Monday, January 2, 2017, death, friends-Eight Years Later

Usually the anticipation is much worse or much more exciting than the actual event.  Whatever the event happens to be.

In my case, the anticipation of going through another holiday without Melissa is grueling.  In the fall (her favorite season) the depression starts creeping in.  The smells, the sounds, everything about the fall reminds me of Melissa.  And Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Ugh.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we are making people aware of breast cancer...and I hope from  all the fundraising for breast cancer research they at least find something to make it a treatable disease (if not a cure!)

And then the holidays.  A couple of years ago, it did get a little easier.  I could put up a few decorations and listen to Christmas music.  I sent out Christmas cards.

This year has been harder than any in the last eight years.  My 60th birthday, our 40th anniversary, two things that Melissa would have been in charge of.  And anyone who knows me knows me knows the election put me over the edge.  I needed a break from Facebook (although I did go back today to post that I was updating the blog...seemed like I needed to today).  Too difficult to see COMPLETE families and all their happiness.

But I had no idea that this week, the one I dread the most, could get even worse.  I mean, what could be worse than only having memories of your beautiful daughter, and getting through the EIGHTH year without her?  Then two days later, what should be her 39th birthday?

God DOES give you more than you can handle.  I know that personally.

On Saturday, New Years Eve, I took the boys to a movie.  Our tradition is usually BW3, then they spend the night at our house.  Donny picked us up after the movie and when we got in the car I asked him if we were going right to BWs.  No, he said, I'm not sure you'll want to go.  Jennifer called.
One of my best friends from high school.  Her daughter Jody died unexpectedly.

This was from one of our Mother/Daughter weekends.  Karen, me, Jody & Melissa.

The only good thing is I know what to do in this situation.  I've had a lot of mentors (friends who have shown me how to do this).  I didn't go over that night, but did the next morning, then in the afternoon.  It helps me when I know I can help someone else.  In this case, I have a lot of experience.

So last night, I can't sleep.  I went to bed, but just couldn't get to sleep.  So I got up, came downstairs and sent Jennifer a text. It was 1:26 a.m.  Didn't get to sleep until around 3:30 a.m.

We had decided to celebrate Melissa's birthday Monday since we would all be home.  Our tradition for her birthday was China Cottage.  She loved it.  So we will always go for her birthday.  Nick, Mere and the boys and my nephew Matthew were meeting there at 11:30.  Andrew called at 10:30 and said his daddy and mommy weren't up yet - so I told him to wake them up - we were meeting in an hour.
So we get there right at 11:30 - Nick and Mere aren't there so I called Nick to make sure Andrew woke them answer.  So I called Mere. She answered and said they would be there soon...and she sounded upset.    While I was talking to her, another call was coming in from Murphy, NC.
our son in law John's parents were calling.  I thought for New Years.  We stay in touch during the holidays mostly.

I missed the call and when I called back John (our John's dad) answered...he sounded like he was crying, and gave the phone to Diana.

Our son in law John had died.  WTH????????? How????  What happened?????

I won't go into details here, because at this point I don't have all the facts.   But I will say that it was in the news in Cincinnati.

Nick & Mere had just gotten a call from Pauly.   Pauly, who runs the Kelts Breast Cancer Fundraiser every year.  He had heard from another Kelt.

How can this be happening????  How can this be real?????  How can this be true????
It's not possible.

But it did happen.  It is real.  It is true.  It is possible.

John was exactly the kind of guy Melissa was looking for...he was really smart and they could have an intelligent conversation.  That was really important to her.  And he loved her.
He loved her so much that he married her even though she had cancer.  Even though they had lost a child.  He took his wedding vows seriously..."til death do us part".  He was by her side until she took her last breath.

A few years later, John met and married someone.  He deserved to be happy more than anyone.  It was hard to see him alone (and I'll be honest, it was hard to see him with someone else too), but we just wanted him to be happy.  And he seemed to be, for awhile anyway.

Grieving is something you HAVE to do.  You can't hold it inside because it will eat you alive.

I know some people are probably tired of me talking about my daughter, but I will honestly say if I didn't I wouldn't be here.  I talk about her to keep her alive (in my mind anyway).  That's all that matters to me.  And I've made it 8 years dealing with her death this way.

I wish we would have kept in closer touch with John.  We just never knew.  Do we stay in touch, or is that too much?  We were new at this,  just didn't know what the boundaries were.

I wish we would have told him how much we loved him because he loved our daughter.  He was her "schmoopie".  They both had booming laughs.  And voices.  And John loved to cook.  He wouldn't let Melissa cook (unfortunately, her mom wasn't a very good cook).  But he loved her anyway.

Sometimes life is just too much.  To be honest, I have no idea how I get through each day.  Especially now.  Some nights I lay awake and my brain just won't stop....I miss my daughter, I worry about my dad, Nick, the boys, if Donny has a headache or he doesn't feel good I worry.  I can't lose them too.

This is not the life I planned.

I (we) raised our kids to be productive citizens. Kind.  Caring.  Loving. Healthy.  Active.  All the things that are important to living a good life.  We paid our bills on time.  We help others.  We vote.
We're active in the community (more so now since Melissa's been gone.)  I'm taking care of my dad.
I am by no means perfect, but I am also not a risk taker.  I was the kid who was always afraid of being caught.  Thats what kept me from being a risk taker.   And of course I have the Catholic guilt thing too.  Oh - and we did the marriage thing in the "right" order too - we got married.  We bought a house.  We had 2 kids.  They both graduated from high school and college.  They both got married and had good jobs.  I worked for 40 years before I retired.  Donny is still working.

What the hell.

In the last nine years I've lost my mom, my grandson, my daughter, two best friends, my sister and now my son in law.  Donny's lost his job twice.

What year is going to be the year that things go right?  I really beginning to believe that there is some kind of curse on us (me).  I'm really getting tired of constantly picking up the pieces.  I don't know if I can do this anymore.

I write that a lot in my journal.  "I can't do this any more"

And then I get a call from the mother of one of my former students (who completed suicide), and needs a friend to have coffee with; my friend who just lost HER daughter; my friend who lost her only daughter.

My husband needs me.  My son needs me.  My grandsons need me. My dad needs me... My Compassionate Friends need me (and boy do I need them)....

So where I'm going here is the only reason I'm here is I'm not here for me.  Helping is what heals me.
But, Oh, I am so tired.  How much can one person take?

We are finding comfort in the fact that John is with Melissa and JP.    The first time they have been together since October 19, 2003.   The day JP was born.  I remember that day so well.  The day I could do nothing to help my daughter.  I couldn't take her pain away.

It's just after midnight and I'm on the countdown to 5:18 a.m.  It will be 8 years at 5:18.
Right now I was sitting in a recliner on one side of Melissa's bed and John was in the recliner on the other side.  Didn't sleep much that night either.

Never in my worst nightmare would I believe that I would be sitting up 8 years later grieving the loss of her husband.  NEVER.

I am not afraid of death.  I don't fear death.  For me anyway.  Death will deliver me to my daughter and my grandson.

It giveth and it taketh away.

I thought I could get through this week quietly.  Reminisce and remember on January 3, celebrate her life on January 5.   Now I sit here wide awake.  There is no sleep in me.  How can I help my friend who just lost her daughter?  How can we help John's parents?  We KNOW what the future will be for them.    Death is natural, none of us are getting out of here alive.  But can't we just go in order of how we came in?  That would make it so much easier.

Fortunately, we have been blessed with some pretty amazing friends.  Your friends might not always be around...even for a couple of years.  But they show up (in a phone call, a text, a message) when you need them.  Our phone has been ringing off the hook today. Lots of messages of love.  It has really helped.  Sometimes we forget how many friends we have until something like this happens.  Thank you for the phone call, the message and for just being there.  I guess that's why we're ALL here.

So, this year, on the eighth anniversary, it's not just about Melissa.  It's about John & Melissa.

This is what I picture when John arrived in heaven...

and this...

John, lining up Melissa's medication.  He was so good to her...


He did love his food!

Happy last.

I just love him....

fun with the Kelts!

Breast Cancer Fundraiser

My COMPLETE family (well, almost.  Minus JP & Max)

Last family photo

can you tell how much fun they have? it was like this EVERY time!

love love love this one

John and Max (the wiggly one!)

WE LOVE YOU J MAC.  Give my pretty girl and JP a hug and a kiss for us.


The Cincinnati Kelts are an amazing organization.  An amazing family.
They have held 13 Annual Breast Cancer fundraisers in Melissa's memory.  They have raised over $50,000 for Melissa's scholarship fund and Breast Cancer Research. And they have been a second family to John and our family.

The Kelts are in the process of raising funds to buy land for a pitch (field).  If you would like to remember John, a donation to the Kelts in his memory would be greatly appreciated.

Checks can be made out to and mailed to:

The Cincinnati Kelts Foundation
222 Hilltop Lane
Wyoming, OH 45215

Thank you so much.

"Once a Kelt, Always a Kelt"


Karyn said...

When I read on FB yesterday that John had passed away I was in shock. Sending love and comfort to all who loved him. He was definitely Melissa's match and I know they are together again

Stedron said...

I'm so sorry Pam. I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain.

You're right about all those people needing you around, not to mention all the others who are just grateful to have you in their life.

You may not feel strong in times like these, but your strength is inspiring. Thank you for always being so open with your feelings.

Philly said...

No words, Pam, just know we love you so much.

Pam Fortener said...

Thank you Karyn, Chris & Philly. We are feeling the love, as I know John & Diana will. J Mac was truly loved by so many, just like Fort. We find comfort in know they are all together, for eternity.

Unknown said...

Sending many prayers, love, strength and support during this devastating, tragic time - Eifert/Allen family

Anonymous said...

Oh Pam...I am so very sorry. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending you a hug. Love and blessings, Sharon Kershner

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your continued heartache. My heart and head are at a loss as well. I knew both John and Melissa from nights with my family. I followed her story from the day I was told and read her amazing blogs on a regular basis. The strength and love they had for each other is amazing!! May both of their hearts and souls be finally at peace together as a family. Our thought's and prayers are with you all.