Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Interruptions and Lack of Control

I tend to like to be in control.

I know for those of you who know me, the above statement is a surprise for you to hear.... or maybe not. When there is a problem, I get a little razzled for a bit, then step back and figure out a solution. And this has worked quite well for me, most of the time. But what do you do when a quick fix is not possible? What do you do when what you envisioned gets turned upside down? When your plans for life don't go the way you thought they would go?

This could happen if you suddenly lose your job, your spouse asks for a divorce, you have an unexpected pregnancy (whether you're young and not married, or your getting ready for your youngest to enter high school or college), or your child dies. What do you do?

One thing I found myself doing, after Austin died, was to try to control everything else around me. I wanted to drive my kids everywhere, instead of carpooling, to make sure they got to where they were going on time. If what I had planned was interrupted it threw me off kilter a little, sometimes a lot. If I felt I was 'losing' control I would feel panic. If my schedule got too full and I felt I couldn't keep all the plates spinning, I'd put one down, knowing it would put me over the edge if I didn't. I didn't like interruptions.

Prior to Austin's death, I loved doing things spur of the moment. A little bit of spontaneity invigorated me, got my juices flowing. After Austin's death, not so much. I liked being in control, having all my ducks in a row.

Over the past year, I found myself withdrawing from social events. Events that in the past I would be the first one to say I would be there. I seemed to have lost energy. I seemed to lack the motivation to be involved. I rarely invited someone to get together for lunch, coffee, a drink, or whatever 'excuse' I could think of. This was completely out of character for me, but it was me for a year. I wasn't sure why. I just knew I needed to.

This is another thing I have learned since Austin's accident. I have learned to listen to myself, to my physical and mental reactions. To know when something would be too much and know it was ok to say 'no'. Again, I wasn't always sure why I had those feelings, I just knew I needed to listen to them.

This past Sunday I was sitting in church and the pastor was talking about 'interruptions' in our lives and how sometimes we needed to not react, but to slow down and wait for an answer. And there was my answer. This past year I had needed to slow down. I had needed to put all of my priorities in check, to truly reflect on what is important, what requires my passion and attention, and what I need to let go of and not worry about.

Over the past week or two, I have found my 'old' self returning. I have found myself wanting to and looking forward to entertaining, getting together with others, enjoying friends (old and new). The only difference is I have even more of a peace then I ever have. I have a contentment, knowing that quiet moments are good for me, are important for me, are rejuvenating. Interruptions are ok, maybe not desired, but ok. I don't need to solve them immediately. They prepare me for times of enjoying others, of valuing the friendships I have, of healing my soul.

If you find yourself upside down, with your plans being interrupted, slow down. Give yourself permission to wait, knowing that things will work out, maybe not how you originally planned, but they will work out - one way or the other.

I usually don't share sermons on this blog, but wanted to provide the link for anyone that wanted to listen to the "Interruption" sermon I spoke of above. It is the one from December 8th (Chris Mitchell) "Divine Interruptions - Joseph" http://www.newenglandchapel.org/sunday-services/sermons.html

(I plan on writing another blog on my 'attitude' this past year - which wasn't a good one, I'm ashamed to admit.")

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Want a Can of Soda!

What a great long Thanksgiving week-end we had last week! It was filled with seeing family and friends, and of course full of more Austin memories. Here's a sampling...

Can of Soda

Whenever I'm traveling along I-90 heading to Western New York, and then back again to Massachusetts, there's an exit we pass that reminds me "I want a can of soda".

Canastota.... When Austin was around 4 years old, my brother, Austin, and I were driving home to Western New York, from visiting my grandma in Glens Falls. As we approached the Canastota exit I commented to my brother that I was going to get off at the Canastota exit for gas. (This is when gas was much more expensive on the thruway than at regular gas stations.) Suddenly, a little voice from the back seat said, "I want a 'can of soda' too!"

I have never read that sign the same way again.

Christmas Tree Drive-Thru

A couple years prior to moving to Massachusetts, my youngest son's first-grade teacher's family ran a Christmas tree farm, where you could cut your own tree. This was perfect, as one of our family traditions is cutting a Christmas tree every year. We decided to check it out. Each year we alternate who's turn it is to pick out the tree. This particular year it happened to be Austin's.

We pulled up to the farm, got our instructions, and headed out to find the perfect tree. Only this tree hunt was a little different than in the past. We could actually drive our car down the paths and look out the window until we spotted "our" tree. Perfect! It was raining outside, now I didn't have to get wet.

We called it shopping via drive-thru for your tree. As we drove slowly down the lanes we saw a couple looking at "their" tree, getting ready to cut it down. Austin and I joked that we should run out of the car, grab the tree, and say, "This is the perfect tree. Let's cut it down." Of course, we were only kidding, but now every time we go tree hunting I can't help chuckling when I see other tree-shoppers finding "their" tree.

Every year we are back in NY for Thanksgiving we head to the tree farm and find the perfect Christmas tree, with a little extra Austin memories filling our Thanksgiving week-end.

Pizza Time

After loading our tree this year onto the top of our car, the boys announced they were starving. (So what else is new.) I suggested we head over to our favorite pizza place, Hometown Pizza. The boys, in unison, quickly said "Yes! Can we get wings too?!?" More Austin time.... Austin loved Hometown, it was like his second home, his best friend's family owns it, and Austin's apartment was kiddy-corner across the street from it.

After a great four days being with family, making more memories, we headed home. As we drove down the thruway, with our tree tied to the top of the car, I told my husband, "I want a can of soda."

Friday, October 4, 2013

When it Thunders - Think of Austin

The story I'm about to tell you was told to me third hand, but even if I'm off slightly with all the details, the gist of it is here...

My nephew, who is a month shy of being three-years old, was at day care the other day when a thunderstorm moved through. There was a little girl that was upset, scared of the thunder. My nephew says to her, "Don't worry. It's just Papa and Austin bowling up there."

A few seconds later thunder boomed. My nephew threw his hands in the air and yelled, "Yeah! STRIKE!!!!"

I have always loved a good thunderstorm. But now I have even more reason to smile when lightening flashes and the house shakes from a boom.

(Papa is my father-in-law, who passed away 6 years ago. You never know, my dad may be bowling with them now too, as that was one of his favorite things to do with the boys when we visited.)

Friday, September 13, 2013


When tragedy happens I find myself mentioning Austin. I try not to, as I feel the focus should be on the person that was just lost and not Austin, but catch myself doing it anyway. So this is a forewarning - I'm about to do it again.

Tuesday, September 10th

I found myself thinking about Austin as I drove to my class in Providence, RI. Out of the blue my mind began playing the conversations I had with a close friend on the day of Austin's accident. Time is blurred together from that day, but it was within 15 minutes of my finding out that Austin had died. It went something like this.

Friend: "Hey Lori, I just heard about Austin's accident. Is he ok?"
Me (choking it out): "No... he died."

Next I began replaying my response to the doctor when she called me from the hospital, breaking the news. "Ok... no, really? Are you sure?.... OK... ok, are you sure? OK...."

I'm not sure where these thoughts came from as I was driving down the road, they were just there.

Traffic was a little heavy and the typical slow drivers were holding up the rest of us. I am constantly scanning where cars are in my rearview and side mirrors, so when I have to change lanes I don't accidentally have someone in my blind spot. It was time to move to the left passing lane. I'd been watching my mirrors and knew there was room for me to move over. As I pulled a couple inches over I turned my head to the left just in time to catch the glimpse of a maroon car right next to me. I quickly pulled back into my own lane avoiding a near hit. The driver honked his horn, but if I hadn't seen him out of the corner of my eye it would have, most likely, been too late. My heart beat a little faster as I raised my hand to the driver, saying in driver sign language, "I'm so sorry!" Then my mind thought, "Ugh! If that had been a motorcycle it may have not been good."

Wednesday, September 11th (aka 9/11)

I arrive at the gym, in good spirits, ready to work up a sweat. I'm on the treadmill walking / running, listening to the music and watching the multiple TV screens in the front of the room, reading the closed captions when something caught my eye. One the channels was showing 9/11 events, reenacting what happened on the planes that crashed. Scrolling across the screen, they had several of the phone conversations that some of the passengers had with their loved ones during the last minutes of their flights. As I'm working out, reading the captions, I feel the tears well up in my eyes and have to refocus so they don't escape and start streaming down my face. When I finish I think, "Well that was an interesting way to work-out."

For the rest of the day I find myself teary-eyed. I'm in Target, checking out, and see a little boy that reminds me of my 15 year-old son when he was that age. It's a happy thought, but I am choked up. As I'm paying the cashier I'm trying not to cry. I laugh at myself, thinking of how sappy I am today, not because of 9/11, but can't put my finger on why I'm feeling this way. Oh well, as I learned a little over three years ago, I just have to go with it.

During the day, one of the questions many people asked, via Facebook, was "What were you doing when you heard about the plane crashes?" Alan Jackson asks the question in a song, "Where were you when the world stopped turning?" for 9/11.  I can remember clear as day what I was doing - pumping gas, but I think for many this question applies to other times when their world stopped turning - when they loss a child, spouse, sibling, or best friend. I can see in my mind exactly what I was doing when I got the call from Austin's accident and when I was on the phone with my brother when we discovered my father had passed away.

Thursday, September 12

Text received from a friend at 8:25am: "... Andrew, who was the bartender at Austin's event... was killed last night in a motorcycle accident."

I sat there, rereading the text, speechless, a sick feeling in my stomach. I had only met Andrew once, at Austin's event, but this news hit home. It was as if all my thoughts from the past two days were just "wrapped up". Andrew's family's and friends' worlds just stopped turning around 11:30pm on 9/11. I knew that there were friends 370 miles away that had been through this with Austin, and now were going through it again. I knew there were parents receiving the news that just two days earlier I had been playing back in my mind from Austin's accident.  I cried for Andrew, for his family, and for his friends. I cried because I knew the pain they were feeling and wished they didn't have to.

Even though I try not to pull Austin into remembering others that have been lost, sometimes there is no choice. And now, every year when we celebrate Austin's life at the "Remembering Austin" event, I will also be thinking of Andrew, who I only met once - as the bartender at this event. There will now always be a connection of Andrew with Austin.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Andrew's family and friends, as they grieve the loss of someone they loved, of someone who touched their lives.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Austin's Gift

My son: "Mom, Austin had really nice friends, didn't he?"
Me: "Yeah, he sure did."

That was a mini-conversation I had with my middle son the other day, after a fun week-end with one of Austin's friends.

Right after Austin died, the outreach from Austin's friends was amazing. I think I've mentioned it before, but it's worth stating again, I was blown away by how much his friends just reached out to us to let us know they were thinking of Austin and of us. Some we had known since childhood, others we had just met at the calling hours and funeral, some we had never met in-person (but have heard their name from Austin in the past).

Sometimes I wonder if others think of Austin as much as I do, if he's still touching their lives. Then out of the blue a letter comes from one of his friends - via mail, Facebook, or email - letting me know he's still present in that person's mind. And every once in a while, we are blessed with an in-person visit from one of his friends.

Austin's friends goof with my other two sons as though they've always known them and my boys soak it in. My sons feel a part of Austin through his friends and love it!

I don't know if Austin's friends realize they are a gift to us from Austin. Every single one of them, whether we chat with them once a month, once a year, or only one time ever, is a gift. Every one holds a piece of Austin and gives us a glimpse, a reminder, of who he was. We are blessed to have been given this gift from Austin.

To all of Austin's friends, thank you for sharing Austin with us! It means more than words can say.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

They Like Me!

November 2007, Austin was in the ER with an abscessed tonsil. Having arrived around midnight, being pumped with serious pain medication, and finally having the problem resolved around 7am, we were more than ready to get out of the hospital. The only problem, as soon as it was time for the nurses to begin the discharge process the Emergency Room became suddenly busy. So we had to wait, and wait, and wait. Which became amusing in and of itself.

At some point, during the waiting process, Austin decided it was time to go. He peeked out of the curtain area of the bay we were in and stated "Let's go." I explained we needed to wait until we were discharged. He didn't like that answer and decided to figure out an "escape" plan. He stated he needed to use the bathroom, which was down the hall, around the corner. I wasn't sure if I trusted him to come back and gave him strict instructions that he could go to the bathroom but had to come right back, the same way he went. He assured me he would, and as he walked down the hall he looked back mischievously. He pretended to go the other way, glancing back to catch my evil eye warning him not to do it. He was a good boy and did come right back.

Shortly upon his return he spotted a cart of dirty linen rolling by the room, being pushed by one of the hospital staff. He declared, matter-of-factly, that we could escape. All he had to do was climb into the cart of dirty linen and have me roll him out of the hospital. There, problem solved! I think he watched too much TV. I laughed, shaking my head, letting him know we weren't going to sneak out.

As he grew more restless, still feeling no pain, thanks to the medicine they'd administered earlier, he came up with other ideas of how to get out of the place that was holding him hostage. I just laughed, reminding him we had to wait and that he could not cross the threshold of the curtain doorway. He'd stand with his toes just over the edge of the line of the "doorway", rocking back and forth like a little kid testing the limits, as if to say, "See, I'm not leaving, but my toes are over the line. I really want to get out of here, please!" Then all of a sudden, with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face, he looked at me and declared, "I know why they won't let me go. They liiiike me!" Then he turned around, came all the way back into the room, jumped up on the bed, satisfied with his epiphany.... they liked him!

When I was home this past June, running around, getting ready for the "Forever Young.... Remembering Austin" event I smiled as I thought of this story for the hundredth time. When I got to the last part, tears pooled in my eyes, and I quietly said "Yeah Austin, we didn't want you to go... because we liked you, we really liked you. Correction, We LOOOOVE you.... I love you."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Can't Imagine vs I've Been There Too

I have been trying to put my finger on one of the bigget differences between losing Austin and losing my dad. After all, both were sudden and completely took us by surpise. Both will be missed immensely by all the people who's lives they touched. In fact, I had to chuckle as I realized just how much they were alike when it came to loving people.

The differences that jumped out, when I would thought about it quickly, were: one was my son and the other was my father.... one was in an "unnatural" order to lose someone, the other was the "natural" order.... Then one day it hit me....

"I can't imagine" vs "I know, I lost my dad (or mom) last year....."

When you lose a child the majority of people have never experienced that kind of loss, they cannot understand, and don't want to even try to imagine it. And, I don't want them to ever understand. Almost unanimously (with the exception of the few who have been there) each person's comment has been, 'I cannot even imagine...."

However, when you lose a parent, especially at my age, there are a large number of people who have treaded those waters before you. You are not alone.... There is comfort in knowing that, although you miss your dad (or mom) deeply, the memories keep you going. Just look at everyone around you who is living proof of of this.

Just the other day, I shared with a friend that ever since my father died (a little over a month ago) I have had peace. I think part of it is because I know he's in Heaven with Austin. As crazy as it sounds, there's a comfort to the thought of Austin being with his Grandpa. But now I think perhaps there is another reason - so many others have been where I am now (including my father himself) - so many others have mourned and continue enjoying life and savoring the memories they have of their father (or mother).

While driving back to NY after my dad died I told my boys - we have a very, very good life. We have been very blessed. Unfortunately, no matter how good it is, we all have to deal with this "crappy" part of life. And that is what it is..... "crappy"! Later I stated, "If only your Grandpa hadn't been such a loving man, darn him, then it wouldn't hurt saying good-bye." I turned to them and winked, because there is no way I would want it any other way. I have been blessed to have had a father who loved me unconditionally for the past 46 years! They have been fortunate to have had a grandpa who has loved them (and bragged about them) for as long as they have lived.... we have been blessed and I am so thankful for that. Because, even though I miss my Dad immensely, I wouldn't trade the 46-1/2 years he's been my dad for anything.

And I think those who have lost a parent would concur....

Thank you Dad for being the best Dad a girl could ask for (and the best Grandpa to my boys and best Father-in-Law to my husband). We have been blessed!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Getting the Most Out of Life

There's No Guarantee.... so make the most of what you have!

Two who knew what it meant to live life to the fullest!
 The past week and in a half has been a whirlwind and it was over in a blink. While driving home on Sunday I realized it was just a few hours short of being a week since we got the news.... my dad was gone, his heart had stopped beating. It seemed like the entire week was less than a day.... it seemed surreal. It's amazing how with in the matter of seconds, one phone call changes your life. How quickly you are reminded life really is short, how much we truly take for granted that those we love will always be here, especially when they are healthy and full of life.

I have always known, in the back of my mind, that my parents will (most likely) die before I do. I have thought, more recently, that they are getting older. But, in my mind, I have also figured they would live long, long lives. In my mind, my dad was going to live well into his 80's. Afterall, he was in great shape, especially for having just turned 76. He was doing boot camp (see blog link below) and had more energy than I have most days. But I guess his heart decided it was tired of beating, it was time for Dad to join Austin in Heaven.

Disbelief was what everyone said they had when they heard the news. They had to read the obituary or Facebook posting two or three times to make sure their eyes weren't playing tricks. How could it be? He was "young at heart", much younger than 76, at least he looked much younger, acted much younger, even had the energy of someone much younger. He definately lived more life in 76 years than most have!

As we sorted through the plethora of photos (and I mean hundreds and hundreds of them) I realized how much he had truly done - the trips he took (both simply for fun and for volunteering his medical skills), the people he visited (friends and family), the family and friends he loved and opened his home to for meals and sometimes a place to stay - he made the most out of the hours, days, months, and years he had lived. He squeezed so much in between the long hours he worked, taking his famous cat-naps and then being ready for more.

Isn't that how we should live life? Enjoying what we have been givien and loving those around us and.... sharing what we have with others. Hmmmm..... I wonder where Austin learned his loving spirit from? I think it just may have been from the man who just joined him - his Grandpa!

Maybe we all could learn a little something about how to truly live life. Anyone who knew Austin and my dad, knows they both lived life to the fullest. They did not always do it the same way, not at all. Austin was much more of a risk-taker, a thrill seeker...... Dad not so much. He was more cautious. In other ways they did live life the same. They both loved adventure (in different ways, but adventures all the same), loved to go places. They both loved people, always willing to help others. They both left their mark on people, more than they will ever know. They both loved life.

"Sometimes I get so caught up in the flow of life that I don’t realize life is going by. We aren’t guaranteed a single moment. And I cannot guarantee that exercise will help you live longer.  (and since Arlen has been active his whole life I don’t know what extra time it may have given him). What I can guarantee is that exercise and good nutrition can help you live better, happier, healthier.  Arlen enjoyed the benefits of exercise.  He LOVED working out with his group.  And when we had to tell them today it was clear they LOVED working out with him." Jeremy Biernat - Founder of Tall Trainer Fitness Systems (Boot Camp that Dad loved!)

 Here is a link to the full blog Jeremy posted after my dad died. Check it out if you have a chance.... and then go get the most out of the life you've been given!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Listening to That Small Inner Voice

As I think back over the past almost 3 years, reflecting on what I've learned, how I've grown, one area pops into my mind frequently - "listening to that small inner voice, that little nudge, that unexplained feeling that I need to do something." These "somethings" I get a feeling I need to do range from calling someone (not sure why, I just feel I need to let them know I'm thinking of them) to sending someone a card or gift (just because) to writing about a specific topic in this blog. When I get these feelings I can't explain why I feel that way, I just do.

But is doesn't stop there. When I've followed through on those "nudgings" (some call it a "gut feeling", a whisper from God), more times than no,t it ends up that person lets me know they were having a rough day and needed that little "thinking of you" call, note, or give.   That blog entry, which I didn't think much of, but got the urge to write, ends up being exactly what someone had been feeling, helped them through something they were struggling with, or simply lifted their spirits. This is reinforcement of the importance to listen and act when you hear that little voice.

Today, I was clearly reminded the importance of this....

A year ago (maybe even a little longer ago than that) I had this strong tug that I needed to send the driver of the truck that Austin hit a note to let him know that we did not have (nor never have) any ill-feelings towards him, never blamed him for the accident, because that's just what it was - an accident - being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I never "found" the time to sit and put my thoughts down, never sent him this message. About a week ago I had this thought, "There's no need to write the letter anymore." I don't know why that thought hit me, it just did.

Today, I read the obituaries from back "home". The driver (of the truck that Austin hit) passed away, after being in Hospeace, he was only 52 years old. I will never know if he had needed my message, but I do know that I should have listened to that "small inner voice". As I'm typing this entry another thought hits me, Austin can now tell him himself....

The more I live, the more I realize the importance to listen to that nagging feeling, even if you don't know why.... Life is to short to let those moments pass, and you never know when your words and actions will be a gift to someone who needed it at just that moment....

"Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it's enough." Robert Heller

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Letting Go...

Two little words that seem so simple, but can be so difficult to actually do. But, when you do them, you either free yourself or free someone else....

"Letting Go!"

As a mom, I know I have to let go of my children, little by little, in order for them to grow and mature. Sometimes it's a piece of cake, other times not so much so.

There are times when I suddenly realize I've been letting go and wasn't even aware it was happening. It occurred slowly and naturally. One day I blink and realize my child doesn't need me the way he used to, he's becoming more independent and I've let go a little more. He suddenly can tie his own shoes, order his own meal at McDonald's, read a book by himself, carry his own sports bag withoug tripping over it, do his homework without help. I smile at who he's becoming.

Other times I feel the tug of war - I know I must let go, but I am scared to death to do it. Letting go when he gets on the school bus the first time, heading to kindergarten, at times peeling him from my leg as he is screaming and crying to stay with me.... my heart is breaking, but I must let go. Letting go when he goes on his first date, knowing there's a good chance he will have his heart broken in the near future.... my heart breaks thinking of it, but I know I must let go. Letting go when the car keys are handed over for the first time, kissing him good-bye as he gets behind the wheel and drives down the road into the traffic with all the other drivers....my heart pounding as I imagine what could happen, but I know I must let go. Letting go when he heads to college, gets his first apartment, no longer having to be home by midnight.... knowing what mischief we could get into, but I know I have to let him become his own person, I must let go....

.... Because, if I don't "let go" when it is the "correct" time to, my son(s) will not grow, he will not get one step closer to the ultimate goal - of being an independent, responsible young man. The only way this can happen is for me to suck it up and "let go" - even if I don't want to.

As I think about "letting go" I suddenly realize that is excactly what I've done over the past two and a half years, when it comes to Austin. Actually, it started the day he died. I had to let him go physically. After a couple months I let him go in my mind (not my in my memory, but in accepting he was gone). You would think this was the final letting go, but it wasn't. It didn't end there. Letting go when someone dies takes a while - if not a life time.

For me, letting go includes accepting not just in my mind, but also my heart, that Austin is gone. It's letting go of feeling I'm letting Austin down when I allow his brothers do something he didn't do, or at least at a younger age (but that's part of being the oldest child, being the guinnea pig for parenting). Come to think of it, there were a lot of things Austin did, that his brothers haven't had the opportunity to do and may never.... It's letting go of the guilt when I find myself enjoying life and truly living it, realizing that even though Austin's life here on Earth has ended mine hasn't. It's letting go of the fear that if I stop feeling the pain I will start forgetting Austin. In fact, that's when I realize I will never forget Austin, and by letting go of the fear I can now embrace the joy I feel when I remember him - true joy.

Some of the "letting go" I'm not even able to put into words right now. I know I've let go, I can feel it.... I can feel the freedom of letting go, I can feel the growth from letting go, I can feel the love I have for Austin from letting go.

"Grieving is a necessary passage and a difficult transition to finally letting go of sorrow - it is not a permanent rest stop." Dodinsky