Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SUE new best friend.  Gone.
How does this happen?  Why am I asking this question again?????

My beautiful sister Sue passed away Saturday...Melissa's birthday.
She called me EVERY day for the last four years.  Always asked about ME.  Very seldom did she talk about herself...she was taking care of me.

I miss her phone calls every day.  I guess I am on my own now...except for Donny.  She knew how good Donny was and she told him several times lately..."I love that you are taking care of Pam."

I wish I could have done more for her....I wish she would have called me...

I miss her so much.  My life is forever changed... again.

Love you Sue.  RIP.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Happy 35th Birthday Melissa...

"There are some 
who bring a light so great to the world

that even after they have gone, 
the light remains."

~ unknown

Melissa Marie

Right now, Fort would be rolling her eyes.  Every year on my kids birthday, I tell the story of the day they were born.  I think it was mostly so I wouldn't forget...I figured some day they might actually like to hear the story.  Never got to that point with Melissa, sorry to say.  But just the thought of her rolling her eyes brings a smile to my face (and tears to my eyes)...

January 5, 1978.
5:30 a.m.  I wake up to mild contractions.  Plenty of time to get to the hospital.  It is an unusually warm winter morning.  I guess you could call it the calm before the storm.  No snow on the ground. Yet.  We are all packed (have been for awhile) ready to go.  Have a deck of cards, just in case this baby is going to take it's time (back in those days, they didn't do routine ultrasounds.  If you wanted to know what you were having, the doctor would make an educated guess based on the babies heart rate. ) We arrived at the hospital around 6 a.m.  Started me on pitosin  to get the contractions a little stronger.  Melissa Marie arrived at 1:19 p.m., during All My Children.  (Yep, even in 1978 we could watch tv in the delivery room, if you had a natural opposed to a C section).  Insurance companies actually paid for a couple of extra days for the mom to recuperate.  In those couple of days, it started snowing. A couple of inches a day. By the time it was time to leave the hospital, there were several inches on the ground.  The day Donny (daddy) was to come to pick us up, our car wouldn't start (1974 Gremlin X) Uncle George (Kayser) came to the rescue.  He picked up Donny, then came to St. Elizabeth Hospital to pick Melissa and me up.  I sat in the front seat HOLDING Melissa.  No car seats in those days either.  Two weeks later, the Blizzard of '78 hit.  (This was a REAL blizzard, not  what we had here a week ago!)  Dayton was pretty much shut down for about three days.  But we made it through, with the help of friends with four wheel drives stopping by to check in to make sure we didn't need anything, which we did...were running low on formula and they took care of us.  That little girl went through a lot at the beginning of her life and at the end of her life...

What a treasure and a blessing we had.  For almost 31 years.  I was blessed that she called me mom...and my best friend too.  We will always celebrate her birthday...and I will continue to tell the story of the day she was born.  I don't know how to STOP telling it.  Bought her a card too.  Too hard to walk through the cards past the "Daughter" cards.  I can't do it.  So she still gets a card.

Later today we will have lunch at China Cottage, a tradition on her birthday.   Then, the Fairmont girls play at home (Alumni Day too) and we'll go there...that is exactly what we would do if she were here...she would be so proud of this team.  Especially that her cousin Lindsey is playing.  She watched her play when Lindsey was in grade school...she would be so proud of her.  

I can't believe we have celebrated four birthdays without her.  I still doesn't seem possible...fortunately we have multitudes of photos and videos and memories.   


Thought you might enjoy a few other photos I found of Fort ~

She was bound and determined to play basketball...

...not difficult to find a picture of her TALKING...she was one in this picture, walking AND talking!

and had to add a couple of photos from this Christmas ---

Nick acting silly ~ Fort is with him.  Do you see her? (over his head!)

Pamma & PopPop with Andrew & Max

Oh...and one interesting story to add.  Andrew and Max were painting at the dining room table. I was sitting in the living room reading.  All of a sudden Max looks at me and says "Pamma, do you hear Aunt Fort's music?"  The TV was off, there was no radio on.  I wish I knew what HE heard.  Is Fort talking to Max?  Wouldn't surprise me at all.  

She is with us.  I am SURE of that.

You will never be forgotten Melissa.  
We love you and miss you so much...
Happy Birthday pretty girl!


If there is ever a tomorrow
when we are not together...

there is something 
you must remember:

You are braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.

But the most important thing is,
even if we're apart...

I'll always be with you.

~Winnie the Pooh
by A.A. Milne

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Four years.

How can that be?  It was yesterday...wasn't it?

Each year on the anniversary, I reflect on the previous year.  Have I made progress?  Is the pain any less?  What can I do?  What can't I do?  What positive changes have I made to my life that will help me get through TODAY?

I can honestly say that, with the help of the Compassionate Friends, I have made progress.  Part of the reality of knowing you have made progress is helping others "new" in their grief.  When you can see the pain on their faces, hear the pain in their voices...when you have been there, you can feel it too.
At the beginning of the CF meetings, they say "if you see someone laughing or smiling, take it as a sign of hope..."  The smiles do eventually happen...the laughter too.

So, what CAN I do?
*I go out more than I used to. In fact, I enjoy meeting one or two friends for breakfast/lunch/dinner! * I actually got out the stockings at Christmas, the ornaments, listened to Christmas music, and sent cards (not without tears, but I did it).  *I occasionally make phone calls. Not as often as I used to, but sometimes. * I answer the phone (when I'm home alone)...still make Donny answer the phone when he is home.  *I can go to Fairmont girls basketball games...have been able to do that from the beginning (four years ago). It was what SHE loved.

What can't I do?
*Still have no desire to go out with groups of people.  More comfortable in smaller settings...although we are going out for "115 years of Greatness" dinner.  *Several of Fort's friends celebrate Stacy's, Pauly's and Melissa's birthdays.  Started with "100 years of Greatness" when Melissa and Stacy turned 30 and Pauly turned forty.  *Dancing.  I used to love to dance at parties and weddings.  My body just says "NO" now.  I think it's part of the "celebrating" thing I just can't get past. Yet.
*Parties.  Unless they are with Melissa's friends.

And I will be honest here too.  I LOVE seeing Melissa's friends.  I love getting together with her friends. I love that they stay in touch.  But it is hard watching their lives go on when hers was cut short. Still doesn't seem fair to me.  She should be HERE.

Is the pain any less?
Never.  It is with me EVERY SINGLE DAY.  There is a hole in my heart that physically aches.

What positive changes have I made to help me get through TODAY?
I think the biggest thing is reaching out to other parents who have lost children.  I know how much it helped me, and I want to do the same.  Pay it forward.  Also volunteer Wednesday morning in my friend Rodney's 5th grade class.  Helps ME, I hope I am helping THEM.  I keep in touch with Mike, Jackie's husband and Bruce, my friend Ruth's husband (who will be 90 this year!)...they lost their spouses...I want them to know that Jackie and Ruth will never be forgotten!  (just a note here...that is all  ANYONE who has lost a loved one wants...that they never be forgotten...)

So.  Have I made progress?
I have.  Maybe in some small ways.  But I have.  I am still here.  That is a MAJOR accomplishment.  And I am blessed to have friends who still call me on a regular basis (even though I don't call them) and get together with some friends on a regular basis (Marla, Rodney/Josh/Debbie, Donna Runzo, Angie, Roxy, Marianne, Jennifer, my cousin Jan, my cousin Sue and of course my sister Sue who calls on a daily basis!)
My goal for this year is to get better at keeping in touch.  If not by phone, then by text.

And of course Nick, Mere, Andrew and Max have been very good at keeping me busy (exhausted and loving it and thankful for five days to recuperate!) and loving me...and DONNY.  Without him, I would probably not be here.  He is my rock.  I can only hope that I have been as supportive of him as he has been of me.

  Four years ago this week, there were SO MANY random acts of kindness to our family, I couldn't count them all...we tried to thank everyone who did something to help us out, but I am sure that we missed some.  In honor of those who helped out in some way in the weeks following Melissa's death, all we can do at this point is pay it forward.  Please know that we are so thankful to all our friends, relatives and Melissa's friends and colleagues who reached out to us.  You will never know how much it meant to us....

In Melissa's memory, please reach out to someone with a Random Act of Kindness today.  Smile at someone who looks sad, call (or text) your parents, siblings, spouse and tell them you love them...and most  of all, give your kids an extra hug today.  And ALWAYS tell them you love them.  I'm so glad I did...

                                   Melissa Marie Fortener McLaughlin
                                    January 5, 1978 ~ January 3, 2009