Saturday, July 9, 2011

Heart Hugs

It's difficult to say that you found joy on a day that is also surrounded by the awareness of loss.  What I expected to find on what would've been Austin's 17th birthday was sadness, tears, and longings for missed moments that never were.  While all of those were sprinkled through our day, a constant was the calming of peace, comfort of prayers, and warmth of love. 

I imagined family and close friends might remember us this day but not the outpouring of we received.  Whether said to us or not, we felt the many prayers and were lifted up throughout the day.  As soon as a sadness would darken the mood, peace broke through.  When I didn't think I could cope another minute, a sense of comfort would wash over me.  We are very blessed to have the support of so many.

What I wasn't prepared for was the flood of comments on Austin's Facebook group.  Early that morning, birthday wishes began to post on his page.  It seemed like every few seconds more and more posts would come, many from people I don't even know - hundreds were from his friends.  Some were simple, some were heartfelt, all were filled with love.  Every single post lifted my spirits and hugged my heart.  To know Austin was loved and is still missed by others fills my soul with joy.

The best moments though came direct from Austin.  Somehow he always knows how to send us messages to show his love.  One of the most symbolic and touching for me was in the afternoon as I was mowing.  Noah went to a movie with friends; and upon returning home from dropping him off, I decided to help him by cutting our yard.  Mowing was always Austin's job so anytime I hear the rumble of the lawnmower or smell freshly cut grass, I am reminded of him.  Plugging in headphones and turning up Casting Crowns, I set out for some alone time to pray, think, and connect with my boy.

As soon as I entered the backyard, butterflies began to pop up from the dewy grass.  Each one that fluttered by me, was like a hello wave from Austin.  Once our yard was complete, I turned out to finish the long field beside our house.  Instantly, dozens of yellow butterflies flittered about, circling me and dancing in the yard.  Together they formed a virtual hug from heaven that was almost as if his strong, yet soft arms were really holding me.  Goosebump covered and blurry eyed from tears, Austin's love surrounded me completely.

Right before dusk, Tim, Noah and me headed to the cemetery, each with a blue balloon and a note for Austin.  We've done this every year since losing him, at first as an idea to help Noah connect and find comfort.  Each year we've been surprised by the messages of love he sends to all of us in that moment we send them to Heaven. 

This year, rain threatened our plans.  Still sprinkling as we pulled near his stone, I worried the black clouds would open up before we had time to do our release.  As we stepped out of the car, rain quickly began to soak my hair and shirt.  Our balloons would ping with every raindrop but it gave us each a mini umbrella to walk to his graveside.  Once there, the melody from the balloons suddenly stopped.  In the small area we stood, no rain fell - but all around us it continued to.  At the count of three we each let go, silently sending our messages up and joining hands.  Noah whispered, "That was from Austin." 

In the photo you can even see the break in the clouds as if the balloons knew just where to enter.  It was yet another of the special messages and heart hugs Austin sends us - always in the very moment we need it most.


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