The past three years are pretty much a blur. STILL seems like yesterday that Melissa was here. No matter how busy I try to keep myself, every day my brain shows "clips" of that day...3 years ago today. Actually, from the Monday before Thanksgiving until her birthday, every day is ETCHED in my brain. (Funny how traumatic events in your life are etched in your brain, never to be lost...and how other memories are lost. That's why I appreciate stories of Melissa ANY time!)
Thanksgiving "clips" when she was in the hospital, "clips" of the night she went into ICU.
The day she was coming home from Hospice, she told me she wanted to go to the Fairmont girls basketball game, much to my dismay. I was so afraid that she would "get sick" with "ALL THOSE PEOPLE THERE"...(what was I thinking?-she wasn't going to get any sicker than she already was...) When the doctor came in to release her, Melissa said "Can I go to a basketball game this weekend?" The doctors response to me? "She can do anything she wants. She has 2 hours of oxygen, so just get her home before her oxygen runs out!" Of course I got the "look" from Melissa - you know, the look that says "I told you so".
A couple days before Christmas, she decided she wanted to go shopping. So we took her to Target. She wheeled herself around Target, (ON HER OWN) to buy gifts for all of us. (with an oxygen tank on the back of the wheelchair!)
"Clips" of our last Christmas together. In Melissa's words "this is the best Christmas EVER!"
WHen she said "next Christmas, we're taking all the toys out of the boxes" (because when Drew opened his gifts, everything is attached to boxes like they don't want you to get them OUT of the box!) I LOVED that she was talking about NEXT Christmas. She was talking about the future. She was not giving up.
That Christmas was my best ever too. It was the most peaceful Christmas we had ever had, that's for sure. No drama. No stress (other than the obvious). But even that didn't keep us from enjoying that Christmas. A friend of mine from school had her mom come over and take our family photos (THANK GOD for that - they are our last COMPLETE family pictures together). On Christmas Day, Dad and Sue came over. And of course Melissa HAD to go to the Fortener family Christmas. Normally Christmas Eve was at our house, but since that wasn't possible that Christmas (because of a Hospice Bed and oxygen in our family room), Mike had Christmas at his house. She was not feeling well, but she was determined to be there, oxygen and all. She got into the car herself, out of the car into Mike's house on her own, and when we got ready to leave, everyone wanted a picture of her and John. "OMG" she said. Then she started to count down "10-9-8..." showing her disgust that everyone wanted her picture, in a humerous sort of way. She never lost her sense of humor.
That night, John went back to Cincy (had to work the next day). Angie spent the night and we slept in the family room with Melissa. Her breathing was not good, and by the time the nurse arrived the next morning, it was decided that she had to go back to Hospice. She told me and Ang "let's keep this on the DL". She didn't want anyone to think she wasn't getting better. ( In fact, if you read her last post - go to the archives to Dec 2008)you would have been convinced that she was going to be going back to work in a couple of weeks.
So back to Hospice she went. That was Monday. The next day in Hospice, she pleaded with me to go home. (she was on 15 litres of oxygen, can't provide that at home). I hated that.
Although her birthday was January 5, I asked some of her friends and family to send cards early. I told her it was because her birthday was on Monday and everyone would be back to work, so were were celebrating early (good thing we did). I read EVERY card to her. That was New Years Day. I think she was surprised that so many people remembered her birthday.
January 2, she slept most of the day, but when Nick and Mere stopped in with Drew, she sat right up, took Drew on her lap and she was SO happy. When Nick and Mere left that night, he said "see you in the morning Fort". She said "I love you Nick".
I think that might have been the first time she ever said that to her brother. It was the last thing she said to HIM anyway.
At 5:18 a.m. Saturday, January 3, 2009, she left us. To be with J.P. I'm sure.
THAT is the video that continually plays in my brain from Thanksgiving until now.
You can't possibly stay busy 24 hours a day, and even a MINUTE of idle time brings the memories flooding back. So, I sit back, enjoy the show, and let the tears flow.
And after three years, what I can do and can't do (I wrote about this after ONE year-when I couldn't do much at all)...has changed a little. I do a lot more than I did that first, even second year. But I still don't make phone calls (thank goodness for texting), not big on socializing (unless it's a breast cancer fundraiser) and enjoy a simpler life. And, OH, one thing that gets me through every winter...FAIRMONT girls basketball games. It is the ONE thing she really wanted to do when she was home from Hospice that she didn't get a chance to do, so we literally go to every girls game, home and away. For Melissa. In fact, for her birthday, we're going to the girls game at Centerville. When Melissa played for Fairmont, when they played Centerville at home, she had the WINNING basket AT THE BUZZER. I KNOW she'll be at this game too - it should be a good one. That's about all I really want to do this week. It's her birthday present. (and it's good for ME too - if you knew Melissa, she liked to buy gifts for US that benefited HER too-like the monitor she bought us at Christmas because she didn't like OUR monitor!)
Fast forward 3 years. Our life is not the same. It never will be. But we enjoy the NEW memories (hopefully some of them will be etched in my brain!) with our grandsons. Christmas was good with them. And New Years? Looks like we'll be the babysitters for a few years to come, which is fine with us.
Had to include a couple of pictures because Melissa ALWAYS posted pictures...trying to follow in her footsteps the best I can....
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I came home from shopping a couple of days before Christmas to find
a package at my front door. The return address was Nick Fillo. Melissa's
boyfriend at OU her junior year. He found this frame that she had made for
him for his birthday and thought we would like to have it. (He had it packed
away). One of the many things she made for friends over the years...What a pleasant surprise this was for us. (ANOTHER pleasant Christmas "surprise"...John gave me the quilt that his mom made for Melissa with all of her t-shirts. It's pretty much her life on a quilt from preschool through college. Thanks John. She wore every tshirt on this quilt, so I love to wrap myself up in it...)
This was my Christmas gift from my sister Sue. Just like Melissa (or Melissa was just like her)she makes gifts for Christmas. This is one I'll cherish forever.
I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles
when life is done.
I'd like to leave an echo whispering
softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing times
and bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who grieve to dry before
And think of happy memories that I leave
when life is done.
~Helen Lowrie Marshall
I'm pretty sure Melissa would feel this way. (I'm trying Melissa!)
I'll be back on Thursday, her 34th birthday.