We have established The Brandon Michael Austin Memorial Fund for the purpose of “giving back”, realizing that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves. To fully honor the memory of my son, I have tried to follow the dictates of our hearts, as well as the many memories of his interests, loves, and involvements. He believed as we did, that life is such a gift! I like to think that he is smiling somewhere, urging us to keep “paying it forward.”
Many friends, acquaintances, even strangers ask, “How do you get through something like this?”
My answer remains steadfast: It is not easy, it down right tears you apart. There is a void that can never be filled, and I am forever changed. In a split second, life goes from vivid color, to black and white. You don’t get “through” any of this, you just look for ways to cope with what is. But faith keeps us moving, every day–for there is certainly a continuity to life, to love. I only have to look around me, wherever I happen to be, to find it. Each one of us touches someone else, some living thing– every day, in every way. We get to make the choice as to how we want to interact with others. As a family, we choose kindness and light, for they are eternal. In the choosing of that, we keep little pieces of Brandon, and the hopes and dreams we shared with him, alive.
We will continue to support animal rescues and wildlife rehabilitators everywhere. We chose to dedicate Brandon’s birthday each year as a time to collect “Pet Presents” and present them in his name to local shelters. We started this program in September, 2014 as a way to cope with that first birthday without him. I could not seem to get past not being able to shop and pick out things he would like. The hole was just too big, and we all needed to do SOMETHING that we felt he would have really loved. The overwhelming support of our families, friends and community truly astounded us! After four entire car loads of goodies and food were delivered to four different shelters, I decided right then and there that we would continue this program every year. And then it snowballed…
At Christmas, we requested angels for our “Brandon Tree”. We promised to donate $2 to an animal shelter for each angel we received. We didn’t care if they were cards, homemade creations, ornaments…whatever someone wanted to send. We figured that would ease decorating a tree without him for the first time. I decided one of those small, potted trees from the local store should suffice. And it did—for about a week! Three trees later, we donated almost $800 to the local shelters in Brandon’s name from his “Brandon Trees”! Human hearts have such a capacity for compassion, it’s amazing! And humbling. And appreciated.
Every “first” without Brandon made our hearts ache. We would have a family meeting, and figure out what we could do for someone, for the community, that would help us through it. And every time we reached out, people reached for us! From all over the world, people have given back, so that we could pay it forward. That interconnectedness that I mentioned earlier, it works both ways, you see. You give, but then you receive. And so you give more, and then you receive more.
We have decided to offer several different programs, awards, and scholarships in Brandon’s name at each school he attended. We have also “adopted” that basketball court that my son loved to play on every day. It is now officially named Brandon Michael Austin Court. If you are ever in the area, please stop by Fagan Park in South Kingstown, RI and pay tribute to him at the fountain that will be erected in his memory. I can think of no better way to honor the memory of my son, than to continue this cycle of giving; of making another person or living creature happy; and by giving, receiving so much more than we ever thought possible. May Brandon’s light forever shine.
~Be kind to one another~
Loralie M. Austin