Tag Archives: Loss

A letter to my oldest son

My oldest left today for college. One of the boys has a raging fever so I stayed home. Pretty tough to do that but I packed him a surprise box. Sharing the letter I put in there.

You know me…blah, blah…but when I write things I feel like I’m getting them out of me. So read if you care to and drive on if you don’t. This pretty much sums up how I see life…

My dear son:
Today you begin to step away from us. As your dad and I fade into the background of your life I want to tell you what a privilege it’s been to have you as our son. You’ve brought such joy to us in so many ways. Your spirit, your dedication, your integrity; all of that adds up to a future of such potential and such promise for you. A few things I want to impart in black and white because I think they are incredibly important for you to remember:
• People are basically good. That doesn’t mean all of them are but most of them are good. A leader’s strength, I think, is being able to find the goodness and bring it out to shine. If you can do that even when it’s hard you will find the best of what people have to offer.
• There is no finish line in life. Have goals but don’t think of them as the “be all” of what you do. Along the way toward succeeding you have to enjoy the experiences you have, as it will become a part of that success. If you are constantly pushing for the next ending, you’ll end up missing some pretty fantastic beginnings and durings.
• You have lived a life of privilege. That doesn’t mean you have been coddled or that you haven’t done your share when it comes to helping. It means you’ve never had to worry about whether you will be fed, cared for and supported. That is an incredible gift. To honor that gift I ask that you remember to be charitable in word and deed. The only time you should look down at someone is when you are extending a hand to help him or her up. You are young, strong and smart. You can change someone’s life with quiet support. Be someone’s hero. The world certainly needs more of those.
• Keep yourself open to new things but don’t be flippant about the fragility of life and limb. Take care of your body and test its limits. Take chances but I don’t ever want you to risk your health for a dare or a fool hearty adventure. People do exciting things all the time. When you want to do something outside of your experience base – go for it. But research it, find someone who KNOWS how to do it and then learn, practice and step forward with confidence. The best way to arm yourself for success is through knowledge.
• Respect women. This is a big one for me and there will be times that you’ll find women who don’t respect themselves. It is rare that you can change someone with love, so choose wisely as to whom you give your heart. If you find that “love” is causing you to compromise your other values; then examine it closely. Love is when your values align and you can see yourself working hard for the rest of your life to stay with that person. Falling in love is easy. You can fall in love with anyone. Find someone worthy of your love and then put in the work that defines a loving relationship. If someone is worth that effort over and over again, then you are on the right track.
• Never forget son, that YOU are loved for who you are right now. With all your goodness and all of your foibles, you are loved. Rest assured that you are not alone in any challenge you undertake. Our family is strong and regardless of the back and forth squabbles we have at times, we are all here for you as you need support. Don’t give up on the big stuff and don’t sweat the small stuff. Nobody’s shooting at you so it’s going to be okay.
You have been ready for this since you were 2 years old son. Even that young you were ready to run out into the rain and do what needed to be done. Of all my sons, you enjoy the exhilaration of life and living. It makes me happy to see that in you. Run in the rain, dance in the rain, look up to the sky in the rain and laugh as the drops splash against your cheeks. You can withstand any storm. Enjoy the sound of the thunder and when the lightning flashes, let the smile on your face reflect in the light. You will do extraordinary things.
Your dad and I will be there at every turn possible to embrace your successes, support your learning when you make mistakes and provide you a soft place to land when you need it. Home is more than a word, a house, a state or an address. It’s a place in your heart that makes you feel safe and secure.
You got this son and if you need us for anything; we got you too.


The Sound of a Soldier’s Passing

So much loss by so many families. Today is a day to remember and say thank you out loud to those who’ve served and those who’ve lost their lives in service. Thank You.

The Sound of a Warrior’s Passing

A bugle weeps its notes of pain; tears fall and soak the ground.
A flag is folded silently but all can hear the sound.

A life is slowly tucked away, with honor, tribute, grace.
Time will not dull the memory, the smile that graced his face.

A boy, a teen, a man and son, whose life has softly closed,
Is gently laid to rest today, God called him and he rose.

This soldier’s story, his sacrifice, forever in our hearts,
His legacy of service built and so his legend starts.

His story must now spread from here, his message wide and far;
That liberty and freedom can leave a painful scar.

Integrity and sacrifice are so much more than words.
Few live a life that demands so much, his story must be heard.

So take his story, spread his lesson, freedom’s cost is high.
Few have the courage of such a man, who’s story can not die.

This loss; too much, hurt screams from us, so very loud the sound.
A bugle weeps its’ notes of pain; tears fall and soak the ground.

1LT Robert W. Collins
He stood with warriors. He rests with God

To all our brave soldiers and their families…
Happy Memorial Day!


When the boys ask me why I rest my hand on their father’s leg when he’s driving, I think about all the miles my family would travel in the car on summer vacations.  I remember looking to the front and she’d be sitting there with her hand resting on daddy’s leg.  They didn’t speak too much but occasionally they’d look at each other and smile.  When I touch my husband’s leg, or reach over and hold his hand in the car I tell the boys:

My momma taught me that. 

When I come down in the evening in my PJs and the boys come rushing over to sit by me, Sam will raise his head and say:

 “Ohhh….you have on that perfume don’t you?”

 I think about hugging my mom over the years; burying my head into her neck and smelling her perfume.  I remember it warmed me and made me feel safe and loved.  So when the boys snuggle down next to me taking in long breaths of whatever perfumed lotion I’ve slathered on, I think:

My momma taught me that.

When I give a stranger a couple of dollars  I remember watching my mom reach into her pocket book and pull out money at the grocery store.  She’d help the person in front of us if they were a little short.  I’d walk away from the register holding her hand, looking up at that beautiful face, and feeling so proud.   Charity is one of the things she taught me.

When I start to put together a meal, I think about all the meals that she made in our kitchen.  Meals weren’t just something you ate, meals were an event.  Meals were cornbread and pinto beans, collard greens with ham hocks and sausage gravy and biscuits.  Saturday dinner was a steak, always a steak, sometimes in the kitchen or sometimes in the dining room where you “dressed” for dinner and ate by candlelight.  The kitchen table was a place of ritual and family, sometimes heated discussions and always good food.  When people ask me where I learned to cook I tell them:

My momma taught me that.

When I stand on the porch and wave goodbye to family and visitors pulling down the driveway and I take a moment to say a little prayer for their safe journey, I remember all the times I left my home on May Avenue, watching momma wave to me as I pulled away.  I know how important that last wave is and I think:

My momma taught me that. 

Even as mom started her slow journey from us, even when she didn’t always know who I was or where she was, even then she’d hug me and tell me she loved me.  That was her nature. 

I wonder if I would want to live the last years of my life as my momma did.  I can’t help but think about how much comfort and joy she brought us by being there for us to visit, to touch and hug.  We’d sit and share a cup of coffee, maybe watch a cooking show or take trip out to the garden.  Sometimes we were strangers, sometimes we were her daughters but always her gentle nature recognized us as friends. 

She gave so much and continued to ask for so little.  I’d want to do that for my boys as well.  She allowed us to let her go slowly and when it came time to say goodbye, we did.  My sister was there when she left us.  As gently as my momma lived, she died.   

Many years ago, right after my grandmother died, I found my mom in her bedroom writing down her thoughts.

Through her tears she said:

“You can read this when I’m done.”

She wrote pages about the things her momma did that made her world so full of love.  

If you wonder why I thought it important to write these things down now,

through my tears I can only tell you:

My momma taught me that.

                                                            Janice Irene Austin (Barrett)

                                               October 17, 1923 to November 7, 2009

                                             Every good thing I am; is rooted in you!