Monday, June 13, 2016

Fort - Hall of Famer!

What a proud moment it was for me and Donny this weekend.  Our daughter being inducted into a Hall of Fame...just like her dad was!  Her talents were recognized by her peers...what an honor!

She was introduced first by Pauly then by Jamie.  Here are some excerpts from the introduction:

"On the field, Fort had effortless talent.  Her God-given size and hand-eye coordination meant she rarely dropped a ball.  Starting her career at number 8, she eventually moved to lock and embraced life in the tight 5.  She was powerful and learned solid technique, serving as a lifter in one of the most beautiful lineouts in all the Midwest!  In college she was well known for the "Fortener Fake" and perfected her dummy pass over the years.  As her skills came together, she received an invitation to play for the Ohio Select Side and as a starter, helped the team roll to a number of tournament victories.

Although Fort was certainly competitive, she never took herself or rugby too seriously which is what made her such a fantastic teammate.  She was always positive, always optimistic, ALWAYS funny, and generally kind, even as she delivered crushing stiff-arms.

She helped lead Cincy-Dayton to 2 Midwest Championships and appeared in all 3 National Championships"


"Playing second row as  Fort did is a thankless job...and one of the most under appreciated positions on the field.  You won't lead the team in tries or tackles.  You don't win bitch of the pitch or man of the match.  You are placed in a ridiculous and laughable position in the scrum and generally only hear about the score off the set piece.  All of this being said, if you ask a prop about their second row, you will hear a list of what the second does right.  You hear stats like strong, solid, tough.

It is the last three characteristics that made me nominate Melissa.  Fort was all of these things in spades.
She made good decisions around the pitch and her teammates were well aware of her presence.
She continued to fight to play while possessing the most severe excuse I've been around to no longer dress for the game.  She wanted a jersey, and to be on the field, so she did, long after she was told she couldn't."

Strong, solid, touch, brave, generally kind with a stiff arm, carries the team spirit, inspires her club years beyond her prime to be better.  I think we can all agree, Fort is a Hall of Fame Kelt."


We are so grateful that she was recognized...she LOVED rugby and she loved the Kelts.  She would be embarrassed for sure, and humbled to be recognized with this honor.

I am embarrassed to admit that after 20 years, I still don't know the game as I should.  She would get so angry (not really) with me that she had to explain it over and over.  And when I would forget someone's name she would roll her eyes "MOM.  How many times to I have to tell you..."  I am trying to do better understanding the game (I think I do) and remembering names.  She would be proud of me.  But not as proud as we are of her.

It's not just the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame, but her choice of friends...
I'm sure she knew that her rugby family would stay in touch and always be there for us.  They stand by their motto "Once a Kelt, ALWAYS a Kelt."  Somehow, we are lucky enough to be part of this family.   They love us like they loved her.  And the feeling is mutual.

After the ceremony, the celebration continued with a social at Haps.  We heard new stories about Fort.  We love that.

I met Hooky - he told me about the time he was getting ready to go into the game and he had forgotten to take his wedding ring off.  He was looking for the bag to put it in and couldn't find it. Fort was standing there and he went to hand it to her.  Before he could ask her to hold it for him, she said "YES HOOKY!  A thousand times YES!"  She was so good at coming up with funny responses spontaneously.  Hooky said he thinks of that whenever he thinks of Fort.  I'm sure it makes him smile like it made ME smile!

We talked to Tex (also a Hall of Famer) for a long time.  One of the things she told us was that Fort came to visit her the night of the wake (the viewing).   In the dream (visit) she said "Fort, what are you doing?  You're dead."  Melissa said "I know.  I have a lot of people to thank."  and then she was gone.  That was no surprise to us.  Melissa was so good about writing thank-you's (even if they were a year later).  Only this time she couldn't write, so she visited.

Donny & I both talked to Amy for a long time too...she is the new owner of Fort's car.  She couldn't say enough what an impact Melissa made on her life.  It was so nice to talk to Amy too.

I talked to several players that never knew her, but knew all ABOUT her.  We also met several players who have received the Kelts Fort Award.  She will never be forgotten.  Even after we are gone.

Pauly posted a thank you the next day and his comment said something about being "drunk & stupid"...  I don't remember the whole post, but I can identify.  I had a few shots and some beers (Donny was the designated driver and Jen was taking care of me) so I don't remember every story that was told - but I do remember meeting Scott Blackburn (who I see at EVERY fundraiser, he ALWAYS wears his green FORT shirt, and I always say "do I know you? Have we met?" - just like Fort accused me - I forget things.  But not Scott anymore. :)   And a couple of others whose names I will not forget...Erin, Katie, Jamie, DJ, Magic...thank you all for sharing your stories and listening to me.  Even if I didn't make sense sometimes.

Wish I had new photos to share, but being this is a rugby post, I need to post some rugby pics...

Pure love.  

Congratulations FORT & Pauly!  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

May...and Remembering Fort

It's been a busy month...and awhile since I've posted.

In the beginning (seven years ago) I NEEDED to post more often.  I needed to talk about Melissa. All the time.  Please don't  misunderstand.  I miss my daughter EVERY single day.  Every minute of every day.  It's evident if you've ever been to our house.  I'm a little embarrassed to say it's a shrine to our daughter.  Pictures, articles, sentimental items in every room.  We all handle this grief differently. Some people can't look at pictures...for a long time.  I'm just the opposite.  I need to see them every day.  I need her around me every day.  Fortunately,  Donny feels the same.  (we DO  have photos of Nick, Mere and the boys around the house too! We love them equally!)

May is a busy month.   When I look back in my personal journals, I am seeing a pattern.  My journals are for the days that I am struggling.  I don't want to burden anyone, so I write.  I feel better when I write down my feelings.  Mostly bad, I hate to say.   I struggle in the fall.  Melissa's favorite time of year.  I struggle from November through January (the holidays, the anniversary, her birthday).  And May.

I couldn't figure out why I was so down a couple of weeks ago until I pulled out my journal.  Every year in May I write in the journal.  Mother's Day.  Another holiday.  Donny & Nick ALWAYS pull me out of the doldrums.
It's been awhile since I've gotten a dozen roses...

Nick and the boys help too...

and I'm Pammom to Matthew...

Mother's Day is hard too because MY mom is not here....her birthday is May 12.  She died on May 20.  No wonder it's a rough month.

Donny is blessed to still have his mom here!  

This month was hard too because we lost a good friend - Mike Geary.  He was the husband of my good friend Jackie who passed away five years ago.  Donny and I stayed in touch with Mike on a regular basis after Jackie died.  Three years ago he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis.  While I know Jackie is happy to have him with her, we are missing him as we KNOW their kids are missing both their mom AND dad.  

This was the program at Mike's memorial service.  The picture of Jackie and Mike was taken at the Scholarship Fundraiser we had for Melissa in 2009.  Ben (their son) said he and Elizabeth loved this picture because they both had genuine smiles in this photo.  I couldn't agree more.  We miss them both so much...

This is their grandson, Oliver.  Jackie never got to meet her grandson.   I had to opportunity to watch Oliver for a few hours when Elizabeth got back into town.  He is adorable - and smart too.  This child has travelled the world already!  Will be seeing him in a couple of weeks again for a day or so, until they move to their next residence!

So this was the beginning of the upswing of May.  I needed this. 

Applications for Melissa's scholarships (we give two $1000 scholarships) are due April 15.  The awards ceremony is always in May.  Giving these scholarships is so important to us - Melissa will be remembered as long as we are able to award these scholarships, and thanks to the Kelts and their yearly fundraiser, they will be awarded long after we are gone!    Nick presented the scholarships last year and this year (Angie and Andy Aracri, two of Fort's high school friends) have helped us with this in the past.  

The 2016 recipients of the Melissa Fortener McLaughlin Scholarships are
Adam Duffy (attending The Ohio State University) and
Emily Hughes (attending Capitol University in Columbus)

Another May event that we always look forward to is the Komen Race for the Cure in Columbus with our good friends Randy & Carolyn.  Last year was the first year we participated with them, and it's going to be an annual tradition for us!  

I've heard people comment in the past that so much fundraising and research goes toward Breast Cancer...why not other cancers?

Attending this event kind of gives you an idea why.  Over 30,000 people participated in this 5K!  It's is the biggest Race for the Cure event in the U.S.  That's a lot of people!!!!  All affected in some way by breast cancer...a grandmother, mother, sister, DAUGHTER, friend.  And MEN are affected too!
My hope is that SOME DAY, with all the money that is raised for breast cancer research, if not a cure, they will make this a TREATABLE disease.  Something that those affected can live a long life.  
We know that early detection is the key to surviving this awful disease.  Unfortunately not everyone is diagnosed in the early stages.  (MELISSA).  

And when they find the cure OR make this a treatable disease, my hope is that it will transfer to other cancers - whatever cure or treatment they discover will work for other cancers too.  

I'm not sure how much was raised today - but I'm guessing it was a bundle. 
We will walk and we will run until we find a cure.  As long as we live.

'nuf said

can you find Fort in the picture? Left side above the ribbon!

oh...and Fort was there.  OU flag flying in BUCKEYE territory.  Imagine that.

But that is not the best sign we got this weekend.  We got to Columbus last night - stayed @ Randy & Carolyn's condo a block from Short North.  Went to dinner and had a few beers and were talking about how we would have never met had we not lost our children.  (their son Sam died 10/10/07-this is important for the next story - in Bagdhad).  How we met and how we are there for each other...and right then, the song "Lean on Me by Bill Withers came on! - 

"Sometimes in our lives, 
we all have pain, we all have sorrow. 
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow.

Lean on me when your're not strong
And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on.

Synchronicity.  Happens to us all the time.

So today, we are finishing the walk.  Closing in on the finish line...I look at my watch to see what time it is, and I said outloud "It's 10:10".  Donny, Randy and Carolyn all looked at me at the same time...Ten Ten.  SAM.  (Sam's # in football was 10.  He died on 10/10.  They find dimes all the time.  Now we find them too.  Sam letting us know he's around us too.

Can't think of a better ending to this post. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I was sitting here the other day looking at Melissa's license plate.  "Survivor".  She was a survivor for awhile...I'm still surviving.

Or working on it.  

I still find it hard to believe that she's been gone over seven years.  How do you survive a loss this great?   It is a roller coaster for sure.  The stages of grief...shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  They go in no particular order.  I would say for me personally, the shock wore off after the first anniversary. I think the whole first year is denial.  You can convince yourself that they are "out of town".  Just gone for a while.  Then reality hits.  She was not coming back.  I would never hear her voice again.  She would never come bounding through the front door again, leaving all of her stuff by the front door.  I would never hear that booming voice, her laughter.  

Surviving is a daily routine.  Get up.  Get dressed.  Smile.  Think positive.  Maybe get out.  Talk to SOMEONE.  Put something on the calendar to look forward to.  Take medicine.  Make a "to do" list. Put anything you've done that day on the list and check it off (see above).  

I guess I was thinking about this (surviving) the other day because a couple of weeks ago two good friends lost their daughters...I want to be there and I want to help, but it brings everything back.  But I want to help them.  

The depression creeps in and I just want to curl into a ball under the covers.  But I can't...because like Melissa, I'm a SURVIVOR.  So I get up, get dressed.  At least.

I am still here, miraculously.  Really.  That smile on my face is a mask...smiling on the outside, dying on the inside.  Yes.  Even after seven years.

But here I am...and thank God for basketball to get us through the winter.  And early sunshine.  And my grandsons.  And Donny.  And Nick.  And Mere.  And the friends who still come around.  I do have a lot to be thankful for...

Surviving is directly related to keeping busy...which I work on daily.
I have pictures to prove it...

Went to Louisville for the Notre Dame/Louisville game.  Stayed with Ross & Lindsay Kayser. These are their two precious daughters, Paisley & Chesney.  And at the time another on the way - she arrived a week after we were there!

Stopped in to visit my good friend Mary - a friend from my freshman year at Carroll.  They are big Cardinal fans - this is me and her husband Frank.

Me and Muffett McGraw.  Head Coach of Notre Dame.

On the way to Notre Dame for the Pink Game.  Andrew, Max & Kathryn's dad came with us. It was Valentine's Day - so I bought the kids books - Andrew finished his book that day in the car!

Big Notre Dame fans!!!

with Kathyrn after the game.

Drove home in snow - this is what we came home to.  The kids loved it!

Make Thank You notes for Kathryn.  Andrew free-handing the ND leprechaun!

The finished product!

Went to an italian restaurant after the game.  Thought it would be a pizza place, but it was a little fancier than that...Max's first question "Why do I have two forks".  A teachable moment.

Can't get enough of ND.  Wish we could have taken them to the Grotto.

Max & PopPop

Grandpa (Kathryn's grandpa) walking the boys to the arena.

This beautiful owl  flew over our heads when we were sitting in the hot tub.  Couldn't tell what it was until I turned the porch light on - and he stayed on the wire!

Was going to share this at our Compassionate Friends meeting, but stayed home because of the weather.  Melissa loved to write - this was for her creative writing class in high school.  My favorite.

Went to see Andrew's Inventor presentation.  He chose the inventor of the typewriter. I listened, but I don't remember who it was...

Proud of Andrew!

After all this - Donny lost his job.  Worked hard getting resumes out for a month.  Just got a job and started this week - a small company in Centerville.  Hopefully it will work out.

If you haven't registered for the 5K - it's coming soon.  Sunday April 17.  Hope you can be there.