“This is one of the things that make me feel close to him, for whatever reason,” she said. “I know that as we heal, I won't need that dirty laundry some day, but right now it gives me strength and comfort.”
Although the stack of books was on the table, the only book Gail clutched was her mother's Bible, referring to a verse she goes to daily that speaks in part about finding rest in death, and she believes that her son is with God and has done that.
Asked who Austin was in life, Burleson described him as someone who would pull in rather than push away those facing horrible situations. Burleson noted a time when two members of his church who were very close friends of Austin's were faced “with a very traumatic event.” He saw Austin reach out to those two young men whose world had just crashed. Because of that, the pastor described the Box's son as “a lover of human beings.”
Gail, sitting between Burleson and her husband, responded as tears ran parallel down her cheeks and her voice strained.
“There's too much in a mother's heart to sum your child up in a sentence,” she said, turning toward the pastor.
“And I thank you because Austin, he just had the best heart. I can't say that enough.”
On Monday, Craig said that while his son made a mistake, a tragic mistake, that wasn't Austin.
“You ask who Austin was,” he said, “Austin was my hero. He wouldn't complain about the injuries, he would just work back through it and get himself ready to play.
“I wish I was as nice a person as he was.”
Amid all the hurt, they are so thankful for the support of thousands, including students, teammates, coaches and staff at OU, whom Craig and Gail consider family.
“They have grieved with us and comforted us,” said Craig, who looked often toward his wife during Monday's interview.
In recent days Gail wrote a poem about their son. It, like the pain, traces right back to the mother's heart.
“When I walked outside today, I heard your laughter in the wind. I knew you were in God's hands, and will always be in my heart.”