Thursday, January 27, 2011

If Life Gives You Dirty Dishes...

Do you need a "kick-start" in coming up with ideas on what it means to Live Life to the Fullest? Here is an example of  how Austin knew how to do it...

     Make an Assembly Line of Kids and Get Them Done!

One evening, several years ago, Mike and I went out to dinner with another couple. Austin was given the exciting job of watching both his two younger brothers and my friend's girls. Being a teenage boy we had no idea what my friend's house would look like when we arrived home.

And what a sight we saw as we opened the door... there was an assembly line of little kids washing dishes - with Austin supervising and encouraging them on!

That was Austin! Always looking for the fun and creative way to get something done, but with the least amount of effort. What better way to keep the kids occupied and clean the kitchen for my friend, all at the same time - get the kids to do it, but make them think they're having fun!

Hmmm... not a bad idea, I think I'll try that trick tonight...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Does it Mean to Live Life to the Fullest?

On the day Austin died, I found myself saying, "He lived life to the fullest." The next day, I opened the newspaper to see the headline: 

Austin Narewski 'lived life to the fullest'

Which tells me, even though I'm his mom and am a little biased, I'm not the only one who thought Austin lived his life that way.

But what, exactly, does it mean to "live life to the fullest"? I would love to hear your thoughts, whether it's:
  • A story or example of how you saw Austin live his life to the fullest.
  • What Austin taught you about living life to the fullest.
  • How Austin touched your life, because he lived life to the fullest.
  • An example of how you've seen someone else live life to the fullest.
  • Little things or big things that let you live your life to the fullest.
  • A quote that encourages you to live life to the fullest.
  • Anything you want to share on living life to the fullest...
My final plan is to create a book which incorporates ideas and photos, encouraging all of us to make the most out of life - whatever it throws our way. I'm not sure what the finished product will look like, exactly. I have an idea, but it may change as this takes on a life of its own.

I can't wait to hear from you and to continue to learn from Austin (and others) on how to Live Every Day to the Fullest. Because, life's too short to do anything else.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Austin's Mom

Monday, January 24, 2011

Days, Weeks, Months, Years

How far along are you? How old is he? How long's it been?

"When someone is pregnant they say 'I'm in my 5th week, 2nd trimester or 8th month'. When a baby is born and starts growing, we say he's 8 days, 3 weeks, 5 months, 18 months, 2 years old.... When someone dies, do we end up counting the days, weeks, months, and years in the same way?"

This thought came to me, one day, while thinking about how long it had been since Austin's accident. When he first passed away, it was hours, which turned into 1 day, 5 days, then 10 days... the days turned into weeks... 2 weeks... 7 weeks... then months.... 2 months... 3 months... and now 7 months (today). I wonder at what point it will become years? Will it start after 18 months, like it did when Austin was a baby? I would state his age in days, then weeks, then months - until 18 months, at which point it became years... 2 years old... 5 years old... 13 years old... 16 years old... 18 years old... 21 years old.

It's hard to think of the months that he hasn't been with us, which started as days and weeks, will soon turn into years. Because even today, after 7 months, there are moments when my cell phone rings and I think, for just a moment, that it may be Austin...

Keep Reminding Myself...

This past week-end, my middle son went to Deep Freeze, a winter outing up in New Hampshire. All week-end I had this uneasy feeling that I was forgetting someone. We'd go to leave and I would look around for Wes, thinking "Where is he?" Then I'd remember he hadn't come with us, he was at Deep Freeze. Sometimes, I still get this feeling about Austin. We'll be making plans and I'll think "I need to let Austin know, in case he can join us." Then I remember, he can't join us... These are the moments that I have to stop and remind myself that Austin is not here.

"Don't be mad, if I cry. It just hurts so bad sometimes. 'Cause every day, it's sinking in. And I have to say goodbye all over again." - Lyrics by Matthew West, "Save a Place For Me"

Even though I know it's true, I still have trouble believing that Austin is gone, forever. At first, I thought about it often, but now it's more intermingled with my memories. Memories that pop-up out of no where. Memories that used to make me cry, but now usually make me smile. Memories that are sparked by every day events: homemade macaroni and cheese, one of mine and Austin's favorites... snow storms we've been having, how Austin would have loved doing donuts on those days... Austin's winter jackets that Weston loves to wear, when he's sledding and playing in the snow... pictures of big puppies, Austin always wanted a big dog... Weston trying to wear his pants a little low, like Austin did, so his boxer shorts show (I don't think so!)... a song I hear on the radio... and the list goes on, for all of us. I'm sure everyone has their own list they keep adding to...


I'm very thankful for my memories and the fact that they bring me comfort. But there are still times when I'm enjoying the memories that I think, "Austin will never enjoy these things again... he'll never be able to join us... " And it is then that sadness creeps back, and my heart aches. Because, as Nicholas Wolterstorff states, a month, a year, five years - that would be ok, but forever... forever is hard to swallow:

"It is the neverness that is so painful. Never again to be here with us... All the rest of our lives we must live without him. A month, a year, five years - with that I could live. But not this forever..." - Excerpt from Lament for a Son, but Nicholas Wolterstorff

I know I've shared both, the Matthew West lyrics and the quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, with you in previous entries. But, I'm sharing them again, because these are two thoughts that I catch myself singing or saying quite often... Even though I didn't want to say good-bye, I had to. And I have to keep reminding myself that he is gone, forever; that I will never see Austin again (here on Earth). But, I also have to remind myself that one day I will, once again, see Austin's smile and hear his laugh.

Can Austin See Us?

My youngest son, has asked a few times, "Can Austin see us from Heaven?"

To which I've responded, "I don't know. Part of me thinks probably not, because if Austin was to see us now, he'd see our sadness and see us hurting, then he would feel pain. But, we're told that there is no pain, suffering, or sadness in Heaven. So, I'm thinking he cannot see us..."

He then says, "Mom, can you do me a favor? If you find out that Austin can't see us from Heaven, will you not tell me?"

I smile and say, "OK."

(Actually, I say, "If you want me to let you live in denial, that's ok with me. I won't tell you." Then, while chuckling, I give him a huge hug, with my heart being warmed by his sweetness and love.)

I also tell him that I think time is much different in Heaven, that days in Heaven are probably like minutes to us here on Earth and years are like days. Austin is probably loving life in Heaven and before he knows it, we'll be there with him. And although it will be years for us, it will only be days for him.

The boys told me the other day they hope I live until they are 69 and 67. When I asked how they came up with these random numbers, they said "Because we want you to live until you're 100!" If that's the case, then it will be another 56 years before I see Austin... (but I wonder if to Austin it will only seem like 2 months - I wonder).

And so, as Matthew West sings, my "message" to Austin is:

"I wanna live my life just like you did. And make the most of my life, just like you did. And I wanna make my home up in the sky, just like you did. Oh, but until I get there... Save a place for me..." (You can hear this song at the following link: )

Austin, every day I'm missing you more and more. Missing those beautiful blue eyes, that charming smile and contagious laugh, and your huge hugs... but I know one day I will enjoy them again... until then, continue to Live Life to the Fullest, up there in Heaven. And, oh yeah, save a place for me!

Friday, January 21, 2011

I WISH I HAD - Part 2 (Should Have...told him I loved him)

“What do I do now with my regrets… When the person is living we can make amends… But when the person is dead, what do we do with our regrets?” – Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

7:15am: The phone rings. It is Austin’s friend informing me that Austin’s been in a motorcycle accident and has a bad broken leg (at the knee). The police need to speak with me, because Austin doesn’t have identification on him. I tell the friend thank you and that when he gets to the hospital to give Austin a "smack on the side of the head" – at this point I thought Austin was just banged up, real bad, but would be fine, with a little surgery and T.L.C..
The "smacking on the side of the head" is a love gesture I often used with Austin. I really didn’t smack him. I would simply say, while laughing, “Do I need to come give you a smack on the side of the head?” If he was with me, doing something silly,  I’d lightly tap him on the head, while chuckling, “Cut that out…” He would respond, laughing “Ouch!” even though it hadn’t hurt.
The police officer gets on the phone, explaining that Austin’s knee is really messed up and it looks like his shoulder is also injured. In addition, he has a lot of road rash. As I'm thanking the officer and about to say good-bye, the thought comes to me briefly, “I should ask the officer to tell Austin I love him.” Just as quickly, another thought comes, “Don’t be morbid. It’s not life-threatening, he's going to be fine…” As I hang up the phone I don't think, even for a moment, that Austin is going to die. It never even crosses my mind.

Then I get the life-changing phone call: Austin has not made it. One of my first thoughts is, “I should have told the officer to tell Austin I loved him. Why didn’t I tell him I love him? It should have been one of the last things he heard. I wonder if he knew what was going on - if he knew he dying? Did he think, even for a split second, that I would be mad - since he knew Mike and I weren’t crazy about him having a motorcycle? I hope not. I wish Austin had heard the words, ‘Your mom said she loves you.’”

If I could do it over, I wouldn't hesitate to say, "Tell him I love him."

“How many times during our lives have we lamented, ‘If only I had it to do over again….’ When someone we love dies suddenly, there are lots of “if onlys.” We regret not having told the departed more frequently how much they were loved. We wish that the final conversation or visit could have been more memorable or meaningful.” – Ann Dawson, A Season of Grief

“What do I do with my… regrets? Maybe some of what I regret doesn’t even need forgiving; maybe sometimes I did as well as I could.” – Nicholas Wolterstorf, Lament for a Son
At first, I was too embarassed to share my regret with anyone - my guilt of failing to tell Austin, one last time, that I loved him. I felt sick every time I thought about it. Finally, having to get it off my chest, I shared my grief with a couple friends. Each time, the response was the same: With a hint of astonishment, they'd say, "Oh, you didn't?" To which I answered, matter of factly, "No." All the while inside, I was crying, "No! I didn't! I had hoped you would say, 'It doesn't matter, he already knew.' So no, ok, I didn't have anyone tell Austin I loved him."

For  days after the accident, my regret continued to gnaw at me. Then suddenly, a thought washed over me, “If, in order for Austin to know you loved him, you had to have someone tell him, then you didn't do your job for the past 21-1/2 years. But, he did know you loved him, unconditionally, because in addition to telling him often, you also showed him - through your actions and encouraging words. In fact, the night before Austin died, you spoke with him on the phone, and the last words you said were, 'I love you, Bud.' He knew, that no matter what, you loved him." 

The heaviness, that had weighed my down, lifted and peace settled in my soul. And even though, I still wish I had sent the “I love you” message on that final day, I no longer beat myself up. Because, I know I had loved Austin with all my heart for 22-1/2 years, but even more importantly, I know he knew.

I don't know how many of you have been beating yourselves up over something that was or wasn't said or done for a loved one, and now it's too late. Please, don't be too hard on yourself. Most of the time, we do the best we can do, at any moment in time. Sometimes we get it right, but none of us are perfect.

You cannot change the past, but you can use it to become a better and stronger person. You can use it to remind yourself not to take for granted all the wonderful people you have in your life, right here, right now. Go love them up!

“Yet after he died, I was overwhelmed with the realization of how much I had loved him, how I missed his face and voice, the lunches when it was just the two of us, our little conversations, all the things I had taken so much for granted. Not until after he was gone from me did I realize what a priceless treasure I had had in him.

It was too late then to appreciate the precious gift that (he) had been in my life. But it was not too late to acknowledge and give thanks for the other gifts in my life: my children and husband, my family, my friends and my health. Now, after losing one of my greatest treasures, I will forever take time to give thanks for the gifts I have in my life.” – Ann Dawson, A Season of Grief
Idea: One thing that I did, was to write Austin a letter, telling him how much I loved him and missed him. I knew he would never see it, but it helped me put my thoughts and feelings into words, and to put things into perspective. Sometimes, just verbalizing our thoughts can help ease the burdens we're carrying around with us, even if we're the only one that reads or hears it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I WISH I HAD - Part 1 (Should Have, Could Have)

How many times have we been in a conversation with someone and thought aftwards, “I wish I had told her she did a great job!”, “I wish I had told him I loved him,” or “I wish I had said I was sorry.”

How many times have we been so angry with someone that we let nasty, hurtful words spew from our mouths? Or we refuse to speak to them for days, weeks, or months on end?

How times have we owed someone money and were a little late in paying them back? How many times have we told someone we would do something, but haven’t gotten to “it” yet?

How many times have we thought about someone and wished we had sent them a card or email, just to let them know we were thinking of them?

Most of the time: we know we have another chance to tell the person what we were thinking - whether it’s in-person or via phone call, email or a letter; we eventually say we’re sorry for the unkind words and make amends; we pay the person back, even if we’re a little late; we get around to doing what we had told the other person we would do.

But, what happens if that time never comes? What do we do with the guilt we have because, before we can let a loved one know what we were thinking or do what we said we would do, they pass away.

In both this blog entry and the next, I will be sharing my biggest "regrets". I am doing this, not to get sympathy or to have others feel sorry for me, but to remind you that struggling with regrets is part of the grieving process and part of life. As we learn from our regrets, we become better friends, parents, siblings, and spouses.

It is very easy to start beating ourselves up with “would have”, “should have”, “could have” thoughts. After Austin’s accident some of his friends commented, “He stopped over the other day and wanted me to go out with him, but I was too tired. I should have gone.” “He called to see if I wanted to go wake-boarding, and I never called him back. I should have.” “He called me last month and I got so busy I didn’t have chance to get back to him.”

In the weeks following Austin’s death there were two “should have’s” that haunted me and would wake me up in the middle of the night. They were not horrible things, just ones I wish I had done, but now can never do. And, they would not be a big deal, if he was still alive.

“With the dawning of each new day, life provides the unsolicited opportunity for us to regret something we’ve done or didn’t do. Although life gives us that opportunity, we personally get to establish what we consider to be regrettable. Regrettably, we sometimes consider things regrettable that are literally beyond our control. Let's consider death as an example. We can't control the death of someone we love, yet after their death we almost intuitively search for something to regret." - Leonard N. Smith, "Living Without Regrets After a Loved One Dies"


My husband and I had an agreement with Austin, regarding his college tuition. He had to pay for his college courses up front. We would reimburse him for any courses he received an 80 or higher in. Over Memorial Day week-end Austin’s grades were posted; we owed him for a couple of his classes. However, I had “floated” him an advance for part of his last semester, so I needed to calculate the difference between what we owed him and what he had borrowed. Before I could do this, two things needed to happen: (1) Austin needed to let me know how much each course cost;  (2) I needed to pull the paper where I had recorded the "loan" balance.

I have a basket I keep all my bills in, along with Austin’s “loan info”. I looked through the basket several times to find the “paper”, but it was not there. I paid all the bills in the basket and still did not find the "loan paper". I checked in a couple of other folders I thought it might have been stuck in; I still could not find it. Where in the world did it go? I called Austin, letting him know I was looking for it and asking him if he recalled what the loan amount was. I also asked if he had figured out how much the courses had cost. He could not remember what he owed us and had not checked on the cost yet.

While we were working on gathering the info to "balance the account," I sent Austin some money to help tie him over. We’d settle up as soon as I found my “notes” and he let me know the cost of the courses. A couple of times, in June, the thought would cross my mind, “Where the heck could that paper be?” I would check a couple more places, but still never found it.

Then, June 24th happened. We returned to Massachusetts on Saturday, July 3rd and on Monday I sat down to pay bills. There it was, right where I had looked numerous times! The paper I had been scouring high and low for. The paper with the amount Austin had “borrowed”. I hopped on FLCC’s website to determine how much the courses had cost. If my calculations were correct, I still owed Austin a small amount. My heart sank and tears sprang to my eyes. Austin had owed the bursar’s office a small balance. He couldn't pick up his diploma and transcript until he was paid up. If only I had realized, back in June, that Austin had money coming from us. I could have paid him and he would have been able to hold that diploma in his hands. The one he had worked so hard to earn. (He didn't enjoy school, never has, but he stuck with it, because he knew he needed to.) The day after Austin died, my husband and I picked up the diploma from the Registrar’s. I cried when they handed it to me, because I felt I let Austin down. He never had the opportunity to see the diploma.

It gets worse. A few days after the "loan" balance discovery, I came across Austin's Savings Bonds. I looked on the Internet to see if any had matured. As I looked at the chart, my heart sank and a panicky feeling started to overtake me. If I was reading it correctly, almost half the bonds had matured…. That couldn’t be right. I swore I had checked on them just a year earlier, and none had matured. As soon as I could, I took them to my bank to see if any had actually matured. It ended up that I was reading the table incorrectly and only two had matured, just a year earlier. What I thought was just a year ago had actually been two years – time seems to run together – I must be getting old!

Even though it was a small amount of money, I felt so guilty, thinking, “If only I had checked into it when he asked me a few months ago… he wouldn’t have been so tight on money.” Austin had asked me about the bond, a few months earlier, and I had told him they hadn’t matured yet - I didn't think they had.  I said I would hold onto them until they did, so he wouldn’t lose them…. Every time I would think about owing Austin money I would get short of breath, tears would roll down my face, and I would feel sick to my stomach. I knew Austin was tight on money and I could have done something about it. Even though I had sent money to help him through a couple tight spots (when he didn’t get as many hours at work or during the couple weeks he was transitioning between jobs), my guilt would stop me in my tracks and make me want to scream out, “I’m so sorry Austin!”

But then, another thought hit me, “What if I hadn’t sent him the money when he needed a little help to ‘hold him over’? He wouldn’t have had the money to register and insure the motorcycle. He wouldn’t have been riding it on June 24th at 7am, when a truck was pulling across his lane just as he was cresting the hill. He would still be here with us."

Almost as soon as that thought came, another one joined in, “Austin would have found a way to get that bike on the road; because, that’s how Austin was. When he really wanted something, he was relentless until he got it. It doesn’t matter that you gave him the money. The bike would have still been on the road and he would have still been riding it to work that fateful morning.”

If Austin had not had his accident and he was still with us, my reaction would have been very different to the above situations: instead of feeling guilty, I would have been excited; instead of being sad I would have been happy. When I found out that I still owed Austin money from his courses, I would have called him immediately, saying, “Guess what?! This is your lucky day! I just realized we still owe you money from school. I’m sending the check out today.” I can almost hear Austin thinking how he was going to spend the money. It would have been a very, very good day.

A couple days later, I would call him again, telling him it was his lucky week, that I had just realized a couple of his Savings Bonds had matured. To which he would have responded, with a chuckle in his voice, “That’s awesome!” Once again, it would have been a very, very good day.

Funny, how one split second can change the way we look at life’s events…
“Regardless of how caring and attentive we were to the deceased and their needs, we still impulsively look for things we’ve failed to do…. Believe me when I tell you, you can always find something to regret; and most of the time it’s for things you didn’t do.” – Leonard N. Smith “Living Without Regrets After a Loved One Dies”
What something are you beating yourself up over... something you didn’t do... something you wish you had or hadn't said? Be easy on yourself… think of all the things you did do… and then continue to do them!

"...I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life... But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better with those still living." - Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son
In my next blog entry I will share with you my Regret #2.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Is Grief?

The other day I read the following "message". It describes, so beautifully, what grief is, how it impacts us, how we will move through it, and how we will change because of it (not a bad change, just a change).

by Gillian & Darryl Torckler

Grief is normal.
Grief will pass.
Grief will hurt.
Grief will teach.
Grief is love.

Death hurts.
It fills you with memories,
fills you with regret,
and fills your eyes with tears.
Death makes you angry,
confuses you,
and makes you sad.

Grief is an uninvited visitor, reluctant to leave,
That finds you unprepared and overwhelms everything.
Grief feels like guilt; like fear; like illness.
Grief needs company, and seeks solace.
Grief ebbs and flows.
There will be good days; bad days; and difficult days.
Grief is love.

With time, grief's force will diminish.
Freedom will return:
Freedom to be happy:
Freedom to remember;
Freedom to live;
And freedom to love.

Your head will stop seeking explanations,
And your pain will recede.
Your heart will be scarred,
But your heart will sing again:
Not the same song,
Not a weaker song,
Just a different song.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal. - Anon

I hope you enjoy the above "message" - it truly put to words, for me, the journey of grief. (The next couple of entries will be touching on "regret" and "guilt". I look forward to sharing them with you.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Enthusiasm Must Be Shared!

“Enthusiasm is inspiration. When we see someone act enthusiastically, we are immediately drawn to them…. Life is often unpredictable and you may have little control over plenty of aspects along the way, but you choose your attitude and how you react to situations and people. Choosing to be enthusiastic will help you deal with tough situations and manage challenges more efficiently…. True enthusiasm spills over onto others…. (his) enthusiasm made others feel special and welcomed…. his ability to make people around him smile and share his enthusiasm…. always looked like he was having so much fun in everything he was doing…. If he’s having so much fun, you say to yourself, ‘I should lighten up and take things differently.’… He made other people feel good through his enthusiasm.…  (his) fun was contagious. People want to be around you when you are that alive and it also makes people listen to you.… We are drawn to people who are intriguing and live their lives to the fullest.” EXCERPT from Don’t Give Up… Don’t Ever Give Up, The Inspiration of Jimmy V, by Spizman and Spizman
When I read these statements I could have sworn I was reading about Austin. That’s what Austin brought to those around him, to those whose lives he touched. They didn’t always know why they liked to be around Austin, they just knew they did.
I felt Austin’s absence over the past holidays, something was missing – it was the enthusiasm that only Austin could add. I would look around and see everyone chatting and laughing, but feel as though a special type laughter should be interspersed throughout the conversations (one unique to Austin) – but, of course, it never came.
This type of enthusiasm is not something that can be learned. It is a gift that Austin had and one he shared so generously, with so many. I have wonderful memories of times he would come visit, during the past couple years. He would be out with us one evening, meeting our friends, and of course Wes and Matt’s friends. The next day, at one of the youth football games, the boys’ friends would run up to Austin, hollering, “Auuustinnn! Hi Austin!” - as though they’d known him forever and were so excited to see him. Austin would smile and chuckle, saying, “Hey, how are you?”
The next thing I would see, is Austin going up to one of our friends, who he had just met the day before, smacking them on the back or shoulder and shaking their hand, saying, “Hey! How are you?” and then start chatting with them, like they’d been friends for a long time.
Austin had that impact on so many people. It didn’t matter how old or young they were, he just loved meeting them, striking up a conversation (or debate) - always laughing, always enjoying himself. It wasn’t unusual for his voice to get louder, as his excitement rose. He couldn’t help it, his enthusiasm was never quiet.
“Exuberance, Excitement, Energy, and Enthusiasm: the four E’s… people will be drawn to you and your energy. Living your life with enthusiasm will not only draw people to you, but you will also be a gift to those around you, infusing their lives with happiness. Your enthusiasm will be contagious. The four E’s are like magnets. They will draw people close to you without them even knowing it. They will be attracted to your personality and won’t even know why. All they will know is that they like to be around you and respect your passion and enthusiasm for life.” EXCERPT from Don’t Give Up… Don’t Ever Give Up, The Inspiration of Jimmy V, by Spizman and Spizman
I miss Austin’s Exuberance, Excitement, Energy, and Enthusiasm – which he shared in person or over the phone. And although he is not here to share it in person, I can still hear it in my mind and even sometimes in my dreams. It’s warm and genuine, making you want to laugh right along with him. His enthusiasm was contagious and I hope it lives on through all of his friends and family for years and years to come.
Thank you, Austin, for being you, for being who God made you to be, and for not being afraid to share it with all of us. Thank you for leaving part of yourself with us, in our memories and thoughts. You are a gift! Now it is our turn to share it with others…

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Changing Focus

Yes, it’s true, I can be a self-centered, spoiled brat, focusing on what I want and not worrying about what others want or need. This happened during Christmas vacation, when we were back in Upstate NY visiting family and friends. I had my list of who I wanted to see and when I wanted to do it. It was my list, my preferences, and my priorities. When Mike mentioned something he hoped to do I would “poo-poo” it because it wasn’t part of 'my" plans. I would start making excuses as to why we shouldn’t or couldn't do what he wanted. The result? I made situations unpleasant, when they could have been fun, right from the get-go.

For example, my husband mentioned a handful of times that he wanted to go snowshoeing, two hours away, at a friend’s cabin. Clearly, I knew there was not enough snow, but he insisted there was. I pouted, fretted, and complained, basically making the evening, prior to us leaving, less than enjoyable. The reality was, it had nothing to do with not wanting to snowshoe, but rather that I wanted to sleep in a little, not drive two hours each way, and have a little more time to shop at Wegman's. Because I made it all about me, I lost focus on what my husband really needed, which was to visit with his friend, with our family.
We made the trek up to the cabin, noting as we got closer that there was definitely not enough snow for snowshoeing. Hmmm… what to do? I was tempted to complain again and point out how right I was, but I had decided earlier that morning that if I chose to go on the “trip” that I needed to change my attitude. It didn’t matter what we did, but rather that we were doing it as a family and visiting with friends that we rarely see. In addition, we had two friends from Australia/Thailand who had never seen snow until this December. We needed to make it a time for them to remember.
Problem solved - we went sledding. The boys had a blast, while I nervously prayed they wouldn’t crash into any of the trees lining the trail they were following. I bit my tongue and just took in the sight of the boys laughing and enjoying the snow – they weren’t phased by the fact that they couldn’t snow shoe… they simply made the most of what they had. I am so glad that I had the sense, this time, to stop my self-centeredness and be present. Present to the beautiful, warm day (warm being 50 degrees in January) - present to the wonderful friends we were visiting - present to the little fire we were cooking hot dogs over - present to my family. What joy I would have missed had I chosen differently…
Isn’t that the way it is with life? It doesn’t always happen how we think it should or the way we plan it. When that happens we have a choice to make – complain and wallow in it or figure out how to make the best of the situation. When things are out of our control, we must decide what we can control and not worry about what we can’t.
This is how I have felt about losing Austin. I cannot control the fact that he is gone. I cannot control the fact that at any moment something will remind me of him and tears will come. I cannot control that there will be times that I am sad. But, I can embrace the memories and the tears, knowing they are slowly healing me. I can also love those around me, being less concerned about always getting “my way” and more focused on enjoying the time I have with those around me, including (and especially) my family.
Funny thing, I've realized that, quite often, I work hard on making the time with friends enjoyable and pleasant, only to come home and want it my way - making my home a less pleasant place to be in. What would happen if I worked on creating love and peace at home, focusing more on what Mike and the boys want and less on myself? What if I gave my family the attention and patience I give others? How much more would they enjoy every day, and in turn, so would I?

Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people too…I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. – Excerpt from Jimmy V's ESPY Speech
This is my goal for 2011 - change my focus from "me" to "others" - enjoy my life and the precious moments I have with those I love... all of you - my family and my friends!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Broken Chain

The month of December was jammed full with activities. In addition to getting ready for and celebrating Christmas, we had a last-minute trip to Disney, in which we watched my middle son and his Pop Warner Football team play in the Nationals. During this time, I had so many thoughts running through my head and so much I wanted to write, but never enough time to sit still and get those thoughts down on "paper".

December 24th marked the 6-month anniversary of Austin's death. I found myself, during the entire month, reflecting on the day Austin left us, playing back the events as though it was yesterday. During Christmas break I enjoyed visiting with friends and family and feeling Austin's love everywhere I went. I was able to read the accident and medical reports, and wrap my mind around and come to terms (a little more) with what happened June 24th, 2010.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to play "catch-up" and share my experiences and thoughts with you. There is so much I want to share, I just hope I can put words to all of it. In the meantime, I am sharing with you a poem. It was printed on a picture frame I received as a Christmas gift and sums up, beautifully, the affect losing Austin had on me...and how he's always with me...

We little knew that morning that God was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly, in death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you, you did not go alone;
For part of us went with you, the day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories, your love is still our guide;
And though we cannot see you, you are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same;
but as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.
- The Broken Chain by Ron Tranmer

I look forward to sharing more in days to come...