Sunday, July 9, 2017

Birthday Stones

Nobody gives you a guidebook in grief for how to handle holidays, anniversaries or birthdays.

One of the biggest fears, as parents of loss, is that our child will be forgotten. Celebratory milestones magnify that. While you want your child remembered, it's necessary to tiptoe to the occasion in case the pain is too much.

In the past nine years, we've recognized Austin on his birthday in many different ways. None of those years were ever really planned, I just let it be. For a natural born organizer, that's difficult to do but grief changes what is and used to be. Instead, I've let God and Austin guide us through the day.

Landmark birthdays have been the hardest for us...16, 18, 21. Most of the time, Austin is forever 14 but birthdays push us to realize how much time has passed and imagine who he might've been.

His 23rd was yesterday so I knew it would be special. 23 was Austin's favorite number. His first baseball jersey adorned that number and it just stuck. Through the years, he's used 23 to send us sweet signs to let us know he was there.

But the symbolism also put pressure on how we could remember him. Everyone handles grief differently and truly you never know how a certain day will hit you – until it does. Because of this, I never make definite plans in case one of the three of us can't commit.

Sadly, other than Austin's 16th birthday, we've never included other family in his day. Most years, I don't even hear from the majority of them. Maybe it's too hard for them too, or maybe they've just forgotten. While that hurts, my focus moves to my three guys – my husband and sons, one towering over me and one watching from above.

A few days ago, the inspiration came to paint rocks in Austin's memory. Rock painting and hunting has become a recent fad for kids to do at local parks. Our county even has a Facebook page where people can post pics of hints or tag the found rock before rehiding. Knowing how much my boy loved rocks, this seemed like a beautiful way to remember him.

I spent Friday afternoon surrounded by stones and art supplies. With each stroke and swish, my stress seemed to brush away. It's been too long since I've painted and I realized how much it was missed. Creating is therapeutic. I may have found a new hobby.

Saturday the guys agreed to help me hide. We decided to focus on the parks where Austin played ball. Driving down memory lane, we recalled funny moments at the field. Baseball and rocks were two of Austin's passions. His spirit filled the car and every mile of our day.

                   



 


Watching three adults pull into a park, run and play around, searching for the perfect spots to hide, even playing on the equipment probably doesn't look like grief to an outsider. We laughed and enjoyed the day without guilt. We talked about Austin without tears.



Nine years of loss is a place we never expected to be but it's given us permission to grieve out loud. Sometimes grief is uncontrollable sobs and sometimes it is the sweet sound of laughter.

Pulling into the driveway, eight parks and many miles later, I glanced at the clock on the dash and felt Austin's hug. 2:30 pm. A beautiful birthday, indeed.









Friday, June 30, 2017

Tourist Trap

My news feed is swimming with tropical destination photos of families frolicking and posing on the beach.  Or hiking through the mountains and jumping into lakes.  And everyone I know seems to be visiting Disney.

If I'm being honest, there's a bit of jealousy as I scroll.

It's been so long since our family has been on a vacation.  We dreamt of doing so this year, as it is Noah's last summer home before going to college.  But, then a medical scare with my husband wiped out the vacation days saved along with the hope of spending any extra change we might find in our couch cushions.

Geez...

When the enemy seeks to hiss and remind me of all the things I don't get to do - or have - or places we can't visit, I must cling to the roots of the One who has already given me all I'll ever need.

I'm already a traveler, a tourist, as this earth is not my home.  May I not get trapped by the enemy's lies and manipulations to make me feel He has given me less.  Comparison is the thief of joy!

After my pity party, I'm reminded of all I have to be thankful for.  Despite not having answers, Tim is gaining health daily and by my side.  We have each other and an amazing son who still enjoys simply hanging out on the couch with his parents.  In so many ways, I know we are more fortunate than most.

Ironically, many of the photos I've seen online also contain complaints about the vacation they're on.  Disney may be known as the happiest place on earth but apparently it can also bring out the worst. I can recall some vacation disasters myself, or at least moments of the trip that were not so enjoyable.  In fact, our last beach trip ended with a visit to the ER, when our son fell and tore a ligament.  Not the souvenir we intended to bring home!

A wise and dear friend summed it up best today and I couldn't word it any better.  Sweetly, she agreed to let me share.

 No matter where we may be, we can still choose that happy place in our world. Someone is always going to want to rain on our parade, but we can choose joy, despite their disposition. 
Our own position is what really matters.

I know that my position places me in a bloodline as an heir to Christ. I am a child of the One True King! I celebrate the Giver of life and all He has given me! 
I can stand under His umbrella when others try to drown out my Son-shine! 
And I must remember that a little rain helps my growth process.

Tomorrow, my location may change, but I can still choose joy



Wherever life takes you this summer, I hope you pack and carry a little JOY with you!



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