Around 12:30 a.m., Sunday morning, October 19, 2003, we got the dreaded phone call...all I could hear was the sirens in the background. John was telling us the baby was coming, they were headed to the hospital.
By the time we got there, he was gone.
Our first grandchild. John Patrick McLaughlin. He was BEAUTIFUL. Dark hair, almost 4 pounds. All his fingers. All his toes. Perfect.
Hardest day of my life at that point.
I look at how Melissa and John handled it...it was devastating. They lost THEIR child. He was the light at the end of a long dark tunnel. And now he was gone....
Donny and I often talk about that day, and the months and five years after. How in the world did she go on? Donny says "she had another battle to fight...for HER life".
I know now about the "mask" that you wear when you lose a child. Everyone wants you to be "better". That don't WANT to see you suffering. In pain. I didn't want to see her suffering, and Melissa was good at hiding painful things from me. Most of the time. We did talk about how hard it was to see all of her friends having babies. She never let on to anyone that she was anything but HAPPY for them. But it was hard for her.
I really don't have many regrets when it comes to our relationship. But I do have one...at Christmas that year - only two months after they lost JP, I begged them to go to church with us on Christmas Eve. "Please go. It's all I want for Christmas. For all of us to be together". Of course Melissa (and Nick too) would do whatever I wanted if it would make me happy at Christmastime.
So we went to church. Got there early enough to find a pew close to the front where we could all sit together. Right about the time mass started, a young family with a brand new baby sat RIGHT in front of us. It was too hard for Melissa...they left early on in the mass.
What I need to say is I DIDN'T KNOW. I should have respected her wishes and let her decide whether she wanted to go or not. I was selfish. It was more about ME that it was about her. I HATE that I did that to her.
Five years later, I was in the same boat. A lot of people invited us out, and I couldn't do ANYTHING.
Didn't want to leave my bed. For more than a year. (although we did get out occasionally, I hated it)
But I had no idea what she was going through. How could I? I hadn't walked in her shoes.
...anyway, when John Patrick's first birthday was approaching, I told Melissa and John that we would always remember JP. She didn't want to get together and "celebrate" that year. And I didn't push it. But we remember JP, just like we remember Melissa on her birthday. Usually, Nick and the boys come over and we have cake and ice cream and we sing happy birthday to JP. We'll always remember him...and wonder what he would be like.
He would be ten years old today. TEN. Double figures. I remember when Melissa turned 10 she was SO excited about being "double figures". I know that he would be really smart (because his dad and mom were both really smart) and funny. And he would probably be a pretty good athlete too. And we would be celebrating his birthday this weekend...
Happy Birthday John Patrick. JP. We love you more than you will ever know, and we miss having you here. Andrew and Max KNOW that you are their cousin, and you are with Aunt Fort. <3 p="">
KELTS "TRYING FOR A CURE" Fundraiser - biggest one yet!
Last weekend was the 10th Annual Trying for a Cure Fundraiser. The first one was held in 2003, the year Melissa was diagnosed. It keeps growing ever year - she would LOVE it.
Again this year, Netti was the major organizer - with help from Pauly. They should go into the fundraiser business...
Every year, right before the raffle tickets are drawn, Pauly gets up on the bar to explain why they do this fundraiser...and he usually has a funny Fort story to share. This year, it wasn't a Fort story (well, kind of, indirectly)...it was a story about their son, Luke. I think Luke is 2 now. Pauly said whenever he sees a butterfly, he tells Luke to say "HI FORT!" And then he said "I can't wait til he gets older so I can tell him about Fort!"
There were lots of her "old" rugby friends there - but a lot more ruggers that we had never met. I love that her legacy is continuing and more people are getting to know her. How sad for them that they never got to know her personally...
Donny and Crazy Legs (Kelly)...I think the story goes that she played on Fort's team, and she has really long legs and is pretty fast...and Fort said "Man Kelly, you had CRAZY LEGS"...and it stuck.
Donny & Royal. He was a recipient of the Melissa "Fort" Mclaughin Kelts Spirit Award.
Hula and Molly - winners of one of the "mystery boxes"
Donny with Karen, Netti's mom. (There were a few parents that went to a lot of the Kelts matches - Karen, Kyra's mom and dad - Dave and Edie and us. No wonder their kids are amazing.
They are just like their parents....
Sam Bates - another raffle winner - and a former teammate of Fort's.
That's Kat in the background - and I had to get this guy's picture because he was wearing a FORT shirt.
I forget his "real" name. But his nickname is UGLY. I have no idea why he would have that name...
Me and Kat...another good friend of Forts. Her dad makes all the ribbons for the fundraiser. She asked him before this fundraiser if he wanted to make the ribbons again. He said "I don't WANT to make them. But I will until they find a cure for Breast Cancer!" THANKS Dad!!!!!
We won one of the "mystery boxes" too!
Netti posted yesterday on the Kelts website the final tally of last weeks fundraiser....
over $6200 was raised - half will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and half will go to Melissa's Scholarship fund.
To date, through all ten fundraisers, the Kelts have raised a whopping $48,000.00!!!!!!!!!!!!
Over $10,000 has gone to Melissa's Scholarship.
We are so happy and honored to be part of such an amazing family.
And speaking of Fort's scholarship - I got a message from KJ, another of Melissa's former rugby teammates. She is now coaching rugby at Wright State University. The other day, she wore a FORT shirt to practice. One of her new players asked if she knew Fort. I'm guessing that KJ told her about her friendship with Melissa. Her new player just happens to be one of the recipients of Melissa's Scholarship!!!
Melanie West received the scholarship in 2012. She is attending WSU studying Mechanical Engineering. I have to admit, and I told KJ this....I wouldn't have thought that Melanie would be a rugby player...but KJ said "she's learning the game and she's FAST".
This made US happy, and I know Fort would be thrilled.
Her legacy continues.