Friday, April 8, 2011

Signs from Above

I'm still covered in goosebumps when I think about all the signs Austin has sent us this week.  He must know that while this season provides hope, it is also a difficult reminder of his absence.  As the grass begins to grow, I think of him and how excited he would be to start another mowing season.  When I pass a ballpark, I'm reminded of the countless hours we spent on the bleachers cheering for our #23.  The sounds of other children riding their bikes around the neighborhood brings back all the memories, both good and horrible, of the many trips he made on his.  Spring is a constant reminder of our sweet boy, of the amazing fourteen years we had with him, and of the palpable loss we still feel.

The number #23 seems to be visible everywhere I look these days.  That number always comforts me, as it instantly makes me think of Austin.  I see the number every morning on may way into work, as a road sign indicates it is 23 miles to Owensboro.  It's my daily hello from him.  I'm always awestruck though when the number comes to me unexpectedly. 

Yesterday I posted about our first meal outdoors.  It was wonderful and during the meal I even started to comment, "This couldn't be any...." and I paused, painfully aware that it could indeed be better, if Austin were still here.  So, I changed mid sentence to "any better weather for this."  The empty chair across from me on the deck was another indication of him missing.  I shrugged it off, trying very hard to stay in the present and enjoy the moment with Tim and Noah.  Coming inside, I paused at the computer to update the Joyfulchallenge message on Facebook for the day, and noticed that it was up to 23 fans.  The last time I remember looking, it was at 17, so the jump to that exact number just seemed like a message that night, letting me know he was in fact there.

I replaced Austin's flowers this week at his grave.  It's an odd activity, something I never imagined doing.  While I enjoy being the one to arrange them, feeling like it's a gift I can give to him, it certainly isn't a hobby I wanted to have.  As I prepared to leave, I asked Noah if he wanted to come along.  Visiting Austin's grave has never been something that brings me a lot of comfort so I've never forced it on Noah.  I let him go when he wants and we stay as little or as long as he wants.  Thinking about it for several minutes, I soon found him by my side, ready to go with both vases in his hands.

Once there, I busied myself by tidying up and gave Noah time alone while repositioning flowers on his Mamaw June's grave, just a few plots down.  It had been awhile since he'd been and I know all too well the wave of emotions that takes over.  Feeling like he needed me, I joined him back at the bench and just rested my hand on his back.  In that moment a large and beautiful eagle appeared above us.  It was so close that I could see the details on his feathers.  As he glided in the winds directly above our heads we were both frozen and speechless.  When the majestic bird floated away, I whispered, "and they will soar like wings on eagles" because it just came out of me.  A sense of peace washed over both us.  It was amazing.

Then, yesterday was our first family outing of the season.  Although my mom's side visits the zoo at least once a year together, this was a new zoo for our group.  We went to Kentucky Down Under and closed the day with a picnic in the soft spring grass.  Of course, Austin was on my mind, and though we move forward, a grieving parent never fully moves on.  It hurts to do activities without him, especially those you know he would've enjoyed.  Tim and I were the first to pay and so we were also the first to enter the park. 

As soon as we opened the door to step outside, a tiny yellow butterfly flittered across my path.  I paused, unsure, not expecting to see these, now favorite creatures of mine, so soon in the season.  Catching a glimpse of it again confirmed, as it floated up the hill almost leading the way to the path we would take.  Choking back tears I knew it was Austin's way of letting me know he was there, as he's always present when our family gathers together.  It was just the needed boost to get me through that day.

I would've been satisfied with just the small but powerful sign yesterday.  I never ask for signs but am always overcome with joy, and grateful, when I receive them.  We left the zoo much later than expected and everyone was past starving as we walked to our vehicles.  Discussing places to have a picnic, I noticed the grassy sides of the lot and suggested we just eat there.  Noah and his cousin Larry took off running, looking for the shadiest spot as I lingered behind.  Through lack of communication, the rest of our group drove to other side.

Just as I was about to start the walk across the parking lot to join them, Noah spoke.  "Mom, there's a huge yellow butterfly beside you!"  Turning my head, I saw the vibrant yellow and black monarch, nearly on my shoulder.  It hovered around me for a moment, actually long enough for me to reach out in an attempt to touch it, before it flittered away.  But that precious moment was long enough and yet another sign from Austin letting me know he'd been with us all day.  It was an incredible ending to a wonderful time out with the family.


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