April 21, 2004

Jake Austin left this earth the afternoon of April 21, 2004. Physicians struggled to revive him at a local hospital in Yukon, Oklahoma, but were unsuccessful. Around the time that Jake was pronounced dead, the Yukon skies let loose with large hailstones, which pounded nearby cars. By the time the storm reached Northwest Oklahoma City a few minutes later, the hail was so thick that it covered the streets. It was as if the heavens were angry.

The day of Jake’s funeral was quite different. April 26, 2004 was a beautiful spring day with absolutely no wind (which is rare in Oklahoma). The service was held at The Bridge, AG  where Jake had attended since he was five. Jake’s youth pastor officiated the service.  There was music from the Crossfire band and a video showing various photos of Jake's life. An estimated one thousand friends and family attended his funeral.  One of the youth sponsors, who was also an Oklahoma City motorcycle cop, provided a motorcycle escort to the cemetery.

 

Jake was buried with his favorite guitar pick in his right hand (Dunlop Gator 2mm). His guitar playing buddies placed their personal guitar picks in the casket. Other friends placed assorted jewelry or personal notes in with him. Jake carried this picture of his dog, Chloe, with him. It was placed in the casket, as well.

Jake’s friend, Wesley, owned an electric guitar that he and Jake had rebuilt and painted the year before. Wes took it to school and had Jake’s classmates sign it. It was presented to Jake’s dad and now hangs on the wall in Jake’s room.

After Jake’s death, classmates and other friends (some of whom Jake's parents had never met), came by the house to pay their respects and told wonderful stories about Jake. It warmed his dad and step moms hearts to hear about the nice and sometimes silly things that he would do for other people. Some of the comments found on the Friends Memories page come from those conversations. Many, many of the kids seemed to need something of Jake's as a remembrance, so Jake’s dad gave away the majority of his T-shirts and other special things, like his jewelry or guitar picks.

The evening after Jake's burial, his girlfriend and other neighborhood friends put a small memorial in front of his house.  They lit votive candles along the walk from the front door to the street.  Larger candles placed by the street lit up a picture of Jake, an American flag, and a sign honoring his memory.

 

 

Two very dear ladies (Pam & Jill) knew Jake from when he first came to Lakehoma Elementary in late 1995.  They had watched him grow over the years.  After his death, they made a quilt from his t-shirts, many of which I had kept from his younger years, including his Stars Wars, Jurassic Park, SuperFriends, and baseball shirts.

 

The 8th grade class also planted a tree in the school yard in Jake’s memory. Jake’s dad and step mom made sure that it survived the first summer by hauling water to the tree. (That’s Chloe in the picture.)  Although Jake’s classmates have graduated from middle school and now reside in another school building, the tree serves as a reminder that Jake Austin once graced the halls of Mustang South Middle School and was endeared by his classmates.
 
Jake's tree in fall 2006.
Jake's tree in summer 2008.
In early 2005, Jake's dad built a fountain in his memory.  Jake's dad says that it's very calming to sit and listen to the water while he reflects on the day.  He thinks about Jake a lot. (It also covers up a small spray paint mark on the side of the house where Jake and his friend Andy, tested out some paint before they went out to do some graffiti one night.