Tag Archives: community

Back to Work

work life sign

Yesterday, I went back to work. For those that don’t know, I work as a Substitute Teacher in our local district. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now, and have loved it. It began as my being just a volunteer parent in the room to being (nicely) coerced into actually working for the district. Of all the jobs I’ve had, this is my favorite. I’m very lucky that my DH works so hard and has a wonderful job that allows for me to work for peanuts because I like what I do rather than be a slave to the grind in job that makes me miserable. We have sacrificed quite a lot over the years so that I can be home with the kids. (That’s another blog in the works.)

I was due to go back to work in September. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to walk the halls where Nolan spent so many hours. I wasn’t ready to not run into him during the day. He wasn’t supposed to be in my schools anymore anyway, but his memory, his artwork, and his essence are all over the school. I had planned on moving up to high school with him this year, but have since decided that would just be too hard. Running into my boys during the work day has always been a highlight for me. Getting to have lunch with them (sometimes), having them in class, catching a glimpse of them with just their friends – it always filled me with such a feeling of contentment. Knowing their teachers on a personal level has been a complete blessing in so many ways. It has allowed for me to truly understand my boys’ struggles and to advocate for them from a place of knowing the whole story rather than just the bits they tell me. And truly, I love our school district. I love the people I work with, and I love the kiddos.

September was too soon. I tried again in October. Couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face the kids looking to me to be strong. I couldn’t guarantee I would be able to hold my tears for that long. Who am I kidding? I still can’t guarantee that! DH remained steadfastly understanding. If I worked at an office someplace, it would probably be different.

November came and I still couldn’t do it. With the holidays fast approaching, I was getting worse as each day passed. I said I’d think about it again after the holidays – if I survived.

Here comes January. I said I would do it. In all honesty, I did it more for DH than for me. He’s been baring the brunt of the financial issues and sparing me the details. Unless you’ve been through it, you really have no idea how expensive it is to lose a child. We were lucky to have such generous donations gifted to us, but we have still spent pretty much every dime we had to pay for Nolan’s medical care and lay him to rest without going into debt. Add to that the necessity of some pretty major house repairs, and it’s not really a matter of my working because I like it anymore. So I bit the bullet.

I went back to work yesterday. I knew it would be hard. I cried all day Monday after I agreed to work on Tuesday. I prayed for strength to hold my tears in. I kept repeating to DH, “I don’t know if I can really do this.” He kept telling me “You’ll be fine.” We were both right. And we were both wrong. I did do it, but I wasn’t fine. It was a different kind of difficult than I anticipated. On the way to school, I said to Li’l N, “I hope I can do this.” He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I did it. I had to go back to school.” Bless his dear, sweet heart. I held those words close all day long. I am so so so lucky to work with amazingly caring, compassionate, supportive, and genuine people. I knew that if at any moment I was ready to break down, that I could just leave the room  and they would cover for me. That helped, and I thought for sure I would need that kind of support. I didn’t. I held my tears in check. There were a couple of tough moments, though. One little kiddo said to me, “Mrs. B., I saw you on the news. I saw what happened. I’m really sad for you.” Her bright eyes looking up at me nearly brought me to my knees. Her little outstretched arms wrapped around my waist, and she didn’t see the tears that I refused to let fall. I whispered “Thank you, Sweet Pea,” and after a couple deep breaths we got to work. Another precious little heart said to me “Mrs. B., I saw you on tv, but I don’t remember what it was for.” I was ok with that, but then a few minutes later, she said “Oh yeah! Now I remember, but I don’t want to say it because I don’t want to make you sad.” Dear Lord, these children are so very tender. I smiled at her, willing the tears back, and said “It’s ok. It is a very sad thing, but I’m happy that I get to spend time with you again,” and we got back to work. So, I guess DH was right in that regard. I was fine with the kids.

What I really struggled with was feeling disoriented. I had walked those halls for 8 years. (Remember I volunteered long before I worked there.) I spent so many hours working in each room at some point or another, and yet nothing was familiar. I knew 99% of the faces, and yet some of the names escaped me. I felt dizzy – really dizzy – a few times. The room spun with my mind. It reminded me of the times I passed out and stopped breathing, although I clearly was not in the grips of any panic attack. I read my schedule 100 times and still couldn’t think of where I needed to be next. Nothing sunk in. Luckily, it was a pretty light schedule. It felt good to be back, and it felt so completely wrong to be back. I felt like I didn’t fit anymore. This was part of my life Before, and I’m so very different Now. I felt like a fraud. I smiled when I wanted to cry. I laughed when I wanted to scream. I talked when I wanted to be silent. It was a very hard day, so when I came home, I put on the baggiest sweats I own and crawled into bed.

Will I keep working? Yes. Is it hard? YES. Is it time? Yes, it’s time. I’m hopeful that the more I do it, the more “myself” I will feel. It will be different Now, but maybe it will be an ok kind of different. I will still get to run into Li’l N during my day. I will still get to have lunch with him (sometimes). I will still catch glimpses of him with just his friends. I will still get to have him in class. These are invaluable blessings. I do still love the kiddos. I do still love spending my days with them. I am still blessed to have a job that fits my life rather than have to fit my life around a job. These are things that haven’t changed Since, and I think these are very important things.

Time Marches On

time

Last night I had to take an anxiety pill for the first time since Thanksgiving. I thought for sure I would need to medicate myself to deal with Christmas. It was hard, but I was “ok.” Last night it just hit me – again. Nolan died! You’d think this would have sunk in by now, but it still comes out of the blue and takes me out at the knees. He died! How is that possible??? When will I wake up from this nightmare? My son died! NOLAN died! How did this happen to HIM? It’s so horrible. Walking into that bathroom day after day and night after night, where he took his last breath, is a mighty slap in the face every time. Sometimes I absorb the blow better than others. Last night it knocked me out.

This morning I woke up with a migraine – the kind of migraine that makes you nauseous, dizzy, achy. The kind of migraine that makes the light hurt and your skin supersensitive. Usually my first step is coffee and motrin. This morning I couldn’t force myself out of bed. I lay there waiting for DH and Li’l N to get up. Thankfully they did, and the quiet solitude allowed my mind to just drift. I didn’t want to take the pain away. I lay there waiting, praying, for that loud “pop” in my head that I’ve read about. I prayed for the pain Nolan described in his last precious minutes on this earth. I prayed for the dimming of the world around me. I begged for my heart to just stop beating. I cried out for that little tiny bubble on my artery to let go. Let that blood flood into my brain and blot out everything. Just let it happen. I told myself I wouldn’t call out for help. I wouldn’t try to hold on. I imagined DH coming to find me, thinking I was still sleeping. I imagined my life insurance solving our financial troubles. I called to Nolan to come and take me with him. Please, Nolan…just take me with you… But it didn’t happen. He didn’t come. That stupid little anneurysm stayed intact. I’m held here against my wishes.

My desk calendar still shows July. I haven’t been able to tear that page off. I don’t think I will. I’m packag1231141425-1(1)ing it up with the shrine from the dining room table. I began that process yesterday. You remember, the lovingly dubbed “Extracting Head from Ass” project. It’s actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. That’s probably what started my downward spiral. Each time I put something into the bin, I had to leave to break down. After putting 3 things away, I called it enough for one day. Anyway, this calendar will go into that bin. Eventually.  I can’t let it go. How ridiculous is that? It’s been written all over, doodled on, scribbled on, and yet I can’t throw it away.

Tonight we all change our calendars over. A new year begins tomorrow. A year for fresh starts, new beginnings, a blank page. You know what? I don’t want a new year. I don’t want to live in a year that Nolan doesn’t get to see. The thought of his passing being “last year” devastates me. I didn’t expect this. I won’t exist in the same year as him ever again. His life will be in “years past.” Forever. I don’t want to see the new year. I don’t want to live in a different year from him. But I don’t have a choice. I’ve surrendered already. I’m trying to relax into the abyss and trust the process. I don’t want to. I really don’t want to.

My plan for tonight was to stay home, under the covers, and pretend it’s not happening. We all know Denial is a dear friend of mine. Li’l N, however, has asked that we attend a party. He doesn’t ask that of us often. I’m going to struggle no matter where I am. If I force him to stay home and struggle with me, is that fair to him? If I send him off with DH and stay home alone, is that fair to him? He needs to see me being strong. He knows I hide in the bathroom and cry every night. He always asks to come in, and if I tell him “not right now,” he sits right outside the door and waits for me. He will greet me with a hug and a quiet “Are you ok? Do you need a pill?” He needs to see me being strong. So tonight, I will *probably* go to the party with him. If you see me there, forgive the distance in my eyes. While you rejoice the new year, please forgive my tears. I know I won’t be able to stop them. It’s just part of the journey.

I’ll share these words written in 1990. They are as true today as they were then. Strange how things come full circle.

The leaves fall as the days pass
And the sand falls through the hour glass
The sun shines, no clouds are near
But in my heart I drop a tear
I stand alone every night and day
And deep inside I feel betrayed
All love is lost, my Soul is sad
I dream of happiness I once had
When life was beautiful and everything looked bright
And I was never left feeling alone at night
Now the rain comes and my heart is cold
And forevermore I must stand alone.

4 Months

hourglassIt’s been 4 months Since. 122 days, 17 hours, and approximately 37 minutes as of this writing. Since.

Each day moves me a little further away from that moment. I’m trying hard to not let my mind wander back to that time as often. It’s a bitter, uphill battle. I’ve learned to be vigilant with my thoughts. I have a note taped over the kitchen sink that reads “Control your thoughts and keep moving.” I need that reminder. If I don’t constantly stay in control of my thoughts, I’m back there at that moment reliving the next 4 days of torture. Sometimes I’m not strong enough to be vigilant. I’m blindfolded balancing on a tight rope covered in oil over a pool of razors in a bath of salt water. I slip quite often.

Everything has changed. My life is a shadow of the richness it once was. I am but a shell of the person I once was. My playful, free spirit is weighted down. My wings are broken. My spark is drenched. My face has creases that weren’t there Before. I’ve aged at least 5 years Since. There are lines around and bags under my eyes. My skin is dry and thin. It feels like my outsides are beginning to mirror my insides turning me into a dry husk of a human. I barely eat yet keep getting heavier. My body is trying desperately to wrap me in layers to protect my fragile Self. The weight simply pulls me down deeper under the water.

I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. Her smile is forced and it never reaches her eyes. The sparkle is gone. This woman before me doesn’t laugh as easily or stand as tall. Well, as tall as her slight 5’3″ frame once did. This woman can’t really be me.

This woman before me has no tolerance for petty drama or bullsh*t. She is empty inside but with a well of compassion that knows no bounds. Her thinking is at once clear and confused. She can’t understand why people get so upset about minor things. A car breakdown, a grumpy child, a fight with a spouse. She sees beyond the annoyances to what really matters. She has no filter. She will share her perspective on your struggles with a simple, blunt statement, not meaning to sound crass but simply unable to mince words. She would trade your struggles for hers in a heartbeat.

The people surrounding this woman have changed. She has been abandoned by those she thought to count on in her weakest moments. She has been hurt deeply by those who profess to love her. Yet, she is surrounded by people who are True, Honest, Authentic, Pure. Brave. It takes a brave person to walk in her orbit. It’s a messy, ugly space filled with obstacles and fragmented remains of a shattered life that can destroy you.

This woman before me spends a lot of time on her knees now, in sorrow and in prayer. She knows she is too weak to stand alone. She is somehow strong enough to allow support.

Time is different now. It seems like a second and a lifetime. I still wait for Nolan to come say goodnight at the end of the day. Every night I wait. I still expect to see him getting ready for school in the morning. Every morning. I find myself thinking about where he should be in that moment. Every moment. It’s not true that time heals all wounds. Time passes, that’s all. It passes too quickly and too slowly. I can’t wait to get to the end so we can be together again. I want time to stand still so I can hold Li’l N just the way he is. Nothing makes sense. I will wait for Nolan for every second of every minute of every hour of every day for the rest of my life. I will miss him. I will ache for him. I will Love him.

It’s been 4 months. 122 days, 17 hours, and approximately 37 minutes as of this writing. And yet, all that has passed is the blink of an eye.

 

Angels on the Field

10507019_10152393416675780_8248734576577210507_oDH and I were lucky enough to have dinner before the Big Game with Taylor Darveau’s parents. (See my last post for the backstory.) I will admit I was nervous to meet them. In fact, I said to a friend of mine that I didn’t know what to say to them. Her response as she had a fit of giggles –  “I’m not laughing with you. I’m laughing AT you.”  I know, it felt silly, hypocritical even. We are in the same horrific club. We both lost a child. How many people wouldn’t talk to me because they didn’t know what to say? I’m not immune to the irony.

As it turns out, I had zero reason to be nervous. They are such warm, caring, open, and forgiving people. They traveled a much harsher road than we have and yet conduct themselves with a grace and a determination that speaks volumes for the depth of their love for Taylor. I feel honored and blessed to count them among our Friends. The parallels in our lives and in our childrens’ lives is uncanny. I firmly believe that Nolan and Taylor have their hands in all of this. As much as both families would give anything to have them back, it’s comforting to know that they are together and working hard to surround all of us with their loving guidance.

How did the Big Game go? The Huskies did it, and not alone either. I have no doubt that Nolan was there, and this photo simply proves it.

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The emotions that poured forth upon the win surprised me. It hit me hard and the tears just flowed. Luckily I was surrounded by loving support and they helped me stand. I wasn’t the only one. This has been such an emotional season for all of us. I went onto the field to hug some of Nolan’s best friends on the team and could have held onto them for hours. We cried together in joy and in sorrow. Thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes. I know Nolan is so very proud.

Nolan has been with his Brothers every step of the way this season. We move on to the State Championship game next Saturday in Portland. Including exhibition games and scrimmages, next Saturday’s will be the Huskies’ 13th game. Do you think that’s a coincidence? Neither do I.

You can catch the recap here (remember to open in new tab!):

http://wabi.tv/2014/11/15/mci-battles-back-best-bucksport-win-class-d-eastern-maine-crown/

Learn more about Taylor Darveau and the T.A.Y.L.O.R. Foundation at:

http://www.taylorfoundation.com/

The Big Game is more than a Game

 

1507760_896734047028178_7975437336775227726_nFootball has always been big here in this little town of Pittsfield, and this season it’s become even bigger. Our Huskies are about to face their Championship Game tomorrow night with an undefeated record behind them. To the Team, to the Community, to all of Us, it’s about more than the game.

Nolan decided to switch from Soccer to Football at the end of his 8th grade year. He had begun weight training with the Huskies and was drawn in by their camaraderie. He knew these boys were more than teammates, more than friends. They were brothers. They were so welcoming and inviting to Nolan. He wasn’t expecting that. He was anticipating the usual antics and hassling towards Freshmen. Those boys were nothing like that. They connected with Nolan and he fit right in from the beginning.

It broke something in all of us when Nolan died before he ever got to play on the field in an actual game. His death also created something. Nolan’s passing tightened the bonds of the Huskies bringing rise to their passion, perseverance, and endurance. Nolan’s passing brought them a mission. Their mission was to play this season for their fallen brother. Their mission was to play harder and fiercer for Nolan and to make Nolan proud. Let me tell you, they have done that and more.

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This story has captured everyone’s attention and touched our Community. Below I’ve put 2 links for a news story covering Nolan and the Huskies this season. Please take a few minutes to watch. It’s very touching.

**open link in new tab so you don’t lose me!**

http://wabi.tv/2014/11/03/nolan-berthelette-still-part-mci-football-program/

http://wabi.tv/2014/11/04/berthelette-continues-inspire-mci-football-part-2/

Are you still with me? The story gets better.  Meet our opponents in this Championship Game. The Bucksport Bucks, and they are no strangers to loss. They lost someone very special to them as well, Taylor Darveau. Taylor was a cheerleader for Bucksport and was killed last year in a Distracted Driving accident. Please take another minute to read more about this amazing connection.

http://pressbox.bangordailynews.com/2014/11/09/home/bucksport-mci-cope-with-tragedy-while-reaching-ltc-final/#.VF_JybbH-FI.facebook

Now we’re down to it. Two teams playing for their fallen mates. You couldn’t make this up. Well, maybe Hollywood could, but you and I couldn’t. It’s an incredible showdown in the making. These kids on both teams are an example of perseverance. They are an example of kinship. They are an example to all of us that there is more than a Game at hand. It doesn’t really matter who wins. Of course we’d love to see the Huskies go all the way. There’s a bigger picture here. All of these kids have lost some of their innocence. They know all too well that bad things happen to good kids. They’ve shown us how to stay strong and keep going. They’ve shown us how to hold each other up when we fall. I usually roll my eyes at the saying, but I’m using it here with all sincerity. No matter who gets the trophies at the end of the night, all these kids have won so much more than a Game.