This is a difficult school year for us. It would have been Austin's Senior year and he would've graduated next May. For parents who've lost a child, life is full of "what could've beens" and missed memories. Milestone moments are the toughest though. Throughout the school season, each special occassion we see others and Austin's friends celebrating, is a reminder of our loss. The pain from losing him is magnified and our hearts are torn apart yet again.
However, even though the pain can sometimes seem unbearable, God always has a way of pulling us through. Just as in those first few weeks of our loss, He washes peace over us when we need it most. At times, I feel He even sends other trials and troubles, or allows them to come at least, to take our mind off the heartache awhile.
For the past couple years, I've seen it mostly in the form of physical ailments. And while in the moment of suffering from a shingles outbreak, bronchitis, or a random new allergy to poison sumac, it's not something I'd request; looking back I see how it helped distract my focus. Or, perhaps it's the chaotic burden of multiple appliances breaking down at once or other household emergencies. The past month the health of others, including Tim, has certainly required the majority of my attention.
In the midst of the troubles though has been one very beautiful distraction. Since the first of August, we have had my niece, Tina, in our home. It was sudden and unexpected, certainly not something we were emotionally prepared for but somehow it's fallen together quite well. She's a special child, full of curiousity and wit, and has added extra doses of laughter and love to our family.
Though I've gradually changed around Austin's room the past year or so, it has been a slow process and something that has been difficult for us to complete. Tina coming to us, and the knowledge she may be with us for quite some time, has pushed us at completing this...with a purpose. While there have been many tears packing our beloved son's things away, I have done it with the gentle whisper of him in my ear. Austin has loving prodded me through all of this, urging me to help her because he knows we can. And even on days when I doubt my abilities, it just takes a hug from Tina, or her soft smile, to remind me again.
In a year that we could so easily have spiraled back down into the fog of depression, letting each milestone and special day missed pull us deeper, we have been given the gift of purpose. We have been blessed with the opportunity to help care for another child in need, who gives us new focus, strength, and love. She's helping heal our family without even knowing it. And I couldn't be more grateful.