Gil, Julia, Jacob, and I are so saddened to hear of Austin’s death and are still in a state of shock about it. When I think of this as the worst possible thing to happen, losing a child/brother, and what you must be going through right now, I feel physically ill.
Some years ago I learned from a dear friend who had lost her only child, a teenage girl of 15, in an automobile accident, that one never forgets the trauma, but that with time people become able to live their lives again. I also learned that although memories can painfully remind us of our loss, with time they can become a great source of peace. I am so thankful that you were able to make so many wonderful memories together as a family.
I feel privileged to have been able to share some time with Austin on his life’s journey. Actually, journeying to and from Albuquerque Academy every day for about 6 years was an amazing opportunity for me to see your beautiful son grow to manhood. Thank you for trusting me to get him safely to and from school during those years. My memories of him will always be of those years, from the serious, kind, and energetic young sixth grader with his rolling backpack racing to class everyday with an enthusiasm for life that made him stand out from his peers, to the thoughtful, quiet young ninth grader dressed in his Copernicus costume for Medieval Day activities at school. I loved that Austin chose to play cello; and I secretly took pride in the fact that, after Jacob joined the carpool, I was probably the only parent/driver with two cellos stuffed in the back of her car. I delighted in the car conversations – with Austin in the car you could bet that the conversation stayed focused and rational; however, I never ever heard him say an unkind word to anyone. And the other students in the car became confident over time that they would always be adequately clothed for whatever weather came their way because they only had to consult with Austin to know what lay in store for them.
It was a pleasure to watch Austin excel academically in everything he undertook, but most especially in science, where he had the opportunity to revel in scientific facts with like-minded friends and be a member of one of the most amazing Science Bowl teams Academy has ever had. One day during his Junior year in high school, when he happened to be the only student riding home, he had his humanities book laying open in his lap. I asked him what he thought of the subject matter, and he said he found it “interesting.” Since it had crossed my mind that Austin would probably be responsible for some great scientific discovery someday, the educator in me commented that I thought it was important that scientists possess a thorough understanding of human culture and history. Austin was respectfully quiet as I talked and I knew he was giving my comments due consideration. I believe that even at age 16 he understood the importance of the scientist’s role in human society. He was that sophisticated and mature.
And so as I have reflected with a heavy heart on the loss of Austin, his goodness, his potential, and after hearing what he has meant to his family and friends, I have come to realize that Austin has left behind something far more important and profound than any scientific discovery. Austin has left us a model of a life well-lived. He has shown us how to be fully engaged and joyous in life. I hope to pay tribute to his memory by trying to learn and live in this way. I am so thankful to have known Austin!