Happy Birthday Austen Berj

Austen was born on September 26, 1991 on a beautiful Fall morning. He would have been 29 years old today. He was a delightful child, born into a loving family, surrounded by people who adored him and nurtured him and who he loved.

As the photographer of the family, I took many photos over the years documenting milestones, birthdays, sporting events, recitals, family vacations, school functions, graduations, getting 2 of every photo and ending up with boxes and boxes of family life. Well, those boxes have moved around over the years from Grosse Pointe to Chicago and now to Santa Fe, where I have been attempting to sort through them.

What I’ve discovered are boxes of smiling and laughing children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends, putting in perspective that, on the whole, we’ve all lived a wonderful life, with its ups and downs, its challenges, its joyfulness, its sadness, its unfortunate situations, which make us appreciate all the more what we have in this very moment and what we had.

“There is a warmth to life that somehow makes all the negative energy in the world stay dormant.”
Austen Berj Brooks, June 15, 2014

So, in honor of Austen’s birthday, a few photos from the early years. Austen’s first haircut and first birthday with Alethea and Lee Gaizak:

Austen’s baptism in October 1992 at Christ Church in Grosse Pointe, the Brooks brothers in bow ties, and the grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, aunts, uncles, cousins, Martha and family friends I had forgotten all attended:

First day of school pictures – pre-school for Austen in 1993 and first day of first grade in 1997, almost 6 years old:

Austen started hanging out at his siblings’ sporting events and then eventually started playing soccer himself (last image is with Grandma Roxie):

And drawing about scoring goals:

Family trips to Mackinac Island, Washington D.C, and Longboat Key, Florida, where he insisted on taking ‘Biggie Bear’ with him:

A lifelong love of reading, here reading Harry Potter:

Celebrating his 9th birthday and his 13th birthday with friends:

Finally, not sure when Austen wrote this, most likely in 5th or 6th grade. It is entitled “Colorful Leaves”:

“The colors of leaves are amazing. Leaves glow with great reds and greens and yellows plus many more great colors and some other darker ones like brown. These wonderful colors make me happy, a glowing sensation. The colors are an amazing sight on the tree and off. . . . You might want to look at them before they go.” Austen Berj Brooks

Austen, the images and memories of you give me a happy, glowing sensation. With each birthday, we celebrate your birth, your life, your tremendous spirit and capacity, imagining where you would be, what you would be doing now. We settle with how blessed we are to have known you and how very, very much we love and miss you.