“Looking Back At The Life I Compiled,” by Austen Berj Brooks

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Neighborhood Club soccer, Grosse Pointe, Michigan, 1996, age 4

Austen was born almost 26 years ago on September 26, 1991.  I was born in October and always considered Fall to be my favorite season, but since he died in November of 2014, I think I prefer Spring now. I can appreciate the yellows, oranges and reds and the Indian summer days that tease us to forget about jackets and sweaters, but there are too many memories to contend with – his birth, his death and all that occurred in between those 23 years, floating up to the surface of my consciousness. Yes, I am grateful for the memories, even the not-so-good ones, but I still struggle with how Austen struggled during his last 5-6 years, how he put up a valiant fight trying to keep persevering with his life in order to beat the demon that haunted him.  In his ‘Journey Through Sobriety’ at 7 months sober he wrote:

I feel a little better, I talked about my cravings with my friends and got to hang out with them and kick it.  I still am feeling overwhelmed and very anxious.  I don’t know… I can’t risk my addiction.  It creeps up on you.  I can’t ignore it and not treat it for a week.  It doesn’t ever take time off. It’s always watching and waiting with bated breath. Ready to jump on me when it gets the chance.  Austen Berj Brooks, September 19, 2014

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Austen playing for Vardar Soccer Club in Michigan, age 17

Lately, I think about the concepts of destiny and legacy – finding and fulfilling a purpose before we die (fulfilling our individual destiny) and what we leave behind. Austen did not believe that life is predetermined:

Things may happen for a reason but that is just the universe expressing itself with perfect creativity and spontaneity.  That’s just how the universe meanders through the channels of life. One day I’ll be able to fully appreciate what I have here.  Of course I’m not satisfied.  There is so much more to be, do, think, and feel.” Journey Through Sobriety, May 23, 2014

From the day he was born, like all of us, Austen began forming his destiny – being, doing, thinking and feeling.  His sensitive nature and natural inquisitiveness grew into an empathetic intelligence, and his physical energy and persistence grew into athletic prowess.  At a young age, he seemed to have an understanding of the meandering universe and the twists and turns of life.  Here is a poem he wrote in 2009 during his first semester at Indiana University (age 18) already (unbeknownst to us) addicted to drugs:

Don’t ever doubt
Don’t count me out
I will be there
One day I’ll care

I point to south
When I should go north
I look bad now
But hope is not gone

The day must be embraced
Despite problems I have faced
A new day could begin
When the old day comes to an end

And on this new day all will be well
All will be balanced, in heaven and hell
I will be smiling like a limitless child
Looking back at the life I compiled

Precious life giving earth
Why can’t we treat you what you are worth?
And beautiful impossible life
Why do I live you like nothing’s all right?

What an experience is all I can say
I lived it, I woke up every day
I smelled and heard and loved
One day I will remember what was

Life is a gift and I can’t forget it
But life will get to you if you dare let it
What a journey one day I will say
“I never thought it would turn out this way”

Austen Berj Brooks, October 18, 2009

Compiling a life, that’s what we do during our lifetimes, no matter how long or short.  We take the good with the bad, the beauty with the impossible, and we meander through, creating our legacies, fulfilling our destinies, hoping, loving. In memory, forever, of Austen Berj Brooks.

Singlelily

‘Looking Back At The Life I Compiled,’ Chicago Botanic Garden, September 18, 2017, ©2017 Suzanne Sahakian|SuzanneSahakianPhotography

 

 

 

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