Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

Dear Steve, I miss you.

Yesterday I pulled an old t-shirt from the laundry basket and a cry pushed past my lips. “I am not my failures,” it said, with the little #graceismessy beneath it. I hope you still knew that in your last moments, whatever ache they held.

You gave that shirt to me years ago and I’ve worn it nearly threadbare, still trying to pull it over this growing belly full of a baby you’ll never meet. You were so excited about seeing your “sister from another mister” become a mom. The day before you died, you talked about the joy of being a parent, that there’s nothing else like it. I knew you meant it because you constantly texted me about how funny and sweet your kids are, how proud you were of your wife. 

You couldn’t wait to share that joy with your friend who hadn’t experienced it yet. You constantly reassured me that I’d be a great mom. But it wasn’t just that you loved me like family and were basically going to be my kid’s fun uncle from Alabama. You championed me — my writing, my mental health, my relationships — from the day we met. 

///

Surely God is in this place:

we stand on holy ground.

Common Prayer, June 5

The “I Am Not My Failures” t-shirt

This morning, I opened my devotional for the first time in days. The ribbon slid out of the pages on June 5th: the day you died. My eyes burned with tears when I saw the date; my throat thickened when I read those words, because somehow God is still in this place ripped wide open by your absence.

I knew something was wrong when I hadn’t heard from you by Monday, and I journaled the next morning that I was worried about you and Lindsey. I learned you were gone an hour later, on the phone with Holly and Robert. The world seemed to shatter a little more. 

Thank God we were together.

Of course, we were together because of you. You connected us all and that’s a beautiful part of your legacy. You celebrated selflessly, championed endlessly, pushed back the chairs to make the table wider and longer so more of us could fit. And I see God in all the people who loved you, who are celebrating you now, who are desperately trying to love your family well in your absence. 

It feels impossible that you’re gone, Steve. Your fingerprints are all over my life and work — how can it be we won’t get to laugh and talk again?

You walked me through panic attacks and getting on antidepressants for the first time, through side effects and the hard work of learning to sit in the sacred space of therapy. 

You eagerly texted me for updates while I was on my first date with Micah and were the first person I told about it afterward. You called him Taco Boy for the longest time, certain nobody could be good enough for your little sister, but became his biggest fan when you knew he would love me well and what a good man he is. 

And my writing, my blog posts and books? You were always elbow-deep in the work of helping me grow and reach the world with these words. You published my first article on mental health on your blog when I was too afraid to share it on my own, told me I had a story that people needed to hear, helped me build belief and hope one encouraging word at a time. 

Years later, an article went viral and I got a book deal because of you: telling me to write it, painstakingly shaping it with me, and sending it to somebody who could give it a bigger platform. You saw thousands of words in my book before anyone else, helped me craft them, and coached me on how to connect with other writers when I was afraid to reach out.

And you invited me into your own work, too. We spent hours upon hours, too many to count, writing and laughing together across the miles or the kitchen table. When I was unknown to everybody, you believed in me like you did so many others, welcoming me into articles and books and podcasts and the Tuesday-night Twitter chat that would eventually become CXMH.

We asked big questions about faith and God and how we were raised, and you always made it safe. We deconstructed and reconstructed together, finding our way back into the arms of a God who is relentlessly loving and kind. We didn’t end up in all the same places in our faith, but you could never shake the Jesus who met you in a hospital room all those years ago. 

You were humble, always trying to grow. You admitted when you were ignorant about something, asked for help, and sought new voices to learn from. I loved that you weren’t afraid to be wrong, to apologize, to change. 

But the most bittersweet thing, Steve, the thing that I remember with equal parts deep gratitude and indescribable ache, is how you helped me stay safe so many times. You welcomed me into your home and family when I was broken and afraid. You told me to get my butt in the car and start driving when I didn’t feel safe to be alone, and you and Lindsey were both serious. 

Your family rearranged everything to give me the refuge I needed and a place to rest: the kids in bed with Lindsey, you curled up on the couch, and me in the kids’ room with fresh sheets and an extra mattress you pulled down from the top bunk to make sure I was comfortable. And we did this about every other week for months on end. 

Then you’d press gas money into my palm or slip it into my purse before I made the drive back to Nashville for my long weekend shift, as though I was doing you a favor instead of the other way around. 

You taught me to do whatever it takes to stay safe, Brother. I wish you had done the same. We would have made room for you here in our own little apartment, fed you and talked for hours or sat in silence like you and Lindsey did so many times for me. Or I would have stayed up with you on the phone all night, and I know so many other friends who would have done the same. 

But a thousand begging questions and prayers can’t bring you back now. And I know intimately how this illness has no logic, how it haunts and lies and can escalate before you have a chance to catch your breath and know what’s happening. 

There are moments, brief flashes of anger because this is grief. But I don’t blame you. I’m not disappointed in you. 

I just miss you.

So, so very much. 

I wish we had more time. I wish more people got to know your unconditional love, the deep generosity that made me see Jesus in you every single day. And I wish you could see the way you’re loved and celebrated now, the way your life impacted so many others. 

Surely God is in this place: 

we stand on holy ground.

I think you’d want us to remember this, that God is present in the mess and pain and searing ache of loss. That even though this can’t be tied up with a pretty bow, we stand now on the holy ground of grief, navigating what it means to move forward without someone we love so deeply. 

It’s sacred work.

And my comfort is that you and I, Steve, we’re not alone even now. God didn’t leave you in your darkest moment, and even now you’re held in the arms of unfathomable love. 

Even now, so are we. 

And I know Jesus sits and weeps with us because I saw him in the way you sat and wept with me so many times. 

Thank you for that, Steve. 

Thank you for everything. 

I can’t wait to see you again. 

///

Steve Austin loved his family more than anything else in this world. I can’t think of a better way to honor him than to help support them in his absence. If you feel so led, you can contribute to this memorial fund for Steve’s family

We would also love to hear about how Steve impacted you. You can send stories and photos to storiesaboutsteveaustin@gmail.com over the next several weeks to be compiled and given to his family. 

Finally, if you’re struggling, please take care of yourself. Please stay. Reach out to someone who loves you, or if you don’t feel safe doing that, reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). 

You are worth everything — EVERYTHING — it takes to stay safe and find your way back to solid ground. And you are so, so very loved. Take care of yourself <3.

10 Replies

  1. Wow, Sarah thanks so much for sharing this. Steve indeed sounds exceedingly special. Your words honour him. Thank you for letting us see an insight into what sounds like a rare and beautiful friendship and writing relationship. Even though I don’t know you —-thoughts and prayers with you and Steve’s family. Nikki

  2. Caroline

    I am truly sorry for your loss, Sarah. I didn’t know Steve but he very much sounds like the kind of person I would love to have known – open, honest, gentle and deeply caring.
    This post is a beautiful tribute to your brother, the impact he had on your own life and that of others. His legacy will not be forgotten and now he is receiving those things direct from God that he was unable to find here on Earth. He’s safe in the loving embrace of God.
    Big hugs to you.
    Xx

  3. Hanaa Adib

    I’m so sorry for Steve. I’m so sorry for your loss. There are so many moments I’ve been so close to where Steve had been , when I’m bad I can pray I would never cross the line he did so that I could one day with Jesus grace attain my dream place I asked Him to grant me when I read John tell about it in revelation 21:4 . That was 34 years ago , I had just had my first brush with death and major depression, incidentally I had read little else in the Bible, but that “ place” was everything I ever wanted , yearned for , lived for . If I don’t go there why would I wait why should I tolerate one more breath in this cursed place? And the most important question of all if I kill myself and still go there, what difference does it make? Your book which I bout and haven’t finished doesn’t make any difference, the book of psalms doesn’t make any difference. Please take care with your words for me the living, you may be saying nice things for your your friend’s sake but he already lost the battle, at least do us the courtesy to say you know nothing about him now. Give me a reason to fight
    Some times I only fight for the fear of not seeing Jesus. Please do not take that away from me. I didn’t tell you the times when I’m very bad, there’s not even that I’m just a rag. That’s when I believe I’m upheld by His Grace and His faithfulness

  4. Sarah, you’ve written a beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss. For our loss. For our world’s loss. I didn’t know him, but I listened to a few of his podcasts. I loved his honesty and authenticity. Again, I am so sorry for your loss. I have no words.

  5. Mike

    What a sensitive tribute you’ve written, Sarah – to deep friendship, deep pain and the reality of our human journey. You’ve honored Steve well with your gift of putting your emotions and thoughts into words. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss of such a close friend, and so very grateful for the impact he had on your own journey. Grieve well, friend.

  6. Marie Sonneman

    I’m so sorry for your loss friend. It sounds like he was amazing friend in your life and will continue to be watching down from above. Sending love!!!!!

  7. Miriam Marino

    I never met Steve Austin, but he helped me.
    Perhaps you will say I’m in denial, but I cannot believe he took his life.
    He had future plans. He loved his family. I think he was at a good place helping others through much.
    He was found in his car? Why at that business address?
    Something isn’t right.
    I think there needs to be an investigation.

    I am thankful for Steve’s life and am brokenhearted he is gone.

  8. Miriam Marino

    …and no note?

    The news article said it was an “apparent suicide” but that doesn’t sound like it’s confirmed.

    Something is not right.

    If anyone knows anything further, please respond.
    Thank you.

  9. Barbara Ferrell

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. I pray that others who are struggling with faith and mental illness will be inspired to seek help and not let any stigma prevent them from reaching out.

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