Monday, July 31, 2017

Sweet Summertime

We've not had much of a summer.

My husband was in the hospital and not well most of June.  Dealing with respiratory issues, being outdoors was pretty much out of the question.  There's summer heat and there's Kentucky summer heat.  Trust me, air conditioning around here is a pure blessing from above!

Being confined meant our normal summer activities were put on hold.  As soon as Tim was well enough to work again, he pushed himself to get extra hours, medical bills looming.  Our son has also taken advantage of extra hours at work, being out of school.  We've all been ships passing the past few weeks.  As it is Noah's last summer home, that makes me a little sad.

It seems we blinked and we're at the final stretch of freedom before school begins.  Thankfully, we had an amazing, impromptu weekend to celebrate the last hoorah.

Friday, I spent the day with my Aunt and nephew painting rocks, my new hobby.

Eli, like my Austin was, is a lover of rocks (and trucks).  Our day began at the landscaping yard to scoop a bucket of tiny canvases.  Beside us, a construction crew was moving, plowing, and lifting.  I do believe, for Eli, it was Christmas in July!

"Look!  Look!" he'd exclaim, "It's lifting!"

He knows all the "official" names of the machinery.  Aunt Heather would call this a scooper.  
You'd have to ask him what it really is!

I came home to find hubby prepared for dinner.  Such a loving gesture, since he knew I'd be tired from my adventures.  And it kept us from the dreaded, "What's for dinner?" dilemma.  

Saturday's weather was unexpected for the end of July - low 80s and NO HUMIDITY.  In unison, Tim and I said, "Let's go fishing!"

Even though I didn't catch a thing,
 floating on the river on such a serene day was just what I needed.  
We were so relaxed we nearly napped on the boat!

Noah had a rare Saturday night off and, since none of his friends did, he opted to spend it with us.  
One of our favorite activities in the summer is going to the drive-in.  Unfortunately, ours is in the middle of a remodel.  But a hop and skip away is one that features five screens.  We'd never been, as our schedules don't seem to ever match up so this was the perfect opportunity.

Nestled between my guys, under the stars, I was content as one could be.

Sunday capped it off with a wonderful worship service and glorious afternoon nap.
A simple, blessed summer weekend bursting full of JOY 
that has me still smiling this Monday morn.

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.

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