Tag Archives: Survival

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.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

carouselI learned today that Nolan’s twitches were, in fact, a symptom of his aneurysm. He had this blinking twitch and this weird moving-his-hairline twitch. That one was pretty strange to see. He could literally move just his hair on his scalp. I’ve never seen anyone be able to do that before. I’d mentioned these behaviors to his Doctor on a number of occasions and was told they were just stress or anxiety responses. Like an idiot, I bought it. Ok, I’ll be kinder to myself. Not an idiot, like an ignorant fool. Try again? Like a passive parent. I can’t help feeling that as his Mother, I should have pursued the issue. I should have known.

Here it comes again. Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda. This is a bad road to go down, but right now it’s the only one I see. I should have seen something more was at play. I should have simply asked for a scan to be sure. I could have been more of an advocate for Nolan’s health. I should have known this deadly condition was lurking. I should have felt the danger! I could have saved him. We could have found out about this in time to maybe do something. I could have saved him if only I’d known. WHY didn’t I know? I’ve given that boy Reiki so many times. How did I not feel something amiss?

Where were my instincts? Where was my intuition? I can tell my kids are lying from the way they hold their bodies. I can tell they’re planning something sketchy by the tone of their voice. I can tell they’re not feeling well by a look in their eyes. How did I miss this? How could Nolan have been so close to death for so long and I didn’t see it? I noticed his twitches increasing in the months leading up to That Night. Why didn’t I pursue it? I believed it was simply stress and/or anxiety. It made sense. Nothing that bad could ever happen to one of my kids.

This is a slippery slope. It’s a carousel that doesn’t stop. People will tell you not to blame yourself, there’s nothing you could have done. People will say it was his Fate or he had something bigger to do. Maybe that’s true. It still spins me around and around and around. If I had just asked for a scan, Nolan might still be here today. He might be playing football this weekend. He might be downstairs right now playing drums. He might be driving me crazy with all of his plans. He might be standing right behind me asking my advice. He might have his hand on my shoulder right now. He might be saying “I love you, Mom” one more time.

I can’t trust myself anymore. I used to consider myself a good Mother. I took pride in being a Steward of these children. I thought I was so tuned in to them on all levels. How did this one get by  me? How could something so major slip my attention? What am I missing now? What if another of my children has something terribly wrong that I don’t see? I have lost faith in my instincts as a Mother, as a Sister, as a Friend, as a Wife. If I missed this, what else am I blind to?

I failed my son. I failed Nolan when he needed me most, and it cost him his life. How do I pick up and keep parenting knowing that? I’m not worthy of these children.

Hurtful Hurts and Truthful Truths

grief2Someone very close to me shut off their filters and let their feelings fly. Alcohol short-circuited those filters, but I think the emotions they shared, or more accurately hurled like burning daggers through my heart, were sincere. According to this person who I do love and respect, I am selfish and self-absorbed. I am weak because I take “F’ing DRUGS” to make it through the day. I am lazy and lay on the couch doing nothing all day. I am failing my youngest son and am not taking care of him. I am “ruining everything and destroying what is left of” my family. I hardly to go the cemetery, and the worst of it – I wasn’t there for Nolan when he left this world.

Want to let that sink in for a minute? Imagine trying desperately to get your head above water and managing the occasional gasp of breath, and then someone comes along who you thought would help you swim but they toss you a cement block instead and it drags you down into the depths of the darkness where you lose all sight of what’s up and down, and you lose all will to keep fighting for air. Welcome to my Now.

Before you condemn this person, consider their point of view. We all say things when we’re drinking that we wouldn’t and shouldn’t have said otherwise. I’m not sure it makes the statements untrue, just that they wouldn’t normally say them out loud. We are all entitled to our opinions and feelings. Just because they hurt, well, that just is. So without getting angry, what do you do? What do I do with all of that?

I’m doing everything I can think of to make it through each day yet each day is getting harder to make it through. I’m reading books about how to deal with Grief, meditating, reaching out to a support group, writing about my feelings, letting others hold me up when I’m too weak to stand. It’s supposed to get better, right? I find myself surrounded by people I wasn’t close to Before and yet I can’t imagine making it through this without them. I’m letting people in and telling Truthful Truths, as someone very dear to me calls the hard things to admit. I’m choosing to only spend time with people who help bring me to the Light, and I’m being authentic. What else can I do? Why is it getting harder?

Here’s my Truthful Truth for today. I am drowning, and I have no desire left to swim. Perhaps Dagger-Person is right and my family would be better off without me. No, I’m not suicidal, but every time I get a migraine, I’m almost hopeful the Aneurysm will rupture so the decision is taken out of my hands. I’m not supposed to talk like that. It makes people nervous. I would never do anything to force the issue, but there it is. I spend more hours a day crying and reliving that horrible experience over and over and over than I spend doing anything else collectively. I’m exhausted with fighting to make it through. There is no respite. There is no peace when Death steals your child and your Soul.

Chasing Ghosts and Finding Signs

chasing ghosts

I heard the footsteps again last night. This wasn’t the first time, and I’m not the only one that’s heard them. They walk the same path Nolan would take when he was getting ready for bed at night. The steps woke me from a dream where I brought this indescribable, unconditional, pure love to children. I’m not sure what kind of healing I was doing, but as I cradled a young girl to my chest, she said she needed to lay on my necklace. (I have a necklace with a heart-stone that Nolan held all the while he was in the hospital that I wear every day.) When I asked her why, she replied in a whisper “Because it tells all the Secrets.”

That’s when I heard the footsteps. They usually come around 3:30 am. This time I got out of bed and tried to find him. “Are you there, Nolan?” I asked the empty room as the tears silently fell. “Where are you?” I didn’t see him. I wish I had. Is he wandering the house at night? Is he still going through the motions as he did here on Earth? I wish I knew.

I sleep in about 30 minute intervals. My mind is constantly calling out to Nolan. Every dream I have is about him. Usually I’m looking for him or something that I know represents him. Many times I’m trying to move in my dream but being held in place or trying to run and not going anywhere. It doesn’t take much to interpret these dreams. The night before last, I was restlessly searching for Nolan and finally was able to find part of him. I saw his feet. Is this progress? I don’t know. I couldn’t find the rest of him, or I just couldn’t see the rest of him. It’s hard to tell. You know how dreams are.

After searching the house for Nolan, I laid in bed for hours just watching the clock and crying quietly. At some point I fell back to sleep and dreamed that I was at school and a girl came up to me asking where Nolan was and how he was doing. I had to tell her “Oh Honey, Nolan passed away in July.” We both broke down, and I awoke awash in the emotions of that moment once again. There is no respite in sleep.

This morning I was reflecting on many of my dreams and not really listening to the radio playing. I was lost in my head, talking to Nolan, begging him to come back. Something strange happened. It’s not the first time this has happened either. It seemed like the volume turned up or my consciousness tuned in just as I heard:

“Sleep tight, I’m not afraid. The ones that we love are here with me.”

Was this a message from my Boy? A message from myself to myself? I don’t know, but it brought me both pain and comfort. These lyrics speak to me on so many levels. Take a moment to sit and listen with me.

The first time this happened, we were in the car. I was just sitting there, lost in my head, crying out to Nolan and it sounded to me like the radio volume increased just as the lyric rang out:

“You’ll be in my heart. Yes, you’ll be in my heart. From this day on, now and forever more.”

When I listened to the whole song, it rang such a Truth to me. I knew it was Nolan speaking to me through music. Why do I even question it? Music is (was?) such a huge part of him, is it any wonder he would reach out in this way? The signs are there. They comfort and they bring sorrow in equal measure.

I wish I could go back in time. I wish I could jump forward in time to the moment I see him again. All I have is Now. But Now really, really hurts.

 

Dinnertime

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Last night we sat down to family dinner. I cooked two nights in a row. You probably don’t know what a big deal that is. I’m a good cook. Truly. I won’t give you salmonella, listeria, trichinosis, e. coli, or any other yucky food-type-poisoning. I have some dishes I make that DH says is better than Olive Garden even. (Hey, we set a mediocre bar here.) The problem is that I don’t like to cook very often. It’s not even that I don’t like to cook. It’s really that dinner comes at the most inconvenient time of day. We undoubtedly have some kid at some practice from 5:30 – 7 most nights. There’s homework and cranky time and getting ready for bed time. Who can combat all of that and still pull their family to the table together over something actually cooked and not defrosted? As Karma would have it, DH and Nolan always equate love with food. I couldn’t care less whether I even eat, and that’s not due to Grief. I’ve always been that way. I like food. I just don’t equate it with love.

Family dinner was always super important to Nolan. The most random and important topics were covered during family dinners. We talked about politics and world events and we talked about manscaping and horrors of waxing. We had fun. We argued and when things got heated, I’ve been known to throw lettuce at someone which would spark a food fight that was way more fun to have than to clean up. We had fun, even when stuff like this happened (yes, that’s a green bean in his nose):

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We had dinner as a family every night right up until the middle-school and teen years tore everyone in different directions. I managed to cook double on nights that I found time so that we always had leftovers for the next night. The worst offender of interrupting family dinner is baseball season. Really. Our player had to be down at the field by 4:00 for a 5:30 game, which didn’t end until around 7:30, at which time they had to clean up and have the Coach’s talk and yadda yadda yadda, and it’s 8pm before we even get home. I gave myself a pass, and Nolan was kind enough to give me a pass as well, on family dinner during baseball season. Hey, we were all at the field together anyway, right? Popcorn counts.

Nolan loves (loved, damn I hate past-tense verbs) eating as a family. He hated “make a plate” nights and would always ask me to at least sit with him while he ate. Even more, he hated (damn past-tense verb, I hate you!) “Whatever” nights. That’s when there was no food prepared and you had to find “Whatever” to eat. Sandwich? Cereal? Whatever.

I haven’t cooked more than a handful of meals for DH and Li’l N “Since.” I’m trying. I know Nolan would be so mad at the lack of thought given to dinners in this house “Since.” I want to honor him and still be as close to the old Me as “Before.” It’s not easy. Wednesday night, I made a lovely dinner and waited 30 minutes for DH and Li’l N to get to the table and ended up starting dinner alone.  Believe it or not, it was easier on me before they came to the table. Anyway, last night we all made it there at the same time and Li’l N decided he wasn’t eating what I made and was going to cook his own dinner. Whatever. It took him a little longer and I had to help a bit, but he finally made it to the table. I tried to eat but only tasted tears. We were 3 when we should still be 4. I remembered back to our younger days when we were 7 around the table. It made me profoundly sad. Li’l N now sits in Nolan’s seat, which he did “Before” on nights Nolan wasn’t home. That’s ok, but still. Nolan should be sitting there.

Li’l N was in a really crabby mood. I’ve noticed his fuse getting shorter lately, and I’m concerned he’s got some anger towards the world that might be coming on. DH did his darndest to pull Li’l N out and start a conversation. N was having none of it. I just happened to ask about a project he’s working on and had mentioned in passing, and the words came tumbling out. I hit on something he cared about. It was a great diffuser and a great conversation, and it made me think. We really haven’t been present like he deserves. We listen and hear “blah blah blah,” and N knows it. So I took a turn last night.

After dinner when he fake punched me, I didn’t scold him has I’m afraid I’ve done all too often “Since.” I just fake-punched him back. Then I fake-karate chopped him. Then I for-real picked him up, flipped him onto the couch and sat on him. Do you know who would do that? The old Me. The Me from “Before.” We went on to have the best fake-ninja fight that I totally fake-won. N laughed. Really laughed. Uninhibited, full-bodied laughs came. You know what else? So did I. For that little span of time, I was present with Li’l N, and he was present with me. We weren’t “Before” or “Since” but simply “Now.” It changed the energy of our house. It became a Home for just that little span of time. Yet, that was something big.

I can’t do it all the time. Not yet. I don’t know if the old Me will come back as “Before.” I doubt it because that old Me never knew this pain and didn’t have to carry this emptiness. Perhaps, in time, a new Me will have some of the same characteristics and tendencies as “Before.” For now, for just right “Now,” I strive to be in the moment with N. Giving him his Mom back is the best thing I can do to honor Nolan. That, and maybe cook more.

3 Months “Since”

Nolan suffered his Aneurysm on July 18, at around 10:10 pm. He lacked any brain function at the time the neurosurgeon first checked him at 2am on July 19. There has to be a second evaluation for brain function at least 4 hours later before a person can be pronounced “Deceased”. I remember dreading 6am, knowing they would check again. I was able to put the doctors off until the afternoon of July 19, when I watched everything they did during the 2nd neurological evaluation. It was horrible, but I’m glad I stayed with him during that exam. It left no doubt in my mind that Nolan was already gone. So, in the late afternoon on July 19, Nolan was pronounced officially “Brain Dead” (although they had some kinder, fluffier term they used it means the same ugly thing). Because we chose to honor Nolan’s passing by saving as many other lives as we could, Nolan was kept on life support while transplant teams and recipients were gathered and prepared. He was taken into the operating room the night of July 20, and was finally taken off of life support in the wee morning hours of July 21.

Which date do you go by? Is it by the “official” time/date stamp on some stupid “official” certificate? Do we call it when his heart was removed from his body? It’s horrible. It’s more than just 1 day to survive each month. We have to survive 4 separate anniversary dates each month. Which do we pick as our own “Official?”

We (DH, me, and Little N) consider Nolan’s passing to be on July 18, 2014 at approximately 10:15pm. That’s when his heart stopped beating. That’s when his breathing stopped. CPR was able to keep his blood oxygenated, but he didn’t maintain a steady heartbeat again until he was somewhere between Pittsfield and Bangor on the Life Flight helicopter. By that point, we all knew he was gone. I knew before the 2 ambulances even got to the house that he wasn’t coming back. I knew. I just knew.

Because of the length of this ordeal, we have 4 days every month where we remember some part of the trauma more strongly. The night he “went down,” the day of his “official” date, the night he went into surgery, and the day he was taken off life support. I think this makes it even harder.

On October 18, I decided that I simply couldn’t handle this 3-month mark. I opened the door wide and invited Denial right in. I asked Denial to bring as many friends as he could to help pretend the night away. What I literally did was this (taken from my personal Facebook page):

3 months. I can’t do it, so I’m not going to. Here it is, this is my Bat Signal going up, rallying the Troops. I’m going to have a Denial Party at my house tonight because that is way more fun than a Pity Party. We’re going to pretend that everything is ok and that we can survive this. We’re going to pretend that Grief isn’t swallowing us all, and we’re going to pretend laughter comes easily. We’ll throw some carnage on the grill and pretend we still like to eat. If you can handle that (and some cocktails) come on over, bring your kids, a snack or drink, and we’ll open the door wide for Denial. Just for tonight. We can get back to Grieving tomorrow.

It worked. So many of our friends showed up with food in hand and a hug in their hearts to help us make it through the night. 10:15pm came and went without my noticing. Our house was filled with laughter just like “Before.” I couldn’t have managed that night without everyone surrounding me and helping me stand. Seriously. I am so thankful for everyone who answered the Call. So what happened when everyone went home?

It turns out Denial is a fickle son-of-a-bitch. That “F-er” left with everyone else. He left me stranded and alone at 3am. I am so lucky that my dearest friend, my Soul Sister, was staying the night. I crawled into bed with her, sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. She simply gave me tons of Reiki and love until I fell asleep.

The following few days were also horrendous. It’s funny how things only occur to you in hindsight that should be so obvious. It really wasn’t until I began writing about Nolan’s timeline that it dawned on me. You’re probably one step ahead of me at this point. No duh the next few days were so hard! I didn’t consciously think about each day’s representation, but my body knew. My heart knew. Now I know, and maybe next month will make more sense when I spend 4 days in bed crying.