There is a memorial sticker on the back of my car window. We’ve changed vehicles a few times in the past decade, since losing our firstborn, but the stickers remain.
Before we lost a child, I said I’d never get one. I recall my husband and I had a conversation in a parking lot once about it. We were sitting behind a vehicle with a sticker memorializing a child gone too soon.
“I wouldn’t want the constant reminder,” I said, naively.
Little did I know when you’ve actually lost a piece of you it is something you’ll never forget.
Memorial stickers are somewhat new to the grieving world. I don’t recall ever seeing them on a station wagon growing up. People purchase them for different reasons now, whether to keep their loved one’s memory alive, as a fundraiser for a cause, or a reminder that life is short, no matter what age you pass.
Shortly after we lost our son, I began the search for windshield stickers. We both had different ideas for what we wanted, my husband something related to firefighting – a passion they shared, and I wanted a butterfly – a sign he sends to tell me hello.
In the beginning, it felt like a way to keep Austin with me. A quick glance in my mirror would show his name. He was always the first to call shotgun and loved being my co-pilot. I found myself looking back if one of his favorite songs came on or something reminded me of him. Memories, though bittersweet, are small glimmers of hope you have while grieving.
Being on the road is a difficult time when you’re deep in early grief. I remember those first few months and sobbing the entire way to work and back home. Every single day. It was lonely in my truck, and if anything, it felt the only time I could release all the sadness my heart would swell with each hour without him.
When I see other stickers on the road, I often pause and pray for the passengers inside. No matter the age or the time that has spanned since their passing, I know prayers are forever needed in families of child loss. I ask God to bring them peace and to lift them up in warmth and love so they may know and feel His presence. Though strangers, we share a connection at that moment and I carry them in my thoughts throughout that day.
Most days now, I don’t think about my sticker. Sometimes I forget it is back there until I notice a driver behind me and their expression. As they pause reading, I often wonder what goes through their minds. Sometimes I can see the sadness in the eyes, in the realization of Austin’s age at his passing. Sometimes I’ll see a couple exchange glances in their vehicle after reading it, maybe thanking God for the blessings they have. Many times I’ll catch a parent reading it, then see them look in the back seat or beside them at their children and can almost feel their thankful prayer being sent up.
My hope is that it helps others realize how precious life is and how we should all make every moment count. That’s something Austin would’ve wanted….to make a difference with one small sticker. He certainly made a lasting impression with his life.
In 2008, my world as I knew it changed forever, with the sudden loss of our 14-year-old son, Austin. The journey to my blog (and attitude toward life) was bumpy and tearful, beginning at a memorial blog for my son. I later chose to take another path, challenging myself to find the JOY in every day, despite the sadness I still felt. I love and miss him daily but I’m living my life to honor him – and celebrating every moment it brings. My goal…to find and share the joy in every day. You can find me at Joyful Challenge