Thursday, December 31, 2015

A letter to Melissa

The other day when I woke up I was thinking about what I would write for the seventh anniversary.  The more I thought about it, I thought it was time to write a letter to Melissa. (I've done that before - in a personal message on FB.  Just to her).  Later that day I had a message from Angie, her best friend from high school...and what do you know...Angie had the same idea.  It is beautiful, and says so much of what I would say.  Donny wanted me to share it on the blog.    My post will be in the next day or two.

A letter to Melissa....

Year 7
I'm pretty reflective all year long, but especially in the month of least since you left us.

I remember distinctly about 9 years ago when we sat side by side on the bleachers watching a Fairmont High School volleyball game.  There were 2 little old women in the stands sitting together and you said "That will be us someday."  I realized when you said it that there was a good chance we'd never get to be those little old ladies...but oh how I wish that would have come true.  Most say that with time the pain gets easier, but I think that you just get more used to it.  The further away we get from you being gone the more it seems to hurt.  I'll get to all the positive things I've learned in a minute, but just let me get through the part where I tell you why it's hard.  Because as much as I know that there is far more to be grateful for than sad over, there is still a blaring reality to the hole that's been left in your absence.  I don't want you to eternally be 30.  I want you to get old with me and talk about wrinkles and gray hairs and the aching body parts.  But even if we can't be immortal, I know our friendship is.

It's the simplest of things I miss the most...picking up the phone to call you about the most random of stories or for your advice.  Your voice when you'd answer and just say "What's up?"  The way you'd get distracted during a phone call and just plain ignore me.  When I think of a memory and just want to call you and say "Remember when?"  I miss your stories the most.  The ones I'd get to hear first...then I'd hear you re-tell them a few times...getting a little grander and more expansive each time.

I have lots of friends, some I've even made since you left...but no one will ever hold a candle to you.  You were my female equivalent to a husband.  We had all kinds of ridiculousness but loved each other in spite of it ...  and yes, I take full responsibility for being the bigger drama queen.  What I wouldn't give though to have you here to argue about something pointless?  You know, like tampons. This isn't a reflection nohow I feel about any other relationship in my life, it's just to be noted that you  were it for me.  The one that only comes once in a lifetime.  Every time I think about you it resonates that you were one of a kind.  There's no one in the world like you.

Lots of amazing things have happened since you super, mind-blowingly amazing.  I have a son, Bennett.  You would adore him.  His strong-will.  His social skills.  His chubby cheeks and stomping feet and a toothless smile that will light up a room.  He's a show stopper and a wrecking ball and he's all mine.  I want to share him with you.  I imagine the two of you in a room and I can't imagine anything but laughter and happiness because you would adore his spirit and he would love your energy.  It's so hard to explain you to him in are not the type of person who can easily be explained.  You had to be known for a person to really understand who you were.

I met my match in a man, Allen.  Unconventional circumstances, but unlike any love I've ever know. He makes me feel whole, like I've found the piece I was missing.  We get each other.  We have the same goals.  We have adventures.  There is chaos.  He is great with Bennett.   But we are happy and it is easy.  There's no challenge too great if we work through it together.  You would like him.  He's my best friend now... not the same as you, but he's good at trying to understand my loss of you and just lets me cry and tell stories about you.  I think he understands how special you were and how much of me is tied to you.  You have no idea how much I value that.  If someone can't try to understand who you were and how much you meant, they can never understand me completely.

My biggest to forget.  I think for each year that passes that somehow I'm getting closer to losing memories or forgetting the little things about you that drove me crazy and that I adored.  I don't want your story to be any less strong from the day after you died to 20 years from now.  I can't comprehend that 7 years have passed.  That any of us have actually kept on living without you here.  But we have.  Because that is just how life works.

As for the good, there is so much.  I know you already know all of these things I'm telling you but it helps me to write it down.  It makes me feel it more.  I'm so grateful for all that your life and death have taught me.  You taught me that attitude and perspective make all the difference in the outcome.  You taught me that the little things that stress us out, are just that.  Little.  I see the bigger picture so much better now.  I am quick to apologize and don't hang on to anger.  Life is too short for that.  You've taught me that now is the time to be living.  Right now.   Since I lost you, I haven't been least not in a way that I once was.  I believe I will never find that low place again because I paid attention.  I learned from you. I know you were mad, but I hope you see that I'm sorry and somehow it all turned out okay and I'll never be back there again.  I promise that.  My life was forever changed because you were a part of it.  You are with me every single day and so many of my choices comes from what I've learned from the way you lived.  I know I was lucky to have had you.  I just selfishly wish I had gotten more time and that we could be those old ladies at the volleyball game.  I'd give just about anything for an hour of your time just to catch up.  But I know that would never be enough.  There is a hole in me that will never be filled but I've always been at peace with why it happened this way and all that you gave to so many of us.  In the end, I'm just grateful to have had you by my side even if only for a short while.

Yesterday, I went to the Fortener family Christmas.  It's so nice to be invited to your family functions still.   Your mom told me, "You're the closest we can get to having Melissa there."  That's an honor.  I'm so thankful for your Mom, we have both needed each other many times and we use one another as our substitute for you.  I know she will never let me forget a thing.  She gave me a mug with your picture on it.  I treasure it.  It says Best Friends Forever...and I know that's what we will always be.
I miss you in the deepest way a person can be missed.

I couldn't have said it better.

Thank you Angie, for being such a good friend to Melissa.  Then AND now.  We love you.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


This time of year is not easy.

It starts with the Monday before Thanksgiving.  That's when Melissa went into the hospital for the final time.

When Melissa was first diagnosed, I was able to go to almost all of her appointments.  I really don't think I missed any.  I took a spiral notebook to every appointment to take notes...doctors names, phone numbers, medications, nurses names.  You name it, it was in the notebook.  Looking back, they were really a diary of the last month of her life.

When I am up to it, I go through the notebooks - even wrote down things she said and did.  I wanted to remember everything.

The last six Christmases were difficult.  Always put a small tree up and a few other decorations.  For the boys.  It took four Christmases to get the stockings out.  Five Christmases to look at ornaments, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas shows.

This Christmas has been different.  Seven years coming up January 3.  My doctor, God love her, said "you don't have to suffer during the holidays.  You can start on an antidepressant in October and take it until March.  Just to get through the roughest months."  So I called in October, when I started spiraling.  I can feel it coming.

Not sure if I really like what it does to me...kind of makes me emotionless.  No ups.  No downs.  Just level.  And able to get through the roughest couple months of year for me.

This is not the first time I've gone through this.  In the past, holidays were overwhelming for me...all brought on by ... ME.  Decorate, bake, Christmas cards, buy gifts, wrap gifts and work full time.  I was crazy.  And depressed.  And I would yell.  And scream.  Literally.  Finally was able to get on an antidepressant and life was good.  I remember Melissa asking "Mom.  Why are you not yelling this year?...OH  I're on drugs, aren't you????"  It was a good Christmas.

And this last month has not been bad.  I've gotten more done this year than in the last eight years.  And everything is done.  And it's still five days till Christmas.  

Today, Donny went through pictures - I'm making a slide show for the Fortener Christmas (which for the first time ever we've rented a hall - the family is getting too big for anyone's house!)

Going through pictures was pretty emotional today...but I accomplished the one thing I set out to do today.  The slideshow is ready.  Came across some pictures I thought I'd share here.  A blast from the

This is Melissa with her cousins Jessica and Becky, from my side of the family.  She was probably about 3 here.  

Melissa, Nick and Melissa's best friend from high school, Angie.

Christmas family picture.  She was probably in college here.  Just keeps getting prettier...

The only three girl cousins on the Fortener side (out of 14).  Stephanie, Kim, Melissa.

A typical Fort expression...disgusted? frustrated? angry?  You never knew...

Melissa bought this shirt for Mere for Christmas.  Mere is a hugger.  Just like Nick.  Melissa, not so when Mere came into the family, she needed to get used to those hugs.  Melissa was really good about finding perfect gifts for everyone.  This was PERFECT for Mere.

This photo was taken in September.  We went to Cracker Barrell and found this Santa Suit.  Had to get it for Drew.  It was a 12 month and barely fit him!  (he was 5 months old at the time).  Looking at these pictures is hard....this was only three months before she passed away.  She looks so healthy here...How could she go downhill so fast....

The pictures above and below were taken at Hospice.  Tried to get a family photo.  She looked pretty good here. Up, dressed, walking around.  How could she possibly be in Hospice????

Wearing one of her many Fairmont t-shirts.  Every coach from every sport at Fairmont gave her a t-shirt.  She wanted her dad to ask our friend (Jonnie) who worked in the Athletic office if she could get a couple Fairmont shirts when she was in the hospital.  She hated the hospital gowns.  All those shirts were made into a quilt for the fundraiser.  One of her good friends from high school, Tracy, won the quilt.  This shirt is on the quilt!

Enjoying a visit from Drew.  She loved his visits.  Always brought a smile to her face.  And that blanket?  It was her favorite.  Still keep it on the couch.  Year round.  Always will.

She finally got to come home from Hospice.  December 19.  The day we brought her home (a Friday) She told me she wanted to go to the girls basketball game at Fairmont.  I really didn't want her to go...too many germs.  What in the world was I thinking?  She wasn't going to get any sicker than she already was.  Plus, when the doctor came in, she said "Can I go to a basketball game?"  The doctor looked at me and said "She can do anything she wants to do.  Just needs to take her oxygen."  I got that "I told you so" look.  So we were going to take her.  But a friend came to visit the next morning, and she slept the rest of the day.  It was the one thing she wanted to do, and we never got to do it. That's why Donny and I started going to the girls games.  It was the only thing I could do in the winter for the longest time...several years as a matter of fact.  That year, Tim Cogan, the girls coach at Fairmont, started the Melissa Fortener McLaughlin B Positive Spirit Award for the girls basketball program.  Cassie Sant won the award that year. She went on to play for UD, then professional basketball overseas.  We still follow the Firebirds and the girls basketball program has taken over the FORT 5K.  Melissa would love that.

A visit from Aunt Sue (her Godmother) and Grandpa.  At the time, I thought she looked good.  When I look at the pictures now, I realize how thin she had gotten.  Just couldn't see it then. But she always had a smile on her face.

A friend of mine from Moraine Meadows asked her mom to come over to take pictures.
Our last family pictures.  Treasures. (Thanks Linda!)
She was getting ready - putting on makeup. I love this picture.

Last complete family picture.  

Someone said to her (about this picture) "You look like your mom!"
She said "Finally".
It took her her entire life, but she finally looked like me. She WANTED to look like me. Never would I have imagined she would feel that way.  I miss her so much....I love this picture....

Christmas morning.  Happy with her gifts.  It was a simple Christmas.  Just a few gifts (didn't have time to shop, wrap or bake that year)and just us.  She said "This is my best Christmas ever."
Mine too.

Fast forward seven years....

Nick & Max at his Kindergarten Christmas Program

Max & Pamma

Took the boys to see Santa

Max and Andrew are both readers.  Melissa was too when she was this age.  She kind of got away from her love of reading when she got to middle school and HAD to read.  Nick was a good reader, just didn't like to read (as I remember!)  Being a retired librarian...nothing makes me happier!!!

I can't believe it's been seven years.  How can that be possible?  How can it be that I haven't heard her voice, hugged her, seen her in seven years?  So much has happened, but it feels like yesterday.

I miss her so much.  Every single day.  Over 2500 days.  

She was my best friend.  My confidant.  My beautiful daughter.  I feel so blessed that she called me Mom.  

All that's left are memories.  

Make some memories with the ones you love.  Take pictures.  Write things down.  Enjoy the holidays.    

I think this Christmas will be a good one.  I'm trying anyway.  And always remembering Melissa...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Meeting Emily

I've "known" Emily for almost seven years.  She friended me on Facebook six days after Melissa passed away.

I received a beautiful message from Emily.  She was extending her sympathy for our loss...and also introducing herself.

She first got to know Melissa through the article she wrote for the Cincinnati Weekly.  She was a genetics counselor, working as a sales rep for the lab that did the BRCA testing.  She happened to come across the article when she was in an oncologists office in Cincinnati.  Melissa's blog address was at the end of the article.  That's when Emily started reading the blog.  Then she realized that they had something in common...she went to OU too!  And they had mutual friends, although they didn't know each other.

Emily sent me messages occasionally over the last seven years.  When I moved dad into assisted living, I posted about it on the blog.  Got another message from Emily - she and her husband had just moved to Melbourne!

I had been there several times, but never had the chance to call Emily.  Always busy with dad.

We were going to wait and surprise dad on Monday morning when we picked him up for his procedure.  I just didn't want to wait - we were only going to be there for a week and I wanted to see him every day.  So right after we checked into our hotel, we went to his place.  We knew he would be at dinner, which was perfect.  We went up to his floor and sat in the lobby outside his room.  He spends a lot more time at dinner than I realized.  He goes to dinner at 4:30 - thought we'd only have to wait 10-15 minutes (got there at 5).  He finally got off the elevator at 6:30....and walked right past us!
As soon as he got into his room, I called him.  When I heard his phone ringing, I knocked on his door.  He answered the phone saying "hold on a minute, someone's at the door".  When he opened it, he had the BIGGEST smile on his face.  He was SO happy to see us.

All that worrying for nothing.  I was sure the first thing he would say was "did you bring my car?".  But it wasn't.  We talked for half an hour before he asked about the car.  It went a lot better than I expected.

We didn't stay too long because we had to get up early the next morning.  On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Coasters Bar & Grill - the place Rob wanted to take dad. (Rob helped us find dad's assisted living place).  After I ordered, I sent Rob a message, thanking him for helping us find Victoria Landing, how they take such good care of dad and how much he loves it.  I hit "send" and literally seconds later he was behind me! He was there and we didn't see him.  I posted the story and the picture on FB.

One of the responses to the post was from Emily.  She and her husband were there that night too!!!!   Since I had never met Emily, I wouldn't have known her if she was sitting next to us.  I sent her a message and we decided to meet for breakfast.  

Wow.  Not only did Melissa have wonderful friends, she attracted wonderful people too...that I have the pleasure to get to know now.  Melissa would love Emily.  She's a lot like her.  I don't think I told Emily that in the almost two hours we spent together with her youngest son, Ryan.  We had a lot to talk about.    Found out that Emily knows Dr. Romer (in fact had been in Dr. Romer's office - kind of wonder if Melissa was ever there when Emily was there!) and one of her surgeons.  Small world keeps getting smaller.

I'm so glad that we finally got to meet.  She said "I have two friends on Facebook that I've never met. You were one of them."  So glad we changed that!

Meeting Emily was one of the highlights of the week with dad.  Spending time with him and his friends and my cousins from Utah & Texas - and cousins from Dayton who happened to be in Florida made the trip even better.  And exhausting.

Nick just happened to be in San Diego on business while we were in Florida.  He went to see the Midway (the aircraft carrier dad served on in the Navy).  He Facetimed us when he was walking onto the ship - it was really cool.  Dad loved it!

We got to spend some time with dad at one of the activities they have - they called it Karaoke, but it was more of a sing-along.  Although when we walked in the room, dad was front and center with the microphone in his hand!  The activities director very gently took it out of dad's hands so they could hear everyone instead of just dad!  

It was a great visit. And it ended on a good note too...I had a visit from Melissa the last night we were there!  Interesting thing, I got a message from her friend Misti that she had a visit from Melissa the same night!  She must have needed to see us as much as we needed to see her.  

Had lots to catch up on when I got home.  Lots of errands on Monday, the bank was one.  Wasn't sure if what I needed to do could be done at the counter or if I needed to talk to someone in the office.  So I stuck my head in the office door and ask if she could help me.  She invited me in and when I sat down, I realized she looked familiar - so I said that.  She said "it's because I was friends with Melissa".  She was Melissa's best friend in grade school.  Lived down the street.  I haven't seen her probably since Melissa was in fifth grade.  Always good to run into friends of Melissa's.  


And, as always, like Fort did, I end with Andrew. 

Before we left, we got to go to Andrew's last football game.  It was against the Firebirds.  Semi-finals.  They lost in OT.  Great way to start the trip too.

And it just keeps getting busier...went to OSU vs. U CONN women's basketball game last night, Versailles tonight for a basketball game and meet a friend and his wife for drinks, Thomas Windlow on Friday (I'll post after that) and a wedding this weekend.  

Probably good for me to stay busy this time of year.  If I stop to think about the holidays for even a minute...

Love you miss you Melissa.  Every minute of every day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fun with Dad

I feel like I'm living in a movie.  Like Nebraska.

If you've never seen it, it's about an elderly man who gets tons of mail telling him he's won a million dollars.  The movie is funny and sad and true.  It didn't take place in a nursing home, but it could have.  Maybe he should have been in a nursing home where he might be protected from what I think is elder abuse.

Ok, before I start this story, I want to say that I am privileged to know many wonderful nurses.  And I know this is part of their job...because if they didn't give us all this information and something happened...just don't want to go there.  If we can't laugh about these things (after the fact) we would go crazy.  So on with the story...

My dad lives in a wonderful assisted living facility.  My sister Donna and I came down to visit since he was having a procedure that his doctor described as "complicated".  It was outpatient, and I'm wondering why they don't keep people at least 24 hours - since we were told "the first 24 hours are critical.  "Here is what you need to do when you get him home."

Really?  Critical and we (who have no medical knowledge OR training) are supposed to make sure that we know what to do if he starts bleeding.  "He can bleed to death in less than 5 minutes.  Here's how you stop the bleeding.  Press down on the bleed with one hand, press your fist on that hand and call 911" I even asked why they don't keep them - after they scared the shit out of both of us - Oh.  "Because it only happens in 1 out of 100,000 cases."

I realize that even with pharmaceuticals they have to list every side effect even if only one person had that side effect.  It's crazy.  I remember when Melissa would be on a new chemo.  The doctor would hand her a brochure that had information about the meds.  It also listed all the side effects (at least a full page of side effects usually).  She would hand it to me.  "Here.  If I read it, I will get all the side effects!"  If she got a head ache, a rash, or any kind of ache or pain, I could tell her - "it's ok.  It's one of the side effects".

That's why they scared the shit out of us.  Because dad might be the 1 in 100,000.
But I'm getting off the subject here.

This story is about my dad and his friends where he lives.  It is a WONDERFUL Assisted Living  place. And there is LOTS of material for a great movie.

It started with dad's procedure.  When it was done - he was in recovery for four hours.  That's when the nurse gave us the "here's what you need to do when you get him home" speech.  And oh.  By the way.  "Can you spend the night with him? You really don't want to leave him alone tonight".  He shouldn't walk very far.  He can't cross his legs.  Or his feet.  He can't sit in his recliner.  He can't bend at the waist.  If he does "it could break loose and he could bleed to death in less than five minutes" (that's what we kept hearing.  maybe she only said it once, but that's all I was hearing)
He has to sit in a hard back chair (he doesn't have one)  "How about a firm couch?"  "Ok".

Ok.  We are visiting because he is having this procedure.  We'll spend the night.  She hands us several pages of paperwork and helps dad get dressed.  I get his clothes out of the closet give her his shoes - which right away he picks his foot up to put his shoes on and she yells "NO. Put your foot down.  You can't lift your foot.  We don't want you to bleed! I will pick your foot up."  So she puts his shoes on.  Then his shorts.  Then shirt.

We are scared to death to even take him in the car.  Will a bump cause him to bleed?  Will the seatbelt cause him to bleed?  What if he coughs?  and oh my god, what if he has to poop?  "Don't bear down" How do you NOT bear down when you are pooping?  (I am laughing about this now, but it was NOT funny yesterday!)  I pray that he doesn't have to have a bowel movement in the next 24 hours.

Ok.  So we head to the hotel (the nice hotel on the beach with a balcony where we can see the sunrise every morning that we will be paying for even though we won't be staying there one night) to pick up our something to wear, our toothbrushes and some reading material.   They are gracious enough to loan us blankets and pillows since dad doesn't have any extras in his little apartment (which is beautiful by the way!)

We get to his place, they have a wheelchair waiting for him.   The nurse, the CNA, some of his friends welcome him.  They are WONDERFUL there.  We get him in the wheelchair...ok, he PLOPS down in the wheelchair.  I panic - OMG - look for blood....whew.  No blood. He's ok.  Start heading toward the elevator to his room, the CNA says "Where is his pendant?" (that's like a life alert)  "It's going off.  Where is it?"

I don't know.  Dad says "The nurse put it in my shoe when she took my clothes off  and put it in the closet at the doctors office.  Did you get it?"
"No dad. I didn't get it."
Did you get it Donna?

So we head up to the room.  His pendant is still going off at the nurses station.  It only works at his assisted living place.  It has to be here somewhere.  They take him up to his room.  It's STILL going off.

Alright.  I'll go down to my car. Maybe it fell out of his pocket. If he put it in his pocket. He forgets things sometimes.  I'll bet he put it in his pocket and he dropped it somewhere.  I head down to the lobby - search the lobby.  Not there.  Search my car.  Not there.  Where the hell is it???? It's got to be here somewhere!

I go back up to the room.  Donna says "I called the doctors office.  They are closed.  We have to call in the morning."

The thing is STILL going off.  It's here somewhere.

We are stymied.

Then I remember.  When we were walking out of the doctors office, dad says "My heel hurts.  Why would my heel hurt?"

"I don't know dad.  I don't know why this procedure would affect your FEET."

I go over to dad.  "Dad.  Let me look in your shoe."

And whadda ya know... there it is.  In his shoe.

Mystery solved.

And that was just the beginning.

Another side note.  Melissa started walking when she was around 11 months old.  Back then, you bought your babies hard soled white shoes (anyone remember this?) when they started walking.  Donny was putting Melissa's shoes, she kept crying saying "Cockadoodle!  Cockadoodle!"  as he was struggling to get her foot in the shoe.  Finally he pulled the shoe off and out fell the rooster from the Fisher Price Farm set - small enough to fit in a tiny shoe....History repeats itself.

ROUTINES & Hearing Aides

As we get older, we all get into certain routines.  My morning routine is a cup of coffee, read the paper, take a walk.

I think routines help our memory.  They give us something to look forward to.

Whenever I call dad and I ask him what he's doing, he always says "Let's see.  It's Monday.  Today I have..." whatever.  It's the same every week.  Mondays are trips to the grocery.  Tuesdays are doctors appointments.  Wednesday's are Mass and Communion in the morning and Happy Hour at 4.

He has something to look forward to every day.  When he goes to the dining room for meals, he sits with the same three guys.  Four branches of the service are represented, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines.  They have something in common.

When Donny and I visited in June, we had dinner with dad and had the pleasure of meeting all of them at dinner.  As soon as we sat down, the question was directed to me "Where is Irv's car?  We need transportation."  (I brought dad's car home after we moved him into Assisted Living because he wasn't released to drive).  Not sure, but I think they must be planning an escape...although I don't know why.  I love where they live.  A view of the Indian River, a nice dining room with a chef, transportation to appointments and the grocery, entertainment, they do their laundry, clean their apartments, give them showers...I want to live there!

Another routine - sitting at the same table, same seat at every meal.  He gets there half an hour early to get HIS table.  And save seats for his buddies.  We got there for lunch yesterday, we were late, because he was sleeping and we didn't want to wake him up.  Someone was sitting at his table.  That didn't go over very well.  But we got the table right next to it.  After the people who were sitting there left, one of his buddies came in and sat at their table.  Dad looks at us and in a VERY loud voice says "his daughter must weigh 300 pounds. She can't even fit in the chair!"  Loud enough  that everyone in the place could hear him.  But no one seemed to notice.  Maybe none of them wear their hearing aides.  Maybe they just don't care.

There were five women sitting at another table next to us.  One of the women leaned over and said to us "your dad helped me with Wii bowling.  I threw three strikes after he helped me".  Then one of the other women got up, walked by dad and said "She was flirting with you".  Loud.  Dad didn't even react.  I'm sure he didn't hear her.

Donna was walking down the hall and two men were ahead of her.  The one right in front of her said to the guy in front of him "why are you walking so slow?  You got a load in your pants?"  No reaction.

That's what I am looking forward to when I get older.   You can say what you want because no one will hear you.

We are having such a good time with dad.  It's always hard to leave him.  Still have a big day ahead of us - my cousins from Utah, Texas and southern Florida will be visiting tomorrow.  I know it will be good for dad to see all of them.  A mini family reunion.

But I also know as good as it will be to see everyone, when we go, he will go back to his routines.  He isn't even asking about his car much anymore.  He is settling in.  And nothing makes me happier.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Another visit from Fort!

Not to me this time...

This visit came to Paula, Nick's best friend's mom.  She knew Melissa very well.  Paula also lost a sister, and Paula is a believer in communicating with lost loved ones too.

We haven't seen Paula in a long time until recently - her granddaughter, Emily (Mike's daughter) is a cheerleader for Andrew's team.  So we've seen her at a couple of games.  But she hasn't been to our house in probably 20 years, and did not know about the importance of butterflies to us.

A couple of weeks ago, one of her sisters was cleaning out a house of a hoarder.  She gave a lot of things to Paula, which she would go through and either keep, pitch or give to AmVets.  She was putting this box on the pile for AmVets, and she suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that Melissa was there.  Then she heard Melissa say "give it to my mom.  she'll want it."  Paula did not tell her husband, her son Mike or anyone.  She really felt like they would all think she was crazy.  But she knew she wanted to get it to me - and she knew she would see us at the football game.

So she comes over, hands me this bag with a box in it and says "I have no idea why, but Melissa wanted me to give this to you..."

When I opened it, she said "Does it mean anything to you?"

Of course, if you've been to our house (and Paula hasn't for a LONG time) you would know that there are butterflys everywhere here.  Even in our backyard - several solar butterflies surrounding the backyard.  She had no idea.

I have no doubt that Melissa visited Paula and told her to give them to me...because Melissa would KNOW that I would know it was her!  

She comes through pretty strong still.  

We couldn't be happier....a great way to start an otherwise dreary Saturday - Andrew's team wins and we get a gift from Melissa.  

It's going to be a great weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October...a bittersweet month

Just checked in on FB and saw that Jen "Smitty", one of Fort's rugby coaches shared the link for the article from the Dayton Daily News that was written about Melissa for Breast Cancer Awareness month after she passed away.  Since the blog address is at the end of the article, thought it was time to post again.

I'm not as good about updating as Melissa was, but this is a good time to post - being Breast Cancer Awareness Month...JP's birthday month, and  my sister Sue's birthday (Melissa's Godmother).

October is bittersweet.  I love it and I hate it.

I love it  because I love the change of seasons.  I love the smells, the colors, football, rugby.

I hate it because I hate the change of seasons...another season without Melissa.  She loved the fall.  It was her favorite season.  She loved the colors, the smells, rugby.  She loved anything pumpkin, candles, food.  She should be here enjoying it with me.  I should be celebrating my grandson's birthday...and my sister's birthday.  WITH them.

But my sadness doesn't keep me from enjoying life.  I keep that sadness inside (although I do share a fair amount of articles on losing a child, which might lead some to believe that's all I think about).  Don't get me wrong.  I DO think about her every day.  After almost seven years, I smile more about her life.  I try not to think about her death.

I love that her friends still remember.  The Kelts still have the annual Breast Cancer fundraiser.

Curt, ?, John

I love that the green FORT shirt is still out there!

Kat (former teammate of Fort's), Donny, Chris, me

me & Angie (former teammate of Fort's)

Donny & (forget his name :(  - he's a new Kelt - 2009.  Never knew Fort, but knows all about her!

Me & Melissa at a Kelt's fundraiser.  This was the week before we did the 3 Day, 60 mile walk in Atlanta!

Melissa & Pauly - he organized the first fundraisers.
Donny, Netti (former teammate of Forts-organized the most recent fundraisers!) and me

I love that her friends still share her story - Jen "Smitty" shared the article on Facebook today.  Then one of her best friends from high school - Josh - shared it too.

Melissa & Josh 

Her nephews, Andrew & Max remember her too.  They made posters about Aunt Fort for the Sprinboro Panther's Breast Cancer Awareness Walk...

If you read the article I posted "The Seven Things I've Learned Since the Loss of My Child".
# 7 was about how we enjoy life even more now because we understand how short life is.  
You might not think that, but Donny & I DO find enjoyment in life - with our grandsons, Nick & Mere, traveling, and with old friends who hung with us and new friends we've found through Compassionate Friends.  Life is different.  We struggle every day with the fact that our daughter is not here (and WE WILL see her again someday-we look forward to THAT!), but we are living our life the best we can.  I struggle with the fact that I don't have my daughter to talk call when I want to talk to go on Mother Daughter weekends like we used to.  I MISS HER.  And I also remember that I have my son to talk to, and spend time with, which we do daily.  

We travel-just went to Myrtle Beach for five days - Donny was in a softball tournament.

Spend time with my grandsons - (every time I have them, we go on a field trip!)

I think Melissa would be proud.  She would be proud of her nephews.  She would be proud of her brother.  She would be proud of her friends... We all find a way to keep living and remember her in the process.  I think she would be proud of me & her dad too.  It's hard to live this life when all you want to do is remember, but you have to live on.  There is no other choice.  

One more thing, I want to remember my sister Sue.  Tomorrow would be her 55th birthday.  She was Melissa's Godmother.  I miss her every day too - she was my rock after Melissa died.  She called me EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I miss that too.  

Happy Birthday Sue.  You will always be remembered!  I LOVE YOU!

Sue & Melissa 

Sue on her 50th birthday.

Melissa & Aunt Sue

Melissa with Sue at her college graduation

Me & Sue.  All smiles.

Melissa - all smiles

Had to add this one too - Mere, Melissa & me.  Melissa LOVED Mere.  That's why Nick married her. I'm not kidding.  Melissa had to give her approval. Oh the stories I can tell about THAT.


One more thing I want to add here.  If you haven't had your shingles vaccine, get it.  Even before you are 60.  One in three people will get shingles.  I am one in three.  Found out two days before we went to Myrtle Beach that I have them.  The rash came the day after I found out - fortunately my doctor wrote me a prescription for an anti-viral med.  That helped with the rash, but not the pain.  It is nerve pain...hard to describe, but VERY painful.  Finally got a pain med to help me sleep.  I'm functioning, but with a lot of pain.

As soon as I'm over this, I'm getting the vaccine - because you can get it again.  That is NOT happening if I have anything to do with it!  

Take care of yourself, enjoy every minute of every day, and get the shingles vaccine!

Love you, miss you Fort.  Every minute of every day.