Tuesday was a hard yet special day. While I fought back tears, I was filled with a sense of peace and of Austin's presence.
That afternoon was Awards day at the high school. Our family was there, not in the stands proudly cheering on our sweet Austin as we'd hoped to, but instead presenting in his memory.
Through the Austin's Legacy Scholarship Fund, we awarded three very deserving girls today. Totaling nearly $2000, Austin's spirit and legacy lives on through the paths of each of these young and amazing women.
If you read earlier this month, in Special Signs & Scholarships, you'll know the goosebump moment we had when selecting our top winner. But every one of the our recipients had touching stories and connections to Austin in some way.
With our $300 winner, though we didn't know her or her family personally, we felt like kindred spirits reading the losses they've suffered. A sixty second hug by her mom today solidified that bond, only mother's of loss can understand. It certainly wasn't the deciding factor for her to receive this award, as she won it on her own merit, but we will always hold a place in our hearts for this young girl and wish her the best.
With our second, I've known her for many years. She and Austin were friends. As I found her in the crowd prior to presenting, I could nearly feel Austin smiling down. And when we hugged after the ceremony, I knew without a doubt our committee had made the right decision in awarding her a $500 scholarship.
And of course of our top level winner, who received $1000, has a long history with our family. It's shared in the story above but again was not the deciding factor in her receiving. The judging was almost done blindly, as nobody but me knew the background. It was an honor to recognize Rachel because she symbolized what Austin was all about - helping others and volunteering. And we wish her all the best in what I'm sure will be a bright future.
Going in that day, I asked for prayers from friends and family and with the sense of peace which washed over me it was apparent they did. I struggled at the start, part of my mom heart hurting that we Austin wasn't with us. I thought that seeing all these other kids would be too difficult but it wasn't.
We were able to see many of Austin's friends, all grown up and doing well. I could feel an Austin hug with each familiar name that came down from the stands. And I saw many of my little girls, who'd I'd taught for so many years in GAs at church, now young women who I'm so proud to see have excelled. In the end, though tears did fall, it was a good day. I'm stocked up on my hug tank and am grateful I got to spend time with Austin's classmates and friends. Walking out I realized, though not in the way we'd expected, I did get to proudly cheer on my boy. He was very much a part of today and, just like always, making a huge difference in others lives.
That morning, a surprise came in my email, letting me know another of my posts had been featured on BlogHer. This particular post has never been shared on my blog, as it was my first exclusive writing for BlogHer. Very fitting and timely that it was all about Austin, and just an extra hug I needed for this day.