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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