Austin Kay

I don’t know how to write about this.

One year ago today, my brother-in-law and his wife suffered the heartbreaking loss of their month-old daughter, Austin. I am not them and can’t presume to speak on their behalf, so this is going to be about my experience around that event.

This was something that affected me deeply in many ways, but this blog is about making things and doing stuff, so I’d like to share two specific ways this event shaped my life from a creative perspective.

The first is through photography. A while back I got a film scanner that made it easy to work with 35mm film, and in 2017 I shot 48 rolls of it. So, as we headed out to visit baby Austin in the hospital, I naturally grabbed my film camera and brought it, along with some high-speed black-and-white film. While we were on the way down to Riley Children’s Hospital, Austin passed away. When we arrived, Caitlin went into the room while I stayed with the kids in the waiting area. After a while, her dad came out and watched the kids so that Caitlin and I could be in there together with Austin, Aaron, & Shelby (Austin’s parents) as well as some other family members that had gathered. We all sat in mostly-silence as the weight of what happened settled on the room and soaked into each of us. At some point, the other family members left to get some food or something, and Caitlin mentioned that I had brought my camera and asked if they would like me to take some photos. They agreed, so I loaded up some film and started photographing the three of them together. As I was doing so, I got the sense that this was why I had been shooting film for the past year, and that these were the most important photographs I had ever taken. I barely even picked up a camera through the rest of 2018, much less a film one, but it’s something I would like to get back to eventually.


The second way is through music. In the days afterward, unable to express what I was feeling in any other way, a song came pouring out all at once. I quickly recorded it and shared the song with Aaron & Shelby. They asked if I could burn a CD of it and this is where I failed as a friend and family member. I knew that the song was rough around the edges and wanted to clean up a couple aspects of it, so I planned to do that first. The problem, though, is that I couldn’t bring myself to go back to the song and work on it more. It was too heavy, and I kept putting it off.

This year, though, I decided to clean up what needed cleaning (my flat vocals, mostly) and my goal was to get it to them by today. So, here it is:

There are still some things I’d like to change but I believe this blog has had some things to say about “finished” being better than “perfect” so there you have it.

Aaron & Shelby, my heart is with you today, and I think of baby Austin often.