Who would have thought, when I posted the blog "Life is Interesting" last Monday (3/14/11), that we would recieve a phone call Tuesday evening letting us know that Mike's cousin had passed away, tragically, earlier in the day. She left behind a husband, two sons, a sister, and a brother. Her family was just beginning the journey that I had started a little less than 9 months ago. My heart broke for them, as I wondered if there was anything I could do, being 300 miles away...
Fast forward to Thursday and Friday. The weather was beautiful, here in Massachusetts, with the sun shining and temperatures reaching into the 60s and 70s, calling poeple to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Everywhere I turned motorcycles passed me, and my mind immediately wandered to Austin. I could just see him, all excited to jump on his bike and go for a ride. If he didn't have any place to go, he'd still jump on ride, most likely stopping in to see a friend or two along the way. As I watched the motorcycles the "Old Irish Blessing" came to mind...
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
"Sneaky tears" flowed down my face and I smiled, as I thought of Austin on his bike. (Remember those "sneaky tears" from the "Who Opened the Dam" blog, posted 9/16/10?) As I enjoyed the memories and missed Austin, I reflected on how I had felt the days following Austin's accident. It was a gut-wrenching pain. A pain I had never experienced before. I wondered if the husband and sons of Mike's cousin were feeling this same kind of pain.
Friday night Mike and I drove 4-1/2 hours to Upstate NY, to be with his family at the wake and funeral service. As we drove, I once again wondered what I could do. In these situations, we often feel helpless, wanting to help but knowing there are no words to say and little we can do to ease the pain. We can just be there, letting them know they are loved and cared for. Little did I know, that I was about to be blessed, myself.
As I walked into the funeral home I stopped to sign the "guest book" and pick up a "memory" card. As I read the quote on the back I smiled... it was the "Old Irish Blessing"...
The calling hours were scheduled for two hours, but lasted for almost three. As I watched the friends and family pay their respect, my heart warmed, expecially when both boys' baseball teams came through. The teams had waited for over an hour to support their friend and teammate. What a blessing for those boys! This reminded me of how much the words of love and encouragement, the hugs, the support, and the simple presence of friends and family had meant to me after Austin's passing.
The memorial service, which immediately followed the wake, was an uplifting and beautiful tribute to Mike's cousin - remembering her love for others and reminding us that God's greatest command is to love God and to love others as ourselves. This is exactly what she did - loved others "in her own quiet, unassuming way".
As I listened to the priest, I had to resist the urge to run up and hug him, saying, "Thank you! This is what has been on my heart for the past 9 months. This is a wonderful reminder that I need often, especially when I find myself feeling 'less than loving'. I need to remember to simply love..." Which, of course, reminded me of Austin. I was always amazed at the love he had towards others and how in turn he was loved by many. I was blessed by this message and reminder.... to just love.
Next came a beautiful reading, "Don't Grieve For Me For Now I'm Free"
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free.
I'm following the path God laid for me.
I took His hand when I heard Him call;
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way;
I found that place at the close of day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss;
Ah yes, these things, I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow.
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life's been full, I savored much;
Good friends, good times, a loved ones touch.
Perhaps my time seems all too brief;
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me,
God wanted me now, He set me free. (Anon)
As I listened to the reading, I was reminded of Austin and how a little less than ten months ago, the pain I felt from losing him was unbearable. I had wondered, at that time, if I would ever feel happiness again. If I would ever think of Austin again, without tears pouring out. If my heart would ever stop aching. Today I can answer those questions with a definite "YES!" Yes, the pain is now bearable. Yes, I think of Austin and smile (and sometimes cry). Yes, my heart still misses Austin, but it can also sing, and doesn't ache as much. I made it through the darkest hours and can now see light!
While gathering with the family and friends, after the service, enjoying delicious food and spending a little more time supporting those who had just lost their mother, wife, sister, and good friend, I prayed that Mike and I had given them a little hope. Hope and belief that they will get through this painful time, even if right now it seems impossible.
And so, who would have thought last Monday, as I wrote and posted the blog, "Life is Interesting" that my experience (one I wish I had not had to go through) could, just maybe, be a small light for someone so soon?