I went back home to visit, this past week-end, and Austin was not there. Even though he wasn't present physically, so many memories were, and my soul was reminded that something was missing - something will always be missing.

So today, I will let the memories soak in. I will remember the life of Austin, that while not here physically, will always be here in spirit. And I will continue to dance the dance of life... two steps forward and one step back.

Side note: As I was typing this blog the sound of a loud dirt bike flying up our quiet neighborhood street was heard through my window.... a reminder that Austin is everywhere.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Never Get Over This... What is 'This'?

A few days after Austin's accident a well meaning friend stated, "You will never get over this." Hmmm...

For whatever reason, my mind has been thinking of this comment lately and wondering, "What am I supposed to get over? What does it mean to 'get over this'?  What will it mean if I don't 'get over this'? What is 'this'?"

I think the "this" (or "it") is referring to the loss of a child (Austin). But the term "will never get over..." is where I get hung up. To me, if I "never get over this", it means I will let it define me and my life from here on out. It means that, because of 'this', I will be pulled down, never to be able to get up completely again, I will have some joy taken away from me for the rest of my life. I will be negatively impacted from here on out, never being able to enjoy life the same.

Yuck! What a depressing way to view a horrible experience - to think that my life will struggle from here on out because of this loss, because I will 'never get over it'...

Before anyone thinks I'm a cold-hearted person, let me assure you that I am not saying that my life hasn't been changed - it has. I am not saying that I don't think about Austin and miss Austin every day - I do. I am not implying, not even for a minute, that I don't shed tears daily from the thought of not being able to: pick up the phone and call Austin, have him come visit us, go visit him, or give him a big huge hug and tell him 'I love you!' - I do and these thoughts sadden me in a way I have never felt before. But I will not let them destroy me. They have simply become part of me, the same way every other experience I have had in life has become part of me, has made me who I am today.

There are certain events in our lives that we can remember the moment they occurred, the moment that our lives were turned upside down and were changed in an instant. Alan Jackson, in his song "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" speaks of the day 9/11 hit, but parts of the song apply to any time we've experienced one of those earth-shattering moments...
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September June day?...
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?...

But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love...

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?...
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September June day?
I remember the day Austin was born. I woke up with contractions, waited a bit, got up and showered, and drove to my mom's. (I know, I shouldn't have been driving, but oh well...). Part way down my road major road construction was underway, backing up traffic, and I had to sit and wait until it was my turn to go down the single lane, as contractions continued to come. Six hours later Austin made his debut into this world - and at that moment a love filled my heart and soul, a love that I had never felt or imagined possible. I will always remember that day as though it happened yesterday.

Fast forward 21-1/2 years later, I'm standing in the kitchen, getting a cup of coffee, talking with Mike before he heads out to work when my cell phone rings. Austin's name shows on my caller ID. I answer it, but it's not Austin, it's his friend telling me he's been in an accident. An hour or so later my phone rings again, it's the hospital, telling me Austin had not made it. I just keep repeating, "Really? Ok, really? He didn't make it? OK, no really?...."  With Austin's departure from this world a sorrow filled my being, a sorrow like I had never felt before. I will always remember that moment as though it happened yesterday.

I am different today, different than I was a year ago. A year ago I was different than I was 21-1/2 years earlier. Ten, twenty, or thirty years from now I will be different than I am today. Life molds us and makes us who we are. There are moments, when life changes in an instant and we know we've changed. There are other times when the change occurs slowly, gradually over the months and years. We are not stagnant, but rather a work in progress, and life's experiences are part of this process - both the highs and the lows, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But a bad life experience does not mean we're destined for misery for the rest of our lives. It doesn't mean we are to stop living. We must keep living and make the best of the cards we've been dealt. We must make the most of the days we're given.

I will never forget Austin, I will always miss him. He will always be a part of me. He changed me the moment he was born, and throughout his life. As a result of being Austin's mom (and the mom to my other 2 boys) I have become a different person, different than I was when I had no children. I have experienced both love and sadness, at a level I never realized possible.

The loss of Austin will be with me always, but instead of saying, "I will never get over 'this'"... I choose to say, "I will always miss Austin. I will always remember him and love him. He will always be in my heart and be with me wherever I go," as I continue to strive to laugh often, love deeply, and live life to the fullest... the Austin way!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let It Be...

I was walking through my house the other day, noticing how some of the rooms are organized and neat, while others have found themselves to be the "dumping ground". Sometimes, those "dumping" rooms start to drive me crazy and I have to take time and organize them. Other days, I don't have time to deal with them, so I simply close the door and "let it be" - for then. I know that at some point I will venture into those rooms and start to put them back in order. It may be for only an hour, where I will deal with part of the mess, then I will be called away, on to another task or go somewhere else. I will once again shut the door, knowing I will soon return.

There are times when I have no choice and have to clean the area, right then. Perhaps it's in the main living space and I can only stand the mess for a short time. Or maybe, it's one of the guess rooms that I need to straighten for company coming later in the day or week. Or, it may simply be that I'm just plain bored and can't stand the thought that there's a mess in the room. I become energized and decide to tackle the battle head-on, get it over with, get it cleaned. And, there are times when I walk into a messy room and feel overwhelmed. I just stand there, thinking, "Ugh... this will be impossible." I may sit for a bit, trying to figure out where to start, can't figure it out, get up, walk out, and shut the door - not having the energy, at that moment, to deal with it. It will still be there for me another day, when I am motivated. But not now.

Eventually, the room will be back in order and I will leave the door open. As I walk by the clean room, I may even find myself walking in, just to appreciate it - to just sit and soak it in.

It's odd how sometimes a mess can drive me crazy, I can't stand being in the same room, I have to clean it or get out. But then, other times, that same mess doesn't bother me. I'm able to just "let it be".

And so it is with my dealing with my thoughts of Austin. There are days that I either don't have the time or the energy to deal with with my sorrow, that I have to close the door and just "let it be". Once in a while, my mind walks by and gets a brief glimpse, a fleeting thought about how much I miss Austin. It may be a flashback, to the day I received the call and I relive the sadness that reaches to the core of my being. And sometimes when the thoughts come, I think, "Not now, I can't go there. I have places to go and things to do. I just don't have time." And so, I close the door, knowing I will be back.

Other times, I purposely open the door. I need to think about Austin, about the joy he brought me, about how much I love him and miss him more than words can describe. I need to laugh at the silly things he'd do and smirk about how sometimes he would frustrate me, in his own little ways, and how I could never stay mad at him long. I need to reflect on the life-altering day, when I got the news. I need to sift through my thoughts and feelings, let them sink in, move them around, put them in order, get comfortable with them.

There is an odd comfort when I enter the "Austin room", as I sit with my tears, wishing I had had more days, months, and years with Austin. It may be for only a few minutes, an hour, or the entire day. I simply do what needs to be done, at that point in time... I just let it be.

The "Austin room" is always there, waiting for me to stop by, sort it out, clean it up, or when it's in order, just appreciate it. And when I can't enter it, I just "let it be" and go on with my day, knowing that no matter where I am or what I'm doing, the "Austin room" is always there.

Because, Austin is always in my heart - always has been and always will be.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


"When the dog bites. When the bee stings. When I'm feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad..." lyrics from "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music

I don't know why, but the last several weeks I find myself humming this song. And then it leads me to think, not of my favorite things, but rather of Austin's.

So I decided to rewrite the song for him.

(Sung to the tune "My Favorite Things")

Mudding, wakeboarding, and fast dirtbike riding
Climbing up mountains and crazy snowboarding
Dinosaur BBQ, hot chicken wings
These are a few of Austin’s favorite things

Helping a buddy do work on his house
A cute little kitten that might chase a mouse
Hanging with friends, lots of Monster drinkings
These are a few of Austin’s favorite things

Joking and laughing while working on cars
Sitting on roof tops just gazing at stars
Bon fires, cook-outs, and all of the likings
These are a few of Austin’s favorite things

When the tears fall
When the loss stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember his favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

After singing the song, I find my mind moving to the "name association" game. I think of a word and the first thing that pops into my head is "Austin". Before I know it, I start sounding like a broken record...

Blue eyes - Austin... Mischevous smile - Austin... Contagious laughter - Austin
Motorcycles - Austin... Dirt Bikes - Austin

Fixing cars - Austin... Hanging a light fixture - Austin... Rewiring - Austin
Lending a helping hand - Austin... Chatting it up with a stranger - Austin

Chipless Chocolate Chip Cookies - Austin... Strawberries, melon, fruit - Austin
Tomato/cucumber salad - Austin... Cucumbers in vinegar - Austin...
Homemade mac & cheese - Austin... Caprese salad - Austin
Mountain Dew - Austin... Shock Top - Austin... Monster - Austin...

Hiking - Austin... Camping - Austin
Mudding - Austin... Donuts in snowy parking lots - Austin
Table top, bar top, or coasters made out of bottle caps - Austin
Dinosaur BBQ - Austin... Hanging out with friends - Austin

And most important: Living Life to the Fullest - Austin, Austin, Austin!

So, the next time you're missing Austin, start playing the name association game; before you know it you'll be smiling and singing...

When the tears fall
When the loss stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember Austin's favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Always More Room

"Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of Whoville - did not. The Grinch hated Christmas - the whole Christmas season. Now please don't ask why; no one quite knows the reason.... But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small." - How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

When Austin was 3 years old I remember reading to him How the Grinch Stole Christmas. When we got to the part about the Grinch stealing all the presents, Austin began sobbing. I did my best to reassure him that it would get better, but he wouldn't stop crying. He did not understand how the Grinch could be so cruel. I finished reading the book, figuring that would take care of it and Austin would soon be happy. But, for the next hour he cried and cried, because he felt so bad for the families whose presents were stolen, even though they did eventually get them back. Austin's heart was the exact opposite of being two sizes two small....even at 3 years old.

From a very young age I tried to teach Austin "there's always room for one more friend, to love one more person."

Looking around "The Remembering Austin Narewski" event, last Friday, I saw a beautiful reminder of how Austin always made room for "just one more person". I watched over 150 people who had been touched by Austin, one way or another... by his generous smile, easy laugh, friendly banter... all because he wasn't afraid to take a chance and befriend someone he just met. It didn't matter how old you were, what you did for work, who your other friends were, what kind of car you drove or house you lived in. He looked further and deeper than that, he looked at who you were as a person, an individual. He looked at your heart. And as he did, his heart got bigger and bigger and bigger.

One the most amazing things about our hearts is they grow and grow, but never run out of space. There is always room to love one more person. Austin was a beautiful example of this.... and still is. All I have to do is look around at all his beautiful friends!