Sunday, July 13, 2008

A tear jerker about my son "WolverineNick"

This is probably one of the most difficult letters I've ever had to write to
family and friends. Our whole family is reeling and in shock with the news
that our young nephew, Nicholas, did not survive his heart surgery on
Friday, July 11th. By the time you receive this letter, his life support
systems will likely have been removed. Although the heart surgery itself
went well, other, unforeseen problems, developed resulting in brain
seizures which effectively destroyed his brain before they could be brought
under control. He was such a young man. Only recently Nick celebrated his
twentieth birthday.

Nicholas's life was a miracle to begin with. He was born with a congenital
heart condition which prevented him from doing the things most children do
before their second birthday. In Nick's case, all his energy had to be spent
in merely surviving. Once he reached the age of two, doctors were able to
perform surgery to repair his damaged heart. From that time on, life for
Nick was a series of struggles as he attempted
to 'catch-up'. Because of the distance between our families, our memories of
Nicholas are like snapshots taken at various stages of his life. We didn't
see him often, but each time he left an impression. We first met Nick in
person at a family reunion in Rockglen when he was three or four. At that
time he was wholly involved in the Ninja Turtle culture, popular at that
time in the cartoon world. He spent much of his time slashing his arms about
and performing other dangerous Kung Fu moves to overcome the 'bad guys'. He
was well on the road through a very imaginative childhood.

However, Nick's life would never be easy. He had learning difficulties at
school since he was, in effect, two years behind everyone else
developmentally, having lost those first two years of his life. He started
school in special classes where he received a great deal of one to one
instruction and speech therapy. By the time he was in his early teens, with
guidance from his parents, special assistance from his teachers, and his own
hard work, he'd caught up with the rest of his group and was able to attend
regular classes. He was a bit of a card by then and his unique sense of
humour made it easy for him to entertain his classmates as the class clown.
When we met him at that stage of his life we really enjoyed his ability to
cut to the quick of a situation and come up with a quip, an impression or a
cutting remark. I think because he was such an observer of life he saw the
essence of many things. He wasn't inhibited by thoughts of any social faux
pas, so his humour was innocent and truly hilarious. I have a lasting
impression (and photograph) of Nick imitating a pig with an apple in its
mouth during a kitchen discussion the family was having at Barb's about why
people put out bowls of fruit on a table. Were they to be eaten? Were they
just decoration? Should a person actually take a piece and eat it or would
that ruin the intended effect? Around and around the comments flew. The next
thing I knew, there was Nick demonstrating exactly what the apples were for!
He was snorting and grunting like a pig and laughing so hard he could hardly
keep the apple in his mouth and his eyes were just dancing. Naturally, we
all ended up in stitches, and the mystery of the bowl of fruit was solved.

Another snapshot I have of Nick is the memory of him piloting the pontoon
boat -- loaded with family members -- on Lake Angeles. He had on a
captain's sailing cap and his grandfather had just turned the wheel over to
him. He took the responsibility very seriously, and proudly assumed command.
Gary never grabbed the wheel or turned it for him, he'd simply say, "A
little to the right, Nick," or "take it slowly here," and Nick responded. He
was a very competent skipper.

When I was talking to Barb (Cliff's sister and Nick's grandmother)
yesterday, I mentioned that Nick's life had been a miracle to begin with and
that perhaps we were only allowed one miracle in a lifetime. About two
minutes after we'd hung up, I realized how wrong I was. Nick's life began
and ended with miracles. In fact, a great many miracles will be a part of
his passing. You may recall that Nick was to have his heart surgery in March
but that it had to be postponed due to a rash of unknown origin. There was a
fear of infection. At that time, the doctors discussed with Nick and his
parents, Lisa and Bill, all the possible problems that might result from the
surgery and all the possible side-effects. One of the things they discussed
as a matter of course was the possibility of organ donation should the
surgery go wrong. About a month ago, Nick went to his parents and asked
them to take him to a notary so he could sign an organ donation form.
Because of that action, several new miracles will be able to take place
using Nick's gifts.

Nick grew up to be a gentle, quiet man with a quirky sense of humour and a
quick smile. About a month ago, he graduated from high school with his
regular class. When his name was called to come and receive his diploma he
walked across the stage, but unlike the other grads, he stopped and shook
hands with each of the dignitaries seated there - one by one. Unlike you and
I, Nick had to be taught the social graces. He didn't absorb them from
social cues around him. His stopping to recognize each of the people
present was a great achievement. He realized that this was a time of
importance and these people were putting themselves out for him and his
classmates. He thanked them all. I hope they remember Nick. I hope they
never trivialize what he did. It was Nick at his very best.

Today and the days ahead will be very difficult for all of his family. To
say that we know how they feel or what they're going through would be a
mistake. We don't know. We can only imagine the pain and the grief that each
of the family is feeling. Our thoughts are with them and our hopes that they
will find deep inside the strength and courage they need for the coming
weeks and months. We want you all to know how deeply we feel your loss and
much we share your sorrow. We send our love. We will all miss Nick.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this beautiful letter. Wolverine Bill linked it from our as he's been keeping the board up to date the past few days. It was shattering to hear the news today. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, and God Bless Nick.