Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Melissa (FORT)!!!!!

This photo was taken right before we walked out the door to go to the hospital...we had NO idea if we were having a boy or a girl - and NO idea what our future held...
(here we go...tradition in my family - tell the story of the day you were born -
so I have to do it every year on January 5 AND March 3!)
It was around 5 a.m. when I felt a contraction. Decided it was FINALLY time (went to Ryan's on New Years Eve and did a lot of walking, hoping for a baby BEFORE midnight, but to no avail!). When we left, it was earily WARM. No snow on the ground. A beautiful, WARM January morning. When we got the hospital, they said it might be awhile, and we had a deck of cards to keep us busy while we waited. It was an EASY labor, actually. Hard labor for maybe half an hour...then there she was,
a BEAUTIFUL dark haired, 7lbs. 5 oz. baby GIRL. 1:19 p.m. she arrived. (always had to tell her it was right in the middle of ALL MY CHILDREN...she laughed at that!)...
January 5, 1978. In those days, they actually let you stay at the hospital for a couple of days. In those couple of days, it started snowing...A LOT. And when the day finally came to take her home...our car wouldn't start. So we called in Uncle George (Rick K). He brought Donny to the hospital, I sat in the front seat with Melissa in my arms (no car seats required in THOSE olden days)...and our first stop was by the Fortener household - (Melissa was the first grandchild on the Fortener side and they lived about 2 minutes from us) - and I held her up to the window for ALL (seven brothers and sister and the new Grandma & Grandpa) to see!
We had her home for about a week when the Blizzard of '78 hit.
Fast forward 30 years.....I'm back in the hospital with her, and she STILL makes me smile AND laugh now. When she first got to the hospital, she had a canker sore on her lip. One of the docs came in and called it "herpes"...she HATED that. Asked me to run to the drugstore to get something to clear it up. So of course I did.
Went to Walgreen. When I was there searching for her request, I walked by a display that had one of those Inspirational books sitting on it (not where it should be), but it was calling my name...TO MY DAUGHTER WITH LOVE. I picked it up and started reading it and was standing there crying KNOWING that I found it for a reason and it was for her. There were even places in the book that I could fill in...which I did.
Now, mind you, Melissa was NOT into "MUSHY" things. Especially something like this.
But I bought it anyway, gave it to her when I got back to the hospital. Not sure if she ever read it, but she HEARD it. A couple of days before she passed away, I read the entire book to her. She might have been sleeping, but I KNOW she heard it.
It's one of those books that says everything you want to say, but can't put into words.
Just wanted to share a few things from that book (interesting that I was writing as if she would be around for a long time ... she even had ME convinced...)
Memorable milestone:
First tooth - YES it was a milestone because you were 13 months! I though it would never happen!
College Graduation - completed in 4 years - and you paid for 3/4 of it yourself!
Marriage to John- although it wasn't the beautiful wedding I dreamed of for you - it was EXACTLY what you and John wanted that made it PERFECT - then a fun reception to celebrate!
FIRST PROFESSIONAL JOB - @ University of Cincinnati - we were SO proud of you - this was the job you'd been waiting for and UC is lucky to have such a GIFTED (YES gifted!)employee!

THINGS I LOOK FORWARD TO AS OUR RELATIONSHIP CONTINUES TO BECOME STRONGER AND EVEN MORE LOVING.....(this is where I thought things were getting better and she'd be home!)....
Lot's more "dates" - the weeklong "hospital date" was one I hope not to repeat - I look forward to weekend shopping excursions - maybe movie dates - more dinner dates. You have made me SO PROUD, and I want to spend more time, but not take away from your "John" time or friends are WAY too busy..."

Wow. We were SO blessed to have her for almost THIRTY ONE years...but had so much more to do....
First celebration of her birthday...

awww...Nick LOVES his sister...especially when it's her birthday!

Photos from her 30th birthday party (the last one we got to celebrate with her...) ALWAYS had a photo of her making a face...remember the one of Drew this Christmas sticking his tongue out?...just like Aunt Fort!

We celebrated Melissa's 33rd birthday with another balloon launch...

Angie had something to say before we released the balloons...and she said it perfectly:

"Maybe a year before Fort died she went to see a healer in Indiana. It was her second time there. The healer was very inquisitive with her on the second visit as to how she was showing her thanks to God for the time she'd been given. This healer was asking her in terms of how often she went to church. I remember Fort calling me after this visit and hearing how down she was because it made her question what she had been giving back (the puzzle just went off...she's here) and at the time all she could see was that she hadn't been going to church or donating her time to one. I remember feeling outraged because it was so obvious to me that Fort's life was her gift to God. The way she got out of bed every day and went to work without ever using cancer as an excuse. Her undying belief that she would live and beat this disease. The message she gave us all by simply being her positive, hilarious, unique self and never letting her circumstances get her down. Her outreach to thousands through her blog, the courage and determination she showed in getting her dream job just months before she got sick, the strength and shear will of walking 60 miles to fight for a cure, the beautiful scrapbooks she left behind that are now our treasures.

I'm not sure if she knew it while she was here but I like to think that now as she watches over all of us she can see her touch in all of our lives. The way her mom gets out of bed everyday, even when she doesn't want to, and goes to work and lives her life and continues to tell Melissa's story to everyone she encounters. How her Dad got the running back coaching job at Fairmont and the first person he went to tell was Fort. The way Nick & Meredith are raising two beautiful boys and never letting a day go by without saying Fort's name outloud for them to never forget. How Johnny Mac surrounds himself with the rugby family and her family and has continued living his life just like she would have wanted. And on days when each of us complains or wants to quit, we hear Fort's voice saying "SUCK IT UP", and we get over ourselves and remember how much worse things could really be. Or how when we see a butterfly or a rainbow we say "Hi Fort!" or "Thanks Fort". There isn't a day that goes by in my life when I don't think of her...and even when I cry and get sad I only let it last for a moment because I know she is exactly where she is supposed to be...and after I cry, I smile because her gifts surround me and I carry her in everything I do. I know that we all do. And now two years later we send our love to Fort in heaven, still knowing that she is here with us every single day. We miss you. Thank you for the many gifts you left us, but most of all for just being you."

(it was beautiful and appropriate and ANOTHER treasure for us to keep, Angie. THANK YOU...we love you so much!)

Celebrating with another Balloon Release for her birthday...she STILL draws a crowd!

Marcy & Molly (my friend Mariannes two BEAUTIFUL daughters)...they shared all the pictures they took at the balloon release - THANK YOU! (Molly actually released a balloon for Melissa LAST YEAR on Butterfly Beach in California - she's in the book!)

Today we are celebrating Melissa's 33rd birthday at her favorite (traditional) place China Cottage (for lunch). Then Nick, Mere & the boys will come over for pizza and birthday cake so Drew can sing Happy Birthday to Aunt Fort (with candles AND LIGHTS OUT!)...then we're going to see the Fairmont Lady Firebirds DEFEAT the Centerville Elks. One of Melissa's last requests when she came home from Hospice was "I want to go to a basketball game"...I told her there would be so many people there "YOU MIGHT GET SICK!" (WTF...she had CANCER!!!!!)...she then proceeded to grab the doctor -
"You said I could go to a basketball game, didn't you?" And the doctor's response?
"SHe can do ANYTHING she wants to do - she has two hours worth of oxygen, so if she wants to go - take her." We never did. She had visitors that day, and even their short stay wore her out. She never got to a game that year. So we are making up for it...and it's OUR GIFT to her. I'm pretty sure she's at every game now anyway.
If you are in town, we'd love if you would join us - kind of her BIRTHDAY PARTY.
The game is @ 7 @ the Trent Arena...and OH! Her senior year against Centerville -
she scored the winning basket on a layup to BEAT THE ELKS - AT THE BUZZER!!!!!
Gotta be there.

If you can't make the game (PARTY), give yourself a gift from FORT - go back and read some old posts in the blog. I do it all the time...makes me laugh(aLOT) and cry (a little) sure to go back to the original too...
"The bond between a daughter and her mother grows ever stronger day by day. From the moment they begin their life together and with every hour they share along the way, it grows stronger, deeper, surer. Forever" (even after they're gone....)

Happy Birthday Pretty girl....I love you and miss you SO much!


Anonymous said...

A beautiful tribute to Melissa..I love how you began it-with the photo of a very happy, expectant mother and the birthday story. Then the ending with Angie's beautiful words at the balloon release. Will always love you Pam and your beautiful daughter.


Susie Q said...

This is truly beautiful Pam...your words, and those of her friend, were so touching, so perfect. No one could have said it all better.
I KNOW she is watching over all of you...her life WAS her gift to God.
Her life was an inspiration.
God bless you Pam...I think of you SO often. Think of Melissa so often.