Five years gone
I don’t know if I can even describe the mix of emotions that come over me with just typing the title of this post.
Immediately I’m taken back to the nightmare of saying goodbye to my sweet boy. How the perfect day could end so wrong. And my heart breaks all over again. Every bit of healing I think I’ve done feels washed away. That pain comes rushing back and I could so easily just crawl into a ball and cry myself into eternity.
Through all the change of the past five years, the only constant is that I miss him. How I long to see that smile, hear his laugh, feel those giant bear hugs he could give. Oh, I miss my son.
This year will be tough for many reasons, as if any year will ever not be difficult, but the anniversary of his death falls the day after Thanksgiving. Austin died two days after. Thanksgiving weekend. So many flashes of both precious and painful moments.
I avoid the calendar, try not to think of how I will cope through the day. I won’t have the luxury of retreating, taking the day off, and being on my own. This year it falls the day after a holiday and so the kids will be home from school. But if I’m honest, it isn’t just the day that is hard, it is the entire month. And we’ve known this all along.
Looking back, it explains why we transitioned from wallowing in the pain to being productive. How the project of random acts of kindness in Austin’s memory came to be.
The first anniversary, we just spent together with our family. I don’t even know how we functioned that day but thanks to my dear sister, who gathered everyone to our house, we survived. And laughter even came, as we spent time playing games, an activity Austin loved. It was a beautiful family day and we felt him there.
The second year the thought of doing random acts, or RAK, came to me. I shared it with close friends and those who followed my blog and his memorial page. My one request was that they do an act of kindness on his anniversary to keep his memory alive. It was the only way I knew to make that tragic day have a purpose.
What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of response, as friends (and even strangers) messaged me sharing what they did.
Some of those acts of kindness included…
Aside from individual acts, our own family began the tradition of having a reverse shopping spree that night, where we plant money on the bottom of toys at a local department store. We purposefully place those toys at a child’s eye level, hoping that they’ll reach for something and parent’s will be surprised to find it is already paid for. We also go around town taping change to all the drink machines and local laundromats.
Five years later, RAK has grown from a one day activity to the entire month of November. Last year, I tried to do a RAK each day in memory of Austin. By the end of the month, I was touched to find others did as well. To think that Austin’s memory lives on in a way that makes a difference to others gives me some comfort. It brings me hope and connects us even closer to him because that was truly Austin’s legacy. Though only 14 when he left this earth, he lived his days to help others. That his spirit is still doing so is beyond words.
Tears will always fall. Pain in missing him is ever-present. But doing acts of kindness helps us thrive through, not just survive, the anniversary of losing him.