While visiting with some friends in Albuquerque over winter break, we ended up playing a game of Scrabble. We of course couldn't play without talking about how good Austin was at Scrabble and Words with Friends online. Austin was tough to beat, because the game is a combination of vocabulary and strategy--perfect for Austin. You never felt bad about losing to Austin, though, because you always knew that he was all about the joy associated with playing the game with his friends, not about winning. I think these words games are a perfect testament to how Austin treated the ones he loved and to Austin's joy and love for fun.
For those of you who were unaware of Austin's secret life as a reviewer of Amazon products, behold......
Austin the Amazon Reviewer!
Our thanks to Mary M for reminding of these posts.
Aspen - One of many beautiful memories
Some of my fondest memories of my time with Austin are during the three wonderful years that I lived in Aspen. It took me a lot longer to appreciate the magical powers of nature than it did Austin, but on arriving in Colorado mid winter, it seduced me instantly.
If anyone who is reading this has been there you will be nodding your head about now.
An added bonus to living surrounded by such incredible majestic beauty was that I was now just one state away from my American family. I remember us meeting in the centre of town on one, it may even have been the first, of their visits to see me there. Having worked late, and no doubt having gone out for a “couple” after work, I of course overslept and woke to a phone call announcing, “We’re here! We’re by the fountain”. So excited to see them again I literally grabbed my keys, stepped into some flip-flops and ran, in my sleeping gear, straight to meet them all. I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach as I raced down the road, eager to throw my arms around all of them, Which I did. And then I ran through the fountain, which is a series of jets that shoot up from the floor sporadically. As luck would have it, (for Austin and Aidan) I timed my sprint exactly as all of the jets went into full force, soaking me from head to toe. They made me feel so happy, I wanted to be a child again with them. The burst of laughter that escaped from Austin and Aidan’s mouths is one of the sweetest sounds I shall remember. The power of memory never ceases to amaze me. l just close my eyes again and there it is, that carefree image, their smiles, their laughter, ringing like bells in my ears.
October 21st, 2013
Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago
Thank you all for being here. Once again we are surrounded by the love and support of this community and we are grateful.
I’m Austin’s mother and I had the joy of knowing and loving him for the nearly 21 years of his life.
I wish I could convey the entirety of his unique beauty to you, yet I know that is impossible.
I can’t capture Austin’s essence in these few words, but I can share something about one of his distinguishing qualities.
Austin was emphatically, unapologetically and unabashedly himself. He embraced his passions and quirks, and in doing so, enriched the lives of those who knew him.
He loved the urban energy of Chicago and also actively sought the beauty of nature. On our first hike in New Mexico when Austin was five, the adults were starting to tire. I tried to gently set the stage for our imminent return by explaining to him that there were process hikers---people who just liked to be in nature-- and there were destination hikers. I thought I was being clever and planned on labeling us as process hikers so we could go home. But before I could say more he proudly exclaimed that he was a destination hiker. We made it to the top of the mountain propelled by his short legs and outsized enthusiasm. He remained a “destination hiker” in life, eager to stretch his boundaries and reach each summit whether by walking from Hyde Park to Evanston or gleefully seeking unfamiliar foods with his friends in this vast terrain of Chicago.
His love of numbers could be applied with equal intensity to weather data, a county-by-county analysis of pre-election polls or baseball. He sought knowledge and insight by finding patterns in data, but mostly it was just fun for him in a way that wasn’t always evident to others. When he was a kid I overheard his cousin exclaim in exasperation “Austin, you’re the only person I know who answers my questions with numbers!” Yet, despite his respect for statistical predictions, he preferred to cheer for the underdog in a baseball game, because he welcomed the possibility of surprise.
He was a young adult who had little patience for contemporary music, and to the chagrin of some of his friends and family, never even pretended to enjoy anything playing on the radio. Instead he immersed himself in classical works because he was moved by the structures and emotions of the music. He would go to concerts alone or with friends, although music was best when shared. Last Christmas Austin gave his father 36 hours of his favorite music with four pages of annotation so Gregg would know why each piece was meaningful to Austin. And I’ve been told that he tried very hard to convince a Streetwise vendor outside the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to come inside and enjoy a free concert where Yoyo Ma would be performing. He was equally willing to share his passion with a close family member or a stranger others might have overlooked.
Austin was a science scholar who loved Nascar which frankly befuddled me until I asked him what he liked about the races. He explained how he held each driver’s past performance on different tracks in his mind and compared them with their strategies for the current race. A couple of years later around a campfire in the mountains of New Mexico he described in loving detail what he had learned about the Krebs cycle, an iconic biochemical pathway that generates energy for living cells. Under the stars we could see his wonder as Austin was visualizing and flowing along with the electrons traveling in their circle. He was following those electrons just as he had followed Mark Martin’s car. His descriptions of these two seemingly unrelated loves provided a beautiful window into his mind, where ultimately everything was connected.
Austin was happy to be who he was and happy to share his love for life even when –and perhaps especially when-- it flowed from his unusual blend of interests and passions.
He was a loving family member, friend, scientist, outdoorsman, lapsed cellist, weather hound, goofball, budding chef, music lover, dreamer, scrabble player, explorer, and scholar.
He had a huge and compelling smile, was insatiably curious, enthusiastic, thoughtful, intellectually intense, honest, a great listener, proud of his family and friends, unmaterialistic, compassionate, quietly funny, factually precise, affectionate and kind—deeply kind.
Austin was a gift.
After we learned the sad news of Austin’s loss, we asked everyone to commit a bit more fully to what matters most in their lives—to live a little bit larger in order to take up some of the space he leaves behind.
We now make an additional request.
We ask everyone to find the courage to be more emphatically, unapologetically and unabashedly themselves.
Because what we learn from Austin’s life is that sharing one’s authentic self is the greatest gift one can offer.
We, including our good friend Jo, cared for Austin and Aidan in their early life. We are part of an unbroken chain of love that has surrounded them always. Gregg, Laurie, Austin and Aidan really are the most amazing, giving, caring family. But you all know that, have been touched by their love. We are so lucky to be a part of that. Their wider family too; Austin's grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends have always been so warm, so welcoming and so inclusive of us, and we appreciate them wholeheartedly for that.
Jo was Austin's first nanny. Jo cannot be here today although she would dearly love to be. She is with us in her support, her love and her thoughts and she went to Gregg, Laurie and Aidan in their time of greatest need and we will be forever grateful for that.
Austin was six weeks old when Jo arrived. They shared a profound love and connection and here are a few of her words:
"How to articulate a love that lives on so deep in me, perhaps all the more, for knowing I can never again express it to him. I must use that energy in my movements and actions towrds others. So much easier said than done. I'd trade anything to look into his eyes again, tell a tale, make him laugh, watch him enjoy a dish that he didn't think he'd like but tried anyway. We loved him before we, or he even knew who he was, or was to become"
I am Emily. I have loved Austin since he was very small; for all of my adult life. I was his nanny from 14 months to 26 months. I would like to share some memories with you.
It is a cliche that children go through the'why?' stage and people often jokingly groan about this. I remember we were all together when Austin was four. One of us casually wondered which country was on the other side of the world. Australia is on the other side of the world from England, so we joke of digging a tunnel and popping up there. We were all sat on the sidewalk and Austin seized on this remark and asked why, and why, and why until all of our admittedly limited knowledge of sub-strata and geography was exhausted. It was all new ideas to him but our answers were absorbed and seriously considered and he wanted more, and more, and more of this precious stuff- knowledge. He loved it, he thrived on it, he needed it.
I happened to be in the playground with him the day he understood and could process the concept of counting for himself. You could see it in his eyes; that lightbulb moment. The expression which played across his face in that moment has come back to me, a gift, with utter clarity as I wrote this down. Wonderment, joy and eagerness to share the sensation was shown in his eyes, the tilt of his head; questioning that I understood and gladness that I did.
Austin would play a game where he would put his arm up his sleeve and into the body of his shirt. You would then have to ask with mock alarm 'Where is Austin's Arm' and look for it. He would then then deftly pull it back through and wave his arm truimphantly and dissolve into giggles, his eyes shining with happiness. We would repeat this many times and the more effort we both put into this performance the more we both enjoyed it. He was hilarious.
Austin was incredibly lovely. I have tried to distil the essence of this into words but I cannot. It will suffice to give you the bulletpoint I started with and know that you can provide your own resonant mental images of this from your own memory, or from the stories and pictures on the Remembering Austin site: HIS SMILE, HIS EYES, HIS TRUST, HIS GIVING NATURE.
So to re-cap Austin was smart, Austin was passionate, Austin was funny and Austin was sweet. The two year old Austin was just the same person as he has always been ever since. I recognise his essence in every story I have ever heard about him and in every achievement. I have always taken such pride in my small but important part in his upbringing.
It is the way, and how fully we live our lives which is important. Achieving our potential, being caring, being forgiving of ourselves and others, knowing and challenging our natures, being present, loving life. Austin showed us this throughout his too short life. I carry him always in my heart, in my actions and how I raise my children. I love you Gregg, Ilove you Laurie, I love you Aidan, I LOVE YOU AUSTIN.
I've been wanting to post a story for quite a while, but haven't been able to face it until now. You have all been so generous with your stories and thoughts, and that means so much to me. Austin and I weren't particularly close for much of the time that we were at home together, but our relationship blossomed when he went off to college. Through our skype calls, my family learned a lot about his life, and about how happy he was in Chicago. Our skypes would cover the big events, like his classes, trips he'd taken, and particularly memorable social interactions. But of course, an hour or two (or three) long conversation once a week can't capture all the aspects of the life he was leading. But when Austin was home for the holidays, I would sit on his bed, he would sit at his desk, and we would talk late into the night about his life and mine. It was during these late-night conversations that I got a sense of all the little pleasures, moments, and decisions that came together to make up his life. I had never had these kinds of conversations with him when he was at home, and I treasured and continue to treasure the openness and emotional connection we had after he went off to college.
The stories you have all shared are the kinds of things we would talk about. These snapshots help me know the Austin that you all did; the Austin that I didn't get to see very often, but who I knew I loved and respected, and perhaps most importantly, enjoyed spending time with as a friend. You knew this Austin, and I can't tell you how much it has meant to me to be able to read your stories, and through them, get to know him better. You all have given me so much.
I haven't been ready to post anything until today, but I have wanted to give back to you all as soon as the stories began pouring in. You have given me a better picture of what Austin was like as an adult, as a friend. What I can give you now is a better picture of who Austin was as a child, and as a brother. I hope that those stories mean as much to you as your stories have meant to me.
When Austin was in his early teens, he absolutely loved the Need for Speed games. He had Porsche Unleashed, Hot Pursuit, and Need for Speed 4, but his first love was Need for Speed 2. The graphics were old and grainy, the physics were dicey, and the announcer was super cheesy, but it was the first racing game he had, and he loved it.
I would sit next to him in the computer room and watch him play. He was very good, and always beat out the AI with no trouble. He always set the view to the one where you are "inside" the car. You could see these arms on the wheel and the windshield frame. At the time, I didn't understand why he loved that view so much; it made playing the game harder. I always used the view above the car when I played. But I get it now. It was the same reason he loved Gran Turismo so much. The interior view made the game more immersive.
After a time, we discovered that the game had a split-screen mode. Naturally, we decided it would be fun to race each other. I remember we played the Mystic Peaks track first, a fun track, but it had a lot of twists and turns. (Here's a link to someone playing through the track, though they aren't nearly as good as Austin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDSOzaJ_WaY)
Austin was kind enough to give me the car with the best handling, the indigo. It wasn't very fast, but gave you a lot of control. I was used to driving the fastest car in the game, the McLaren F1, which had terrible handling. The physics of the game were so forgiving that I was so used to bouncing off walls instead if actually steering that in the indigo, I kept ramming into walls head on and getting stuck. Despite Austin's best intentions, I was hopeless in that race. He beat me handily.
But this is the sweet part. He saw that I loved racing with him, even though I wasn't very good, so after that race, he got into the habit of purposefully putting himself into one of the worst cars in the game. I had the fastest one, which meant I actually had a shot at winning. I didn't win every time, far from it, but his choice to handicap himself meant that we really got a chance to play together in a way that was fun for both of us. When he played split-screen with me, he put aside the things he most enjoyed about the games so that we could have a different kind of experience, and share the moment.
As much as I enjoyed racing against him, it's true that I also loved watching him play. Racing required a certain amount of strategy, and he always set them to as difficult a mode as possible. He hated when unrealistic physics made the game too easy, which is probably why he stopped playing Need for Speed a few years later, after he discovered Gran Turismo, a racing game that is more accurately described as a driving simulator. I was the one that gave it to him for Christmas, and it was great to see him enjoy it so much. In Gran Turismo, the slightest mistake can cause your car to spin out. The AI opponents are actually very good, so a mistake can cost you the win. One afternoon, I went upstairs and saw that he was playing it. Remembering Need for Speed, I asked him if I could have a go. He gamely handed over the controller (after he finished his race, of course). I gave up within the first five minutes after I fishtailed, spun out, and ran aground on the grass, my AI opponents leaving me in their digital dust. I decided it wasn't my kind of game, but it was definitely Austin's. Austin took back the controller, and I settled on the corner of the bed so I could watch him play.
This is the second article that I wrote for my company's newsletter to share my experience with all our customers here at Trakware. This may seem like an odd thing to share with a customer but I feel there are many lessons to be learned from all the stories posted here about Austin and how he lived his life.
Here's second my article:
WHAT I LEARNED FROM AUSTIN
As you may have read in my last newsletter, my son died last month in Chicago. He had left his apartment, probably to watch a large thunderstorm pass over the city, and disappeared. After a six day search, his body was recovered from the lake.
Once Austin was found, many stories from his friends and classmates started flowing in to a website we’d built to assist in the search.
As a father in a very close family, I thought I knew my son pretty well. But as I’m sure you all can remember from when you were young, we don’t reveal everything about ourselves to our parents, friends, classmates or lovers. Each person knows a different side of us.
Reading these stories has allowed us to see all the facets of our son and to really appreciate the impact he had on
everyone who knew and loved him.
And in reading these stories, my son taught me many things about how to live a richer life.
BE WHO YOU ARE
From his love of classical music, to his too-short pants and bright white socks, Austin didn’t care what people’s opinions
of him were. Austin enjoyed being exactly who he was. How often do we hide parts of ourselve’s so we can “fit in” rather than be who we are?
BE JOYFUL IN LIFE
Story after story remarks on Austin’s ever present smile, enthusiasm, and positive attitude. He had those because he always looked for the best in people and in experiences. How many people do you know who always look for the negative in people or situations? There is no courage or joy in pessimism.
Austin took a joy in learning new things, be it from chasing us around with sidewalk chalk at age 2 to learn the alphabet, to attending a university with a broad required curriculum, Austin wanted to know everything about everything and would work hard to do it. Learning is growth. What new knowledge have you challenged yourself with recently?
LOVE TO TEACH
Austin’s love of learning and joy in knowledge led him to enthusiastically tutor other students in his classes. For him, concepts were cool and he loved working with people until their eyes lit up and they “got it” too. What passions do you have that you could teach others?
EMBRACE NEW EXPERIENCES
Austin said “yes” much more than he said “no” to new experiences. He’d try everything at least once to see if he enjoyed it rather than rejecting opportunities out of hand. How easy it is to say “That sounds like too much work” and then turn on the TV to have yet another unremarkable day.
CREATE TIME FOR YOUR FRIENDS
Austin was always available to his friends. If a friend needed his time, but he had to study that day as well, he’d
simply skip sleeping. I know my circle of friends is much smaller now as I’m often too busy or too tired to make time
AUSTIN ALWAYS WANTED THE BEST FOR PEOPLE
From trying to entice a homeless man into a free YoYo Ma cello concert, to gently steering his friends to follow their
passions in picking a career path (and not their parent’s), to helping a competitor with a tricky concept BEFORE a
competition. Austin always wanted everyone to be their best selves. We so often see life as a zero-sum game where
someone’s gain is another person’s loss, and Austin knew that was not true. Helping people only makes the shared pie
If anyone would like to see any of the stories I have referred to, they are posted under “Stories” at www.RememberingAustin.com.
And I want to thank all of my colleagues, suppliers and customers who have reached out to my family at this difficult time. Your prayers and good wishes are deeply appreciated.
- Gregg LaPore
I’m Jo. I was Austin’s first nanny. I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to share a post with you all about Austin. It’s not as though he hasn’t been constantly on, and, in my mind. Part of this writer’s block stems from not knowing where to
start. Part of it my denial. If I am writing about him in the past then, well,, that’s it. And I don’t want there to be only memories left of Austin. I want to be able to have so many more stories. The memories are not enough. In this I know I am not alone. But write I must, so, I start with one simple memory, one that makes me smile.
I read somebody else’s story about Austin turning down a game of mini-golf and it brings me to: A Day Out at Mini-golf 1 - Summer of 1999. I was visiting my “family” the Hudson Lapore’s in Albuquerque, with my then boyfriend, John, who was driving on after our trip to New Mexico to start a life in Arizona. Without me. We decided to say our tearful goodbyes (somewhat onesided I might add!) at their house, where I would then nurse my wounds spending time with the family - the world’s best remedy to any ailment, including the incurable, “heartache”.
What better way to distract my thoughts than a round at the local mini-golf course? Neither Austin, nor I, were any good at playing. As we played, it became clear that Austin was actually worse than me - a pretty difficult task, I might add -
and he began scowling at me and banging his little mini-club at the verge. He asked Gregg why we were doing this . He simply couldn’t comprehend that he had found something that he wasn’t good at and we were still doing it! Gregg patiently
began to explain the concept of playing, yet not always winning. Austin did not look impressed.
“You can’t always win Austin”, Gregg said, reassuringly.
“Why not?”, Austin sulked.
“Because that would be boring.” supplied Gregg.
“No it wouldn’t.” Austin replied. “I love winning.”
Well, he didn’t win this game, and his humour didn’t improve, but he didn’t stop playing. At the end of the game, as we were returning our clubs, Austin came up close to me, leant his head against my arm and said, “I let you win Jo, because you’re sad today.”
Thus, making us both feel a little better.
I’m glad to say that Austin’s sense of competitiveness never weakened, his desire to help people and make them feel better, (though in the is particular memory I have a sneaking suspicion that he may have been helping himself), and his curiosity to understand why something was so, and, being Austin, challenging it.
I went to school with Austin as a child in Albuquerque, and had him in many of my classes. He was always the boy who could be counted on to help other students with their difficulties in Math and Science, and he was always appreciated.
After losing touch with Austin in middle school, I thought that one day he'd be on the news as a scientist or a famous college professor because he was so dedicated to learning and helping his schoolmates to learn as well.
Learning about this tragedy breaks my heart. For years, I've hoped to talk to him again, and it's sad that the one way for me to see the man my friend became turns out like this.
My deepest condolences to Austin's family, as well as my prayers. Austin was a sweet boy and a good friend who will always be loved and remembered.
I only knew Austin for a few days when I visited my daughter Emily who was his second au pair. I could tell he was a very special boy,particular about his food and inclined to take long naps! His family were totally loving, nurturing and supportive. No one could have asked for a better family so his sudden and tragic loss is just devastating. My heart goes out to Laurie, Gregg and Aidan. Such a loss to us all.
Collecting stories so that everyone can see who Austin Hudson-Lapore was to each of us.