Sunday, November 28, 2010

Austin's Last Gift

An annual tradition Tim & I started when we were first married was to decorate the house on Thanksgiving weekend.  Back then, some friends and family thought it was too soon.  These days however, it seems there are Christmas trees mixed in with Halloween pumpkins, both at the stores and on the streets.  We just thought it was a good time to stay in the holiday spirit and get the house spruced up before the hustle and bustle that December brings.  Aside from decorating we usually spent the majority of the weekend in our pajamas watching Christmas movies.  It's a family tradition we carried through the years with both boys.  They always looked forward to the extended holiday break and being able to pause and enjoy the beginning of the season.

The past two years, it has been bittersweet to decorate.  Thanksgiving weekend falls on the cusp of the anniversary of losing Austin.  Grief from child loss is always more difficult during the holidays but I think the pain is tenfold when the season marks the anniversary of their death.  You are dealing with the horrific memories of the night you lost them, in addition to the emotions of the season and realizing yet again they won't be here.

Our last day with Austin was spent decorating the house.  It was the perfect family day spent together, full of laughter and smiles, while Christmas music floated throughout the house and into the yard.  I couldn't have written a script for the perfect day for our family any different than the way it happened.  Except of course, for the ending. 

Austin had grown so much and surprised me on so many occasions that day.  He was so very helpful from the start of the day to the very end and it touched me that, while a teenager, he was still happy to be spending the entire day decorating with us.  He worked with patience at putting together the decorations outside.  He smiled during untangling the Christmas lights.  He paused to roll around in the grass with Noah, giggling.  He surprised us, while we went out quickly to gather supplies, by putting together the kid's tree that we place in our kitchen.  I took pictures and video of the boys laughing and taking turns hanging their handmade ornaments, filled with glitter and glue.  They never argued or fussed about which ornament went where.  And, Austin's face was filled delight the entire time.

As day faded into night, we only had our main tree left to finish.  At this point, Tim and I were exhausted and I mentioned leaving it for the next day.  Tears nearly filled Austin's eyes and in the sweetest voice he said, "Mom, we always do it all on one day.  Can we please do it tonight?"  And so we did. 

As he handed me ornaments, he'd comment about which ones he loved and what were his favorites.  He'd tell Noah about why that ornament was special or what it represented.  At the end, he reached with ease to the top of the tree to gently place the angel on top.  He was barefoot and we stood amazed at how tall he'd grown to be able to reach the top of a 7 foot tree.  We ended the night with a trip to Subway, just me and him, and back to the house for a night of Christmas movies. 

I remember then, and even more now looking back, at how peaceful he was that night.  I wonder if on some level his soul knew he would soon be home, just hours later.  If it is why he worked so hard to ensure our tree was up, as it wouldn't have happened in the nightmare that followed the rest of that season.  What I know for sure is that he had a wonderful last day here with us making precious memories that we now treasure. His last gift to us comes back each year as we decorate for Christmas.

Although pulling out the boxes of decorations remind us that we must celebrate another holiday without him, his spirit fills our home with each ornament we hang.    Tears may fall as we pull out decorations and set the angel atop our tree but our hearts are filled with the love he had for us all.  As we settle in tonight with the home decked for the holidays, I can imagine him smiling down on us saying, "job well done," and holding us in one of his soul-warming hugs.

Linked with: An Inch of Gray

8 comments:

Kayla Yow said...

I am very sorry about your loss. Your recollection of your last day with your son, Austin, was beautiful. I pray that you can find comfort and hope during this holiday season.

Anna See said...

What a beautiful post about Austin's last day. I love reading about him. I can picture him going through the ornaments with you. Hugs to you today.

Jessica Watson said...

Such beautiful memories of your last day with him but I can only imagine how painful it makes doing those things again each year. Sending hugs through these days.

Heather said...

Thank you, Anna. Hugs to you as well.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to link with you for such a needed and worthy cause.

Heather said...

Thank you for the hugs! Sending the same to you...

Kat Biggie said...

Beautiful post, beautiful memories. I thought losing a 2 day old infant was tough... I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child I spent years with. So sorry for your loss, God Bless You, and I hope you can feel my big hug! Visiting from #Hugsfortheholidays

Heather said...

Hugs for your loss as well. No matter the hours, days or years spent with a child, the pain is there.

Mrs4444 said...

I'm so glad you have this beautiful memory of your last day with Austin. So sorry for your loss. My best friend lost her 17-year-old son October 28, 2008, so fall is a tough time for her, too. Blessings to you this holiday season...

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