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!