Saturday, November 24, 2012

You Will Laugh Again

Over the past couple months a theme continues to pop into my mind. Sometimes it comes as a result of a song I'm listening to, other times it's when a vision from two years ago pops up, other moments it's when I feel a beautiful sunset warm me from the inside out or watch my sons being boys. Everywhere I've turned, recently, it's there.

I was chatting with one of Austin's closest friends a few weeks ago. We were discussing conversations we had both recently had with others who had just gone through a tragic loss and commenting on how two years ago we couldn't imagine feeling happiness the way we do today. Because, two years ago it seemed like sadness was all we'd ever feel. Of course, that wasn't true, but at that point in time it certainly felt that way.

Gary Allan, in his song "Every Storm Runs Out of Rain," says it so clearly, "Every storm runs, runs out of rain. Just like every dark night turns into day..." When this song comes on the radio, I turn it up and sing along, knowing the words are so very true.

A couple days ago I was reading an entry from someone who had lost a child and kept shaking my head, "Yes, yes, this is so true!" Because she was speaking to the theme that had been running through my head...

"'You will survive this. It might feel like you won't right now, but you will.' Those were the words told to me by a lady at my son's viewing. I later learned that her 4 year old son died ... about 9 years prior. You never would have known it. I asked her in the following weeks, 'Are you happy? I mean really happy?' She knew what I meant. You feel like there will never be another happy day, another smile, another joy. She said, 'Yes, I am. Of course there are days when I am not, but most of the time now, I am.'" By Sabrina Baptista (Letter to Newly Bereaved Parents)

Even as I read these words again I smile, because every day I see and feel the joy and love of life creep more and more into my life. This year at Thanksgiving dinner, it was just my husband, my two other sons, one of my brothers, and myself. I was at one end of the table, my husband at the other, my two boys were on one side of the table, with my brother on the other side. As I looked at the side where my brother was sitting I could "see" Austin sitting next to him, I could feel my heart missing Austin. Then something was said that got my two other boys laughing and laughing and laughing, they couldn't stop. When it was finally quiet one of them would start laughing again. It was one of those laughters that you couldn't help but join, even though you didn't know what they were laughing at.

That persistent theme popped back in my mind.... You have survived! You will feel true joy again (even while while simultaneously missing Austin), because "Every storms runs out of rain.... every dark night turns into day...."

What were the boys laughing at? Me.... My youngest son had done something that made him laugh.The way he was laughing I thought he had said or done something inappropriate, so I asked him what he did. He said he couldn't do it again because I would get mad. I said, "Do it...", then he started laughing again. I responded, "I'm serious, I want you to do it again." To which he was quiet for a second and then he started cracking up again. My husband just sat there with a smirk. My son finally told me what he did.... he had farted (which I get mad when they do it period, let alone at the dinner table). So, every time I told him to do what it was he had done(that I wouldn't be a happy about), he simply obeyed and "farted again", then giggle away.... He got me there, he was only obeying.

Laughter filled the room.... I had much to be thankful for..... all I had to do was look around the table and smile.... and I could hear Austin laughing right along with us.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slowing Down, If Only for an Hour...

Over the past 3 months my life has been like a whirlwind. I went from zero to 100 in a matter of a couple days and haven't stopped moving since. A year ago I probably would have struggled with the rat race, needing a little more calm as I worked through life. The fact that I am able to juggle things (even if it's rough) is one more sign that I am healing. That I have survived.

This doesn't mean that I have forgotten. Austin is with me everywhere I go, in everything I do. On the days I arrive at work early in the morning (before 7am), Austin greets me in the face of every construction worker who is also beginning his work day - working on the building being erected next to my office. As I walk into the lobby, to grab a sandwich, he joins me again through these workers, who are breaking for lunch. While driving, Austin continues to keep me company, through the music flowing out of the radio, or in the words I yell at the crazy drivers. (I can just hear Austin talking about how they need to learn to drive.) Austin comes upon me on the highway via the motorcyclist appearing in my rearview mirror. (I always say a prayer to keep that motorcyclist safe.)

Even though he is always with me, there are times I thirst for an hour of quiet (which are few and far between these days) where I can sit with my thoughts and remember Austin - where I can let tears roll down my face as I feel his presence, remember him, miss him.

This may sound odd to some, but it brings comfort and is soothing to the soul. That is how it is with grief.... things don't always make sense to the outsider looking in.... but that's ok. Even when you are able to enjoy life, while missing the person that's left you, you find things won't ever be the same. You find yourself doing things, that previously you may have found peculiar. By embracing this you give yourself permission to live.

Friday, September 28, 2012


It's early morning. I'm in my bedroom, in my house back in NY. I hear Austin walking up the stairs and think, "I need to go say hi." I walk up the first 5 steps, catching up to him. I say, "Hey" and give him a hug. He returns the squeeze, giving me one of his famous hugs. I smell his shirt, wondering if it's going to smell like it used to - like the degreaser and grease (from working on cars and projects), combined with his deodorant. It doesn't. There is only a very faint scent of fresh air. I'm a little disappointed. I always hated that degreaser/grease/deodorant smell, but now I miss it.

We continue to walk up the stairs, his long arm draped over my shoulder, my arm around his waist. It's natural, comfortable, real. I ask him, "So, what's on your agenda today." To which he replies, "Not much. I need to stop by the pizza place, but that's about it." I chuckle, because the "pizza place" was like another home to him.

I give him a side squeeze and tell him, "I wish you could stay. I sure miss you."

He smiles, replying, "I know, but I only have a couple days. I love you."

"I know."

My eyes open. It's 5am. Austin's 24th birthday and he's just given me a gift.

Happy Birthday Austin! Thank you for visiting me this morning. It makes it seem as though is was just a couple hours ago that I hugged you, not 2-1/2 years. Which lets me know that you are always with me... in my my memories.... wherever I go.

I love you, Bud!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

No Guarantee...

Yesterday I was leaving a parking lot, pulling out very slowly onto the road because there were several bushes to my left, which prevented me from seeing the traffic coming from that direction. I ever so carefully inched my way into the road, keeping my eyes to the left to see what was there. When the front of my car was over a third of the way into the road my foot slammed on the brake, my eyes spotting my biggest fear - a motorcycle. I'm certain the motorcyclist saw my expression of horror and could read my lips, "Oh shoot!!!!"

Thankfully, the motorcyclist was also traveling at a very slow rate of speed and had time to slow down  and go around me. I raised my hand signaling, "I'm so sorry!" As he continued on ahead I had an urge to catch up to him, stop him, and tell him how I would never intentionally pull in front of anyone, let alone a motorcyclist. Tell him how sorry I was to have given him that scare, that pit in his stomach. But I didn't.... as he would have certainly thought I was a crazy lady.

Last night while watching the news, a report came on about a father traveling on his motorcycle with his 8-year old son, just a short distance from his home. A dump truck made a left turn and the motorcycle hit the truck, killing both the father and son. The pictures of the bike puts that sickening feeling in you, knowing there's no way anyone could survive that accident. I don't know what exactly happened, the accident is still under investigation. But, it's one more reminder how quickly a life can end when a body, traveling unprotected, hits a solid mass.

Tonight, I plop myself on my couch, with a Diet Coke in my hand, all settled in to relax and watch the Patriots-Raven 8:20pm game. The first thing I hear when I switch to the game channel is about one of the Raven players, who lost his brother in a motorcycle accident just after midnight this morning. The cameras keep zooming in on this player's face, and you can see the pain and sadness in his eyes, as he wipes away the tears. They show a quote from his Twitter entry, "Be thankful for your loved ones and tell them you love them. .. This is the hardest thing ever." (by Torrey Smith). Another reminder of how quickly someone can go from cruising down a highway to, in an instant, no longer being with us.

Ever since Austin's accident I have been torn on how I feel about motorcycles. On the one hand, I completely understand why people enjoy riding them. On the other hand, I want to tell everyone to stop riding them, that it's not worth it, because it only takes a split second for them to be in another driver's blind spot, to crest a hill with something in the middle of it and they don't have time to avoid it (a deer, rock, car....) and when they hit it there will be nothing to protect them.

Then I remind myself, there's no guarantee in life. There are people who do everything right (eat healthy, exercise regularly, don't drink too much, don't smoke...) but who have a heart attack and die. There are car accidents every day where people don't survive. In fact, "in the United States, injury is the leading cause of death among children and young adults and nearly half of these accidents occur in the home, according to the National Safety Council. That same group states that in 2002, there were more than 33,000 deaths and 8,000,000 disabling injuries that occurred in the home." (NSC)

Does this mean I should eat unhealthy, not exercise regularly, never ride in a car, and stay out of my house? No.... it's simply a reminder that life happens and there is no guarantee what tomorrow will bring. We need to make the most out of what we have and never stop livin' lovin' life!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Don't Blink...

One thing losing Austin has taught me is, "Don't blink... trust me friend, a hundred years goes faster than you think. So don't blink!" (Lyrics from Kenny Chesney's song, "Don't Blink")

5 years! When I mention to someone how long ago I moved I pause for a minute as I do the calculation and then shake my head in disbelief - almost 5 years! I can't believe it was that long ago.

Prior to moving we lived close to family, so if Mike and I wanted to go out for the evening we were, on occasion, able to take advantage of this fact and let the boys visit with grandma or grandpa.It didn't happen often, but there was a comfort knowing it could be done if we so chose. After we moved, we were on our own. If I wanted a couple's night out I cringed, because it meant hiring a babysitter. Being a little tight on funds in the beginning of our move it was hard to justify going out very often, because by the time we paid for our little outing and paid the babysitter a nice dent had been put in our wallets. So, it was rare for my husband and I to go out as a couple.

As the boys have gotten older it has become a little easier, but I still don't like to take too much time away from them, as they will only be in the house a little while longer. So, we spend most of our time "together" as a family - and I wouldn't trade this for the world. But it is nice (and healthy) to find a little adult only time here and there. In fact it's important, whether it's a girl's night out or "hubby and me" evening, to get a break and be refreshed.

My family has always done a lot together. In fact, most of our entertaining or visiting with other friends is done as a family, but sometimes it's good for Mike and I to do "couple" outings, without the boys. It helps us to remember why we got married in the first place - and that we actually enjoy doing things together.

The other day as I was driving and listening to the radio I started thinking... thinking about the Zac Brown concert I will be enjoying tomorrow with Mike and another couple.... thinking how busy our lives are.... thinking about how nice it will be to have an evening out, sans kids, perhaps the last for a while. Summer was full of great events with the boys, but it didn't allow much time of socializing with my friends (without the boys). And now, with football season upon us I won't have the opportunity for a while - it will be mostly kids and family time. So, I'm looking forward to this last little outing.

Don't get me wrong, I love being with my family. That's where most of my best memories come from. But, as a mom, I must admit there are times I wish for a moment of silence, a day of cleaning my house and having it stay that way for more than five minutes, a chance of simply coming and going without having to worry about someone else's schedule, an evening (or day) spending quality time with other adults.... basically, a little break for the "mom" responsibilities.

Back to my thoughts while driving....

My mind wandered to the fact that life is going fast and before I know it I will have all the adult time in the world and I won't know what to do with it. I need to take the opportunity now to soak up this time with the boys.... because in the blink of an eye my life will be different, the boys will be onto their next stage in life, as adults, and I will have an empty house. Because,

...In 4 years my middle son will be a senior in high school.
...In 5 years, my middle son will have graduated high school, and be a freshman in college. (Which reminds me, 5 years ago Austin graduated high school, began college, and we moved to another state.)
...In 6 years, my youngest son will be a senior in high school, it will be my last year with with kids in the house.
...In 7 years, my youngest son will have graduated high school, and be a freshman in college.

Seven years used to seem like a long time, but I know it's not. It will be here before I know it. When Austin graduated high school I remember saying to Mike, "If we hadn't had the other two boys our life would be very different now." That was five years ago, I can remember it like yesterday. And to think now, in seven years I will be saying, "Our life is going to be much different now. What are we going to do with our time?"

Life's forever changing. It never stands still. Grab onto the moments you have and enjoy them. Don't wish them away, but embrace them, knowing that you can never get that time back. Savor you time with your children. Take little breaks, then come back refreshed, ready to make more memories. Because....

"100 years goes faster than you think. So, don't blink!" Lyrics from Kenny Chesney's "Don't Blink"

Enjoy a little Kenny Chesney - "Don't Blink":

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Quieter but Everywhere...

"No matter where you choose to be, In my heart I'll always see you....Everywhere" Lyrics from Everywhere/Tim McGraw

Music did it again, helped me put what I've been thinking into words. At the Tim McGraw/Kenny Chesney concert last night, I knew what songs would make me think of Austin, or so I thought. Tim McGraw started singing a song I've heard a thousand times. It's one about a guy who can't forget a girl he used to love. They had made the choice years ago to go their separate ways, but for the guy, the girl is still in his heart - no matter where he goes, he can't forget her and who she used to be. That's what I've always thought about while listening to the song.... until last night.

While sitting in the stands at Gillette Stadium, with the warm breeze blowing, people all around swaying to the music, singing along, tears began rolling down my face - those darn "Sneaky Tears". Here are the words I heard last night:

We (You) were born in this little town.... But ever since you said good-bye... Baby (Austin) you would be surprised...All the places you have been...In my heart I'll always see you... Everywhere... Now days... The conversation always turns to you... Still I know I'll hear your voice... And see you down the road... you're on every highway just beyond the high-beams... In my heart I'll always see you EVERYWHERE... words from the Lyrics of "Everywhere"

This put into words, what I have been thinking over the past couple months....

Things have been changing, once again. My life is getting busier. I'm finding I can handle more and more, the way I used to before Austin died. The pain and sadness has softened - become quieter. But one thing has stayed constant. No matter where I go, I think of Austin. No matter what the conversation is, my mind wanders to Austin. Austin is with me... EVERYWHERE!

Because he's always in my heart. And that will never change.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

FEARS....Friend or Foe?

"There really is 'healthy fear.' For example, it's very healthy to fear drinking before you drive. However, fear should not be allowed to run rampant through our lives so that it becomes such a devastating factor that it produces failure. The problem is not getting rid of fear, but using it properly.... We must learn to distinguish those helpful fears from the harmful ones. When you can do that, fear is a friend. Until you can learn to do it, however, fear can be an enemy." ~ Zig Ziglar

I have been sitting on this entry, writing and rewriting it (both on "paper" and in my mind) for the past year and a half, as different events have stirred up feelings and I have to distinguish between the fear I feel - keeping my unhealthy fears at bay, while listening and reacting to the healthy ones.

A couple of winters ago I attempted to learn to snowboard, which I'm sure was an interesting site to see. I was an expert on the bunny hill, if I do say so myself. Then came the real test - the real beginner slope. I made it on the ski lift without falling. I made it off the ski lift without making a scene. I fastened the board on my feet and started down the slope. At that point, I think my snowboard had a magnet that was attracted to the trees. Every time I started to go, the board automatically moved towards the trees. No matter what I did I was still headed to the woods. The closer I got, the more nervous I became. Fear set in. I knew I was going to crash into a tree and probably break a bone. The more the fear set in, the more nervous I became and the more I froze. I could not control my board. My brother, being the patient younger sibling that he is, graciously helped me by holding my hands and guiding me down. Unfortunately, my legs slowly became fatigued and felt like jello. At that point I had to confess to my brother that I could no longer snowboard down the mountain. I had to take the snowboard off and walk down the slope. I told him that he could continue down by himself, so I wouldn't embarrass him as I walked instead of snowboarding. He laughed and said he didn't mind....

This was a healthy fear. If I hadn't listened to my instinct and what my body was telling me I, most likely, would have been seriously injured and/or taken out and injured some innocent skier as I tumbled down the slope, out of control.

Then came my dilemma. My boys learned how to snowboard that day also, the same time I did and with the same instructor. They were up on the mountain, snowboarding and having snow ball fights. Part of me was very proud of them, but the other part was nervous. All I could envision was them crashing, out of control, into a tree. Should I let them continue? Would they get hurt? Would they be the next person coming down on a stretcher, pulled by the ski patrol? Possibly. But, I knew they were much more coordinated and a lot more fearless than me, but were they safe? Yes, they could fall and get hurt, but they were in good hands. I decided to, as Zac Brown says, "Let it go."

If I had listened to my fear, I would have been doing the boys a disservice. The boys were in good hands, learning how to snowboard and enjoying the day. Yes, they could fall and get hurt. But, more likely, they would learn how to snowboard, have a great time, and make memories that would last a long time. Of course, they would also find a new activity to beg me to do every time it snowed or they were bored during the winter. They better find a way to earn money to buy a snowboard and ski lift passes.

As a mom I worry. This started the day Austin was born. Some of my worrying was justified, some was a result of an overactive imagination and had to be ignored. This continues today with my other two boys, but to a further degree. I have now experienced what is every mother's fear. I know what can happen and have to ask myself, "Am I being over-protective or realistic?" "Is this something I should let the boys do, even though there is risk? Or is the risk too high that I need to say 'no'?"

Life is a risk. There are things we do where we could get hurt, physically or emotionally, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't do them. Our challenge in life is deciphering what fear we should listen to and what fear is unrealistic.... To really live, we must face some of our fears. To not do so would deny ourselves the life we were meant to have!

(I hope to write about some of these fears in the near future - but seeing how it took me over a year to finish this entry, we shall see...)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tragedy and Growth

"Physical strength is measured by what we can carry; spiritual by what we can bear." ~ Source Unknown

It's amazing how much change and growth can occur in two years. As the 2-year mark approaches for Austin's accident it's hard to summarize in a few paragraphs how I have evolved. I was reading parts of A Season of Grief, by Ann Dawson and found a couple pages that truly described my thoughts. I've decided to take a shortcut in this entry and share what Dawson had to say...

"When I was newly bereaved, nothing in the world mattered to me but the pain I was enduring. All the minor annoyances I used to make into major issues became insignificant. Worries about the future became meaningless....

Over time, as the sharp edge of grief began to dull, I noticed that people who had once irritated me began to seem more tolerable. Pet peeves like dirty dishes in the sink or wet towels on the floor did not merit the expenditure of energy it would take to raise a complaint. I found myself softening in my grief, becoming less critical and impatient. I started to develop a sense of acceptance of things beyond my control. And gradually, in very short bursts and then in longer and longer periods, I began to become aware once more of the beauty of our universe. The works of God - mountains, trees, clouds, and oceans - become breathtaking works of divine art, and the arts of humankind... Little by little I was made aware of the powerful beauty of creation, and I basked in the warmth of that realization...."

What an awesome thing it is to be confronted with your greatest nightmare, to live through that experience and survive it, and then to come out on the other side of the fire. Those of us who have endured such a fate are often surprised to look back and realize that we did indeed survive the confrontation. We are sometimes even more surprised to understand that the fire of our suffering has tempered us and made us stronger people than we were before our trial.

When I remember the past, I look back with longing on the days when my family was intact.... But I don't miss the person that I was before that time of loss. Although I am now a person who carries a deep sadness within the depths of her soul, a sadness I could have done without if asked, I am also a person with a new strength, a stronger faith, and a renewed sense of respect and awe for the world around me. I have a new thirst for knowledge, a confidence born of adversity, and a great hope for the future.

We can choose to take the sorrows that come our way in this life and allow them to make better people of us....

The sorrows that we endure in this life strengthen us. They make us more compassionate toward others. They help us to appreciate the good things that happen to us, and they often help to improve our perspective in life. Trivial incidents lose the power they once had to annoy us. Often as a result of suffering, we become more spiritual people. We have reason to believe and to hope that there will be a better life after this one, and we become searchers for truths to bear this out. We learn to appreciate our loved ones more deeply, and we become more gentle and more patient than we were before.

Suffering, then, can be considered a gift of sorts. As a result of the adversities we endure, we are forced to grow, to learn, and to love more fully. Without the experience of sorrow in our lives, our growth might not be as meaningful. And, in the end, growth is the reason for our life here on earth: we are here to grow in knowledge, love, and faith. As we grow, therefore, we move closer to God who will one day call us home." Ann Dawson

I am hoping. in the days to come, to be able to write more about how I've changed over the past 2 years. I have so much to say, but sometimes it is hard to put it in words that do it justice. Other times the thoughts roll off the fingers.... I never know just when it will happen, but when it does I will share it with you.

Monday, June 11, 2012


"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring. All of which have the potential to turn a life around." ~Maya Angelou
This week-end was filled with lacrosse, lacrosse, and more lacrosse - the same way it is this time every year... lacrosse tournaments, playoffs, and league picnic. For three months the boys play lacrosse with their friends, Mike coaches, and I get to hang out on the side lines with my friends... friends who have shown me what it truly means to be a friend... friends who pulled together and lifted my family up two years ago. Every year, at this time, will be a beautiful reminder of how blessed my family is for the community we are in.

On Saturday, at one of the many games of the week-end, I was chatting with the wife of the head coach from a neighboring team, asking how their son's lacrosse season was going. I had only met her once before, two years ago, but easily remembered her son's name... it's Austin. She was asking about my boys' who were playing lacrosse and then asked the "dreaded question", "Do you have any other kids?" To which I replied, "Yes, I have one other son who passed away 2 years ago. His name is Austin, that is how I remember your son's name." Her husband then commented to his wife, "He was killed on a motorcycle. We were at a tournament when we got the news and it really rocked everyone."

And I'm once again reminded that we are blessed to have two communities, six hours apart, love us up and show us what "community" is all about.  How fitting that in less than two weeks we will be celebrating Austin's life with almost 200 friends and family from two communities, brought together by a beautiful blue-eyed young man who knew what "community" was all about.

Every year, at this time, will be both a reminder of the tragedy that changed my life forever and the beautiful communities that showed my family and me what it truly means to "love people up".

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Still Hard to Believe...

The other day I was chatting with someone about class reunions, commenting on how it's hard to believe that I graduated from high school 28 years ago.... unbelievable! So much has happened between then and now, yet it doesn't feel like it's been that long. I truly don't feel that old.

During the day of calling hours, the fact that Austin was dead was still surreal. As I watched Austin's body lying in the casket, a thought kept popping in my head, "Wouldn't it be crazy if he suddenly sits up, says 'Boo! Just kidding...' and then laughs." Because that was Austin, always up for a good prank.

Only this time it wasn't a joke. And it's hard to believe that it's been almost 2 years since I said good-bye.

Today was one of those "Austin days," the kind of day I mentioned in an earlier blog (3/23/12... Just Like Yesterday). No matter what I was doing I kept thinking, "OK Austin, you can come back - anytime now. Jokes over...." Only I know it isn't a joke. He isn't coming back. Sometimes it doesn't feel like the calling hours and funeral were almost 2 years ago (22 months, 2 weeks to be exact). 22 months! Unbelievable.....

I wonder if this is how I will feel in 26 years, when Austin has been gone for 28 years. Will it seem like just yesterday? Will it still be hard to believe?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Forever 21...

Birthdays become an interesting event after a child dies - at least they have been for me. I had thought that it would be Austin's birthday that would be the most difficult, that would weigh heaviest on my heart. I thought it would be on that day that I would be reminded of what was to never be any more. Interesting thing, that's not how it has been for me.

We have remembered Austin's birthday twice since he left us and both times my thoughts tended to go to the day he was born, remembering him as a precious, chubby baby with black hair and blue eyes. I'd smile as I thought how he grew up to be a lean, dirty blond, blue eyed boy with the same charm he came into this world with. As I posted on Austin's last birthday, I will always wonder who he'd be today - what mischief he'd be up to, what his next adventure would be, what next project he'd be working on. They have been bittersweet memories and thoughts, but not as hard as I had anticipated.

This past January and February both of my other boys celebrated their birthdays, one turned 14, the other 12. Interestingly, these were the difficult birthdays. I remember thinking both days, "I need to make sure I make today special, even though my heart is heavy. It is not fair to the birthday boy for me to be sad on this important day, a day both boys look forward to all year - the day one turns a year older." So, I would focus on making sure their birthday was special, never letting them know where my mind and heart was. (I should point out that we have never been ones to do real big celebrations on birthdays - usually it consists of a couple presents, a cake, and a dinner out the restaurant of their choice. Some years we have even postponed the dinner portion to another day, due to sport's practice or Mike's being out of town. which actually works to the birthday boy's favor, as he gets to stretch out his birthday celebration.)

I mentioned how I was feeling to Mike, and to my surprise he felt the same way. That's when I realized.... when someone dies young they will always be the age they were when they left this world. Austin will always be carefree and 21, still figuring out where life was taking him, still figuring out what he wanted to be "when he grew up". And this is why, the days my other two boys turn a year older are a reminder that Austin will be "forever 21" (21 years and 9 months to be more specific).

A couple months ago, as I was watching my middle son, noticing how much he has matured physically this  past year, a thought hit me, "When Austin's younger brothers pass the age of 21, turning 22, then 25, 30, 40..., will Austin, in my mind, go from being my oldest son to being my youngest?"  Because, there will now come a day when Austin's brothers will enter years Austin never experienced. They will experience things Austin never got to because he never made it to that age. Over the years, I have always related where my two younger boys are with where Austin was at various ages. For example, when one of them was getting up every night in the middle of the night, I would think "I remember when Austin didn't sleep through the night. He eventually did, so I know that time will eventually come for this one too..." Or, when one of the boys was testing the limits I would remember Austin did that too, and we made it through. So there's hope!

A few weeks ago we were at a wrestling tournament. Starving, I walked to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat. As I entered the seating area I noticed my 14 year old sitting with his friend at a table. I purchased my food and proceeded to find a place to eat, making sure it wasn't right next to the boys. You see, my son is at the age where it is not "cool" to have your mom sit with you when other kids are around. I could have tortured him, the thought even flashed through my mind briefly, by plopping myself down in the seat next to him - but decided to be nice, for once, and give him his space. He saw me sitting alone, but never offered me to join him.... yep, he's definitely 14!

As I was enjoying  my nachos, watching my son and his friend, I smiled remembering the years that Austin was just the same - when we were out in public and I walked into a room he and his freinds were in, Austin purposely avoided eye contact, hoping I wouldn't walk over and embarrass him. Then, my mind fast forwarded to 2010 Memorial Day week-end, when Austin actually invited us to join him at a Memorial Day gathering. When we walked up the driveway he didn't turn his head hoping we wouldn't see him, but rather he came out, greeted us with big hugs and introduced us to all his friends.... yep, my 14 year old son will grow out of this phase, just like Austin did!

Birthdays are a strong reminder of how life changes. They are a reminder that there will come a day when I will have no "bench markers" of Austin's life to use for my other two sons. There will come a day when my middle son will start leading the way into the different stages of life that both boys will experience, stages Austin never reached....

Austin will always be my first-born son, but he is now "forever 21"!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Just Like Yesterday

This past month has been unbelievable in regards to weather. In fact, yesterday felt like not a cold March day, but rather a beautiful late June day with the sun shining, a very light breeze blowing and the sound of birds chirping coming through the open window. It was a perfect day.

So why, then, did an aching sadness wash over me as I was sitting in Austin's room, folding clothes. (His room doubles as a guest room and laundry folding room.) I could not put my finger on the reason.For a minute I thought it might be all the motorcyclists I noticed on the road, as I drove through town - more than I've ever seen in one day. Every time I came upon one (or two or three), which was about every three to four minutes, I thought of Austin and said a quick prayer for the safety of all motorcyclists on the road that day. But, I knew that wasn't the cause of my feelings. So, I simply chalked it up to just one of those times when out of the blue my heart ached for and missed Austin.

Then today, while walking into the house, smelling the fresh, warm air, it hit me... yesterday was identical to the morning I got The Call. After I hung up the phone with the doctor and with everyone I needed to contact immediately, I waited for my brother to get home, who was riding with us to NY. I tried to pull together, in my mind, everything that needed to be done. I walked out to my backyard, and sat on the patio swing, and tried to figure out what was going on, but I didn't know what to think, what to do. So, I just sat there, while the light breeze touched my face and the sun beat down on me. Any other time it would have been a perfect late-June day, any other time...

Throughout my life there have been certain smells, sounds, foods, and other things that bring back memories, and make it feel as though it was "just like yesterday"  - the smell of the shampoo I used in college, a crisp fall day like the days of high school football games, the laughter of a baby so similar to my own boys' laughter at that age, the woody smell that met me every time I walked into the entry way at my Grandma's (I loved those visits), the list goes on and on - and now I have one more to add to the list... one that will always remind me of a late June day, one that will always be etched in my heart.

A friend of Austin's told me that whenever she has a day that Austin seems to be on her mind and is everywhere she turns, one when the missing of Austin is a little stronger than most days, she says she's having an "Austin Day". I've borrowed that term several times since then, and now am adding to it. I think there will be times that I find myself having an "Austin June Day" - even when it's not June. And now that I've been able to identify this feeling, I will simply embrace it, accept it, and call it by name, knowing that it is one more sign that Austin's sunshine and warmth will always be with me!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One More Minute...

Yesterday, I attended a soul care retreat for women. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In fact, I was very hesitant to attend and almost backed out at the last minute, thinking, "This is the only week-end I've had or will have without a sport event for the boys. I'm not sure if I want to spend it inside with a bunch of women all day." But, I'd made a commitment to a friend and so I went. When we arrived and were given instructions my heart sank. We were spending an hour and half in the morning and two hours in the afternoon in silent meditation. "What?!!?!" I thought, "Ugh!"

During the morning I decided to go sit by a small "pond" in the middle of a busy part of the center of town (which was across the street from the church the event was being held at). I found a bench, wiped the water off that was coating the surface, and settled myself to watch a couple ducks swimming around in the water. I was infatuated with the ducks, thinking about the two that have visited my covered pool the past three mornings. As I sat there, some events unfolded that touched my heart. After a half hour I walked back to the church, pulled my journal out, and recorded what I had just observed. Here is what I wrote:

As I sat by the water, with traffic going by unnoticed, listening to the birds chirping, squirrels scampering, and two mallards floating around, splashing in the water, a man and his young daughter (probably around 18 months old) walked onto the little bridge. The ducks swam towards them and the little girl giggled with delight, all the while repeating, "Ducks, ducks. Come here ducks."

The father stood patiently, letting his daughter enjoy the experience - one that brought such joy to her. When it was time to go, the father quietly and gently said, "OK, it's time to go. Let's go see Mom." He picked the little girl up and started walking away. The girl kept saying, "No, see ducks. See ducks!"

The father gently set her back down and said, "We'll stay one more minute, then we need to go." The girl walked back to the bridge to get a better view of the ducks. As she was watching and calling the ducks they swam under the bridge. She had no idea where they went. The father gently said, "Look over here, they're on the other side now." She turned and watched them a few seconds longer. The father then led her away - she was ready to go - there was no kicking and screaming this time.

Isn't that how it is with God? Sometimes we feel a prodding to go, move on. But we say, "Not yet, can I have a little more time? I'm not quite ready." He quietly and patiently waits for us - knowing we may need just a little more time. And then he leads us on down the road of life...

I was going to say every once in a while he'll take us kicking and screaming - but then I thought, "I'm not sure about that. He always gives us free choice..."

A little while later, as I reread what I wrote, my throat caught when I got to "not yet, can I have a little more time?" I thought of Austin and that is what I want to say to God - "not yet, can I have a little more time with Austin?" But I can't.

A few hours later, when I was home, taking a walk, reflecting once again on the scene I had watched unfold at the pond, another thought/image came to mind.... I could see Jesus reaching out to Austin, as he lay on the stretcher, saying, "Come on bud, it's time to go." And I could see Austin looking in awe, at the light and beauty of Heaven and hear him say, "Man... this is awesome!"; then, with a sparkle in his eye and a huge smile on his face, reach out and join Jesus... heading to Heaven!

I am so very thankful I decided not to cancel, as I received a beautiful gift yesterday, watching a father and his daughter.

(I also know, for a fact, that I could never be a monk! Long stretches of quiet and me are not synonymous... usually.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Certain Things are Hard to Do...

Last week as I was looking through Austin's stash of CDs, I stumbled upon a CD that had long-lost photos of the last hiking trip we went on in the Adirondacks. It was Mike, Austin, one of his brothers, and myself. Austin's youngest brother wasn't old enough to join us. As I was clicking through the photos a smile came to my lips as memories popped up from the hike and as I remembered this is one of the reasons Austin had loved the outdoors. For several years Austin would venture on this annual Memorial Day hiking trip (one I had done as a middle schooler / teenager myself) to the Adirondacks with Mike, my dad, and usually a friend. The first few years that Austin did this trek, I was unable to join the crew, as I was home tending to Austin's two younger brothers. But, I always looked forward to hearing the stories when he came home.

Finally, I was able to leave the two little ones home with my mom and relive childhood memories with the Austin and the rest. Then, the following year, Austin's one brother was finally old enough to make the climb with us. These pictures captured the memories of that hike and reminded me of the reason we did it in the first place - the beauty of the mountains, especially from the top, made you stop and be awed by nature.

This was the last hike we did as a family, as our schedules, commitments and priorities changed. Mike and I, at various times, would discuss taking the family on another hike, but we never carved out the time to do it, always having one excuse after another why we couldn't go. After Austin died Mike would intermittently mention that we should take the two boys on a hiking trip. I would quickly dismiss it, because truth be told, the first thought that always came to mind was that Austin wouldn't be with us. How could we go on a hiking trip when for years Austin would have loved to have done another hike, and we never made time to do it. It felt as though we would be betraying him. I think this is what happens sometimes, when we lose someone. We know we have to keep living, but we feel guilty, when those who have died can't join in on the adventure.

As I looked at the photos and the mountainous scenes, views you can only get from the top, the beauty of it all hit me. I thought, "How can I deny Austin's brothers from experiencing this part of life? They are still alive and need to live life, to breath in it's splendor and to experience it's beauty. They need to live life to the  fullest... just like Austin did!"

And I smiled, with tears in my eyes, as I thought of how Austin would agree.... his brothers needed to hike to the top of a mountain and get a glimpse of heaven!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Drive Fast, Take Chances

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
~ Oscar Wilde

Have you ever met someone that just seemed to get life? They weren't afraid to face a challenge. They seemed to have an attitude of, "What's the worse that can happen?"

Have you ever passed up an opportunity because you were afraid of failure, because you didn't want to be embarrassed if you didn't succeed? My question to you is, "So what if you fail? Did you learn from it? Are you a stronger person because of it?"

That is what is meant by "Drive Fast, Take Chances!" Don't let the possibility of the word "No" stop you from stretching yourself and experiencing life.

I was meeting with Austin's friends this week, planning the 2nd Annual "Rembering Austin Narewski" event for this June. We were discussing what design to put on the t-shirts this year. Last year we used the same design that was on the window decals Austin's friends had created after he died. A few of the friends had received ridicule because of the words that were on the decal, "Drive Fast, Take Chances".

I remember when the decals first came out a few of my friends asked me how I felt about them, to which I would respond, "I am fine with them. This is Austin's friends way of remembering and honoring him." Austin's friends were not trying to be disrespectful, they were simply reiterating the words Austin would frequently say and definately lived by. Austin used to say those four words all the time, sometimes I think it was just to get a reaction out of me (along with a loving swat on the side of the head). None of us would encourage anyone to drive fast and recklessly, that is not what these decals meant. They are simply a reminder to all of us of how Austin lived his life. He wasn't afraid to take chances, to do something that made him a little nervous, that took him out of his comfort zone. He wasn't afraid to LIVE LIFE!

There are only two things guaranteed in life. First, we have all been born (that's what birthdays are celebrated for). Second, we will all die (there's no escaping this). It's what we do in the middle that counts... so why not make it the best you can... why not find the joy even in the little things... especially the little things! You only live once - so make it worth living.

Grab life by the handle bars and go for a ride...
Make it the ride of a life time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts and Emotions All Over The Place

Every day I think I should write another blog entry. Every day I have so many thoughts running through my head, but I can't seem to get them organized to put to pen. Some of the thoughts are things, feelings, and ideas that I have already mentioned. Some are new reflections on what the past year and a half has brought. Unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to describe what I am thinking in a way that will truly convey my thoughts and feelings.

Tuesday I started my Adobe In-Design class. It's an accelerated course that runs only six weeks, meeting twice a week. The final project is a book. Hmmmm.... if my memory serves me correctly I have been working on a book for over a year now. A book on Livin' Lovin' Life - Austin Style. Yup! I will finally have the book completed.

Maybe that's what my problem has been. I will be working on this book for six weeks and I know that it will take an emotional toll - stirring up memories of Austin. They will be good memories, but ones that will remind me how much I miss him, how much I wish he was here, and how it seems like just yesterday that I spoke with him, but at the same time it seems so long ago.

As I'm writing this blog entry I am becoming more and more certain that the reason I have been unable to write anything since my last entry on 12/24/2012 is because I know my heart can only handle so much reminding of how much it misses Austin.

There is still so much I want to share - reflections, encouragement, thoughts, and memories. I know I will get to them, when the time is right. I also know that I have to listen to my gut, which is telling me that I only have so much emotional energy in a day. Right now it must be reserved for this book. When it's completed I will then be able to share so much more.

And hey, you never know, I may get a burst of energy next week and write another blog.... you just never know. Life is always full of surprises....

PS: As I was going through pictures for the book I stumbled across a picture of the rainbow that was "shining" the day Austin died. It greeted us as we pulled up to my dad's house that afternoon. As I look at it I think, "This is how my mind feels right now - full of all kinds of thoughts and emotions - clouds with sun and beauty shining through, all at the same time..."
Austin's Rainbow