Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Goosebumps at the Ballpark

Celebrating someone’s birthday once they're gone is a bittersweet and often difficult thing to do.  Your heart doesn’t always feel like rejoicing when it is feeling the weight of the loss.  Especially when it is your child.

Austin’s birthdays have varied since losing him.  The first, after he passed, we spent the day away from the house, just the three of us, and planted a memorial tree in our backyard.  What would’ve been his 16th, we had family over, a gathering just like he always loved.  In other years we’ve sent balloon letters up to him or floated sky lanterns in his memory. Most have been somewhat somber and heavy.

Yesterday was his 6th birthday gone.

I hadn’t planned anything leading up to it, figuring I’d let our emotions dictate what we did to remember him.  And then Tim called one afternoon telling me he’d won tickets to a ballgame.  We both teared up once realizing the date.  July 8th - Austin’s birthday.

Baseball and Austin went together like peanut butter & jelly.  They just fit.  

From the time he was tall enough to hit off a T, a passion was sparked.  Spring to summer our family spent our days (and nights) at the ballpark.  Once he grew old enough to enjoy watching it on TV, he was hooked even more.  Bats and gloves littered my house, so much so that we still keep one of Austin’s bats by our front door.

One of our favorite things to do as a family was go to a minor league ballgame.  At one particular park, they had fans come to the field in between innings to play games.  Without fail, Austin would always get picked. He won pizzas, gift cards, and shirts, including one of his beloved Ts that is now included in a quilt on the back of our couch.

When he passed, it was hard for us to love baseball again.  For awhile, it hurt too much being on the field.  In fact, Noah even stepped away from the sport for a couple years, coming back just in time before he aged out.  Last night, sitting behind the home plate, we all realized again how much we missed it.  The Blairs just need baseball!

As if winning tickets to the game on his birthday weren’t enough of hug, 
as always, our boy came through in very big ways.

The weather report was plain ick for the day, actually calling for hail storms and torrential winds.  I was worried it would be so bad that we couldn’t even drive the hour to the field, as the timing called for it to hit late afternoon.  While at work and driving around, I sent up a little prayer that we might have a rain free evening to enjoy the game and remember Austin.  God delivered big time…

Checking the weather again later, I noticed the 85% chance had disappeared to 0% and the hour by hour only included a very small chance of rain, way into the evening.  Wonderful!  We arrived to sunny skies and high 80s in July – picture perfect.  In fact, it wasn’t until we got home late last night and headed to bed that I heard the rain hit.

Getting to our seats (which were amazing  - 2nd row, right behind the plate), our family was met by the park photographer, offering to take a group shot.  Asking about our shirts, Noah shared his brother’s love for the game.  Before he walked away, the guy tossed him a ball to have as a souvenir.    And later he caught a fan shirt during a toss out.  His big brother was certainly shining down on him.

Settling in with an array of fried goodies on our laps, I look up to another goose bump moment.

For the first pitch, the catcher bent in front of us in a blue jersey with #23 printed in bold white – Austin’s number.  Every year he ever played, #23 was Austin’s jersey and even before he passed it was a special number for our family.  Since he’s been gone he uses it to send us hugs and this was just about one of the best ever.  It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.

Such a special moment!

The rest of the night continued to be a home run.  We felt Austin’s spirit with each swirling of dust and ping from the bat.  All of us shared memories and stories of baseball days and family trips to games. Things we loved (and missed) about him.  It truly was a celebration of Austin’s life.

Not a feeling we’re quite used to on this grief journey, but one I’m grateful for.

Happy 20th birthday in Heaven, Bub.  
Thanks for the hugs from above.


Anna Whiston-Donaldson said...

Happy 20th birthday in Heaven, sweet boy! Love to your whole family!

heather blair said...

love back at ya! ;)

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