This past week has been so strange. It all feels like such a blur. Time moves soooo sllllooowww but then it also goes by so quickly. We have been spending a lot of time with family. Comforting each other and helping each other heal the best we can.
I want to first and foremost thank everyone for the prayers. While this situation is so difficult to grasp and comprehend, we have felt the Lord’s presence over it all and know that your prayers are so powerful. I especially want to thank everyone who has contributed to the Austin Parker Memorial Fund. When the fund was created we weren’t sure what to expect, but have been blown away by the response. Sadly tragic events also cost a lot of money and it is amazing to see the support from so many. I found out during Austin’s visitation Tuesday night that we had met the goal amount needed to cover all the expenses, in only FOUR DAYS. I am humbled and honored to be able to play a small role in something so awesome. It’s truly amazing and is such a testament to the Parker family as well as to Austin and the many lives he touched.
During such a difficult time I personally have dealt with it by trying to see God and the blessings He’s providing in our sadness. There are many, many blessings. SO many people have provided food. Flowers. Words of encouragement. Hugs. Everyone surrounding the family is eager to help, wanting to carry some of the burden of grief. Sharing in it. Mourning together.
Austin’s blog has been such a source of peace and comfort for the family. A way for many of us to connect with Austin and know him on a level we may not have known him while he was living. I loved how many times his own words were used during his funeral service. It is amazing that the words he wrote for himself have blessed so many.
The visitation and funeral were both beautiful. The precious pictures of Austin and his brothers. Of him with his friends and family. Getting to look through many of the pictures myself in the days leading up to the funeral, that boy was ALWAYS so gorgeous! Like never ever went through any strange awkward phase or anything! Debby and Steven make beautiful children for sure.
The visitation lasted almost four hours. SO many people came out to show their support and it blew me away. Same with the funeral. Austin was loved by everyone who had the chance to meet him and I’m so thankful that I came into the family when I did so I was able know him as well. Austin’s longtime friend, Meredyth, spoke as did his brother, Cole. Both of them did such an incredible job. I loved how Brian, the minister, spoke about each member of the family. I thought it was sweet that he took the time to offer condolences to Big Daddy and Little Mama as it is so difficult for them too to lose their grandchild. I loved the stories that were told about Austin and his great fashion sense, his love for the ladies, and his off-key singing. I loved that there were moments of laughter, and that it was a true celebration of Austin’s life.
I especially loved the songs that were chosen during the service. “I Can Only Imagine” and “The Dance” were my favorites. Thinking about Heaven and what it will be like is so encouraging and gives us all so much to hope for in the future. When “The Dance” was sung I about broke down. The picture in my line of vision was a beautiful one of Austin with his mama. Both smiling and hugging each other. One taken when he was much younger, maybe early elementary school age. He was her first born. The child that made her a mama. And now he’s gone. She can’t touch him or hold him or hear his voice say he loves her. My heart just aches for her and the words to that song are so true. Our lives are better left to chance, we don’t know what the future holds and we just need to savor each moment we can with those we love.
On our way to the cemetery after the service there were TONS of police escorts and when we pulled into the cemetery several of the deputies were standing outside of their cars along with our sheriff and they were holding their hats over their hearts. It was such a powerful moment. From what little I know about Austin, I know that he loved seeing that.
During the service at the cemetery Brian shared an email the family received after Austin had been found. A women was hiking at Yellowstone when she was asked by a ranger to be on the lookout for Austin during the time of the search for him. She felt very close to the situation and took several stunning photos of the rainbows she saw after the horrible storms had passed. It was one of those many blessings from the Lord to have her emails and to also have her photos. I know that these photos will also forever bring comfort to his parents and I think all of us now want to go out to Montana to witness the beauty Austin so loved.
My initiation into the Parker family may have been a little bumpy, but I’m so so blessed to have them all. I got to see each person this week in a new light and one of the blessings in all of this was our ability to rally around Austin’s parents and brothers and truly use all of our different talents to help them in their time of need. Austin loved his family. And he has brought us all closer together.
Moving forward I hope the pain everyone feels gets a little easier to bare but I also hope the deeper love we each have for each other stays strong. I’m so thankful to get to spend quality time with Debby and have truly loved getting to know her and hope our friendship is only beginning. I know Zach is also hopeful to spend more time with Cole and Jake and to continue to be there for Steven. Time doesn’t heal all wounds like so many people often say. I believe that time makes it easier to cope. To learn how to live with the pain, but nothing will ever heal it. And really, that’s a good thing. Austin made an impact in this world and he won’t ever be forgotten.
You can read Austin’s obituary here:
The program for the funeral service yesterday had an excerpt from Austin’s blog as well as a Bible verse and I’d like to share both with you here. Thank you all again for all the continued prayers for this wonderful family who I’m so blessed to know and to be part of.
“Do not fear – I must always return to my roots, my family, my friends and other loved ones – because it is you that allows me to persevere when no one else thinks that I can do it or make it” – Austin Parker, June 26th, 2013
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18