Thursday, February 20, 2014

Triggers.... you never know

Is there a smell that immediately brings you back to a time or place?

For me, a certain smell of wood does it every time... There's a distinct woody smell that immediately conjures up memories of my grandmother's entryway, which we had to walk through when entering her home.

Without doing a thing, all of my senses (sounds, sights, tastes, touches, smells) can bring me back to earlier times. I'm going along, minding my own business, when WHAM! the smell (or sound or taste) comes out of nowhere, and my mind jumps, with no warning, to a memory. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

What about when something causes our minds to jump to a memory and that "something" isn't one of the five senses? Or, what if it's not a memory that's triggered, but rather a lost dream? You can't figure out what it is, can't put your finger on it. But there's a feeling you can't shake. If only you could figure out why, identify what's causing it.

It happened to me last June, and not for the reasons I would have thought. June is the anniversary month of Austin's passing,but that's not what triggered the emotions that came rolling through me. I found myself feeling anxious and sad, something was stirring in me - a feeling as if I was missing out on life events, and it all seemed to stem from watching my friends kids graduate high school, which made no sense to me. Austin had graduated high school six years earlier. We had had a wonderful graduation party. I hadn't missed out on that life event with Austin. And I had great memories of that time with him. I've been through two other graduation seasons since Austin's accident, and never felt anything like this.So what was it that evoked the unsettled feelings? Why this year? What was different?

I had been looking forward to watching my friends' sons and daughters finish one season of life and begin their next journey. I have watched these kids grow into beautiful and respectful young adults and couldn't wait to see them grow even more as they began their next phase of life.... And that's when it hit me!

It wasn't about their graduating, but rather what it represented.... they were moving on to the next natural phase of their lives - college. I had experienced that with Austin and loved watching him grow into a beautiful young man during those years. He had just completed his last courses, just received his associates degree, only a few weeks before he died. He was beginning his next journey in life - having a full-time job, renting his own apartment, becoming a full-fledged adult. A journey I will never get to watch him experience. I will never get to walk along with him on any of life's next stages. That's what was breaking my heart. Although the graduations were the trigger, it was the end of one season and the beginning of another that created the aching in me. It was a subconscious reminder of what will never be for Austin.

Job promotions, engagements, marriages, babies, home purchases.... all the things that Austin would possibly be doing if he was still here. All the things that I have been blessed to watch his friends experience. I have watched them grow and blossom over the past 3-1/2 years. As I've been thinking about it I realize that if Austin was still alive, he would be twenty-five years old. He would have learned so much about life, he would have discovered more of who he was and what he wanted. I will never experience him getting that first job promotion, becoming engaged, marrying, having children, or purchasing a home. I can only imagine what he would be doing, because the most recent memories are the last memories I have of him is at twenty-one, fresh out of college, finishing one journey and just at the very beginning of the next. That's why I felt as if I was missing out on life's events, because I was - the life events of Austin.

The good thing was that I had identified what the trigger was, acknowledged it and made peace with it. There will be a day very soon, when my next child moves to his new big stage of life (graduating high school and heading off to college) and I will celebrate it fully with him, even though there will always be a tug at my heart of what I will always miss with Austin, watching him take that next leg of the journey of life.

Although Austin's life ended way to soon, our lives continue to roll on, along all the twists and turns that make life exciting and exhausting all at the same time. Although Austin is not with us physically, he will always be in my heart and I will always wonder (as Kenny Chesney's song says) what he'd be today.

An' sometimes I wonder, Who'd you be today?
...Would you see the world? Would you chase your dreams?

Settle down with a family, I wonder what would you name your babies?
...It ain't fair: you died too young, Like the story that had just begun,
But death tore the pages all away. God knows how I miss you,
...An' sometimes I wonder, Who you'd be today?
(~ Lyrics from Kenny Chesney's "Who'd you be today)

PS: As with previous entries, I was hesitant to post this, because I don't ever want a friend of mine not to share their child's journey of life with me, and I never want Austin's friends not to share their next life changing experience with me, worried it will evoke "missing Austin" feelings. Because, even though I long to watch Austin, it warms my heart and brings me a smile to watch my friends and their family, and Austin's friends and their family, grow and live life. We are here to live life and share it with others, so thank you for doing that with me!

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