Where do I even start? This year was the hardest, worst, most emotional, heart wrenching year of my entire life. The beginning of this post is going to be very draining - nothing too positive and the cold harsh reality of life as it was, BUT I can inform you that there is more than sorrow in this blog. In fact, the whole point in this blog is quite that of the opposite. My hope is to shed some light and spark some fire for your life, regardless of your circumstances.
Here we go... As most [should] know, Olivia Helmer is my "best" friend. I put that lightly as she is so much more than just a "best" friend... She's a true sister to me and undoubtedly a huge part in my chosen family. The end of 2016 ended with Judi Helmer, Liv's mom who had been battling cancer our entire lives, becoming very sick.. It set the tone for 2017.
Fast forward 29 days... Wednesday, January 25th, I went in to get my wisdom teeth taken out. Surgery went great and I was back home. My granny was my "care taker." Like any other doctor appointment, she wasn't going to miss being around to take care of me. My mom went back to work and I was able to hang out with her and spend some quality time. Even though I was asleep half the time because of my meds they had me on, I'm forever grateful that she was able to be there and spend our last moments together. Thursday we spent most of the day lounging around again. She did my laundry like she always does (if you are family you can attest to this as you know you couldn't get granny to step away from a basket of laundry). We ate some [soft] foods together and prepared ourselves for the following week. I was scheduled to be admitted to the hospital that following Monday for my epilepsy.
As mentioned in previous posts, my granny was, without doubt, my rock. She went with to EVERY single doctor appointment I had. She drove me down to Roch almost monthly, if not more, and held my hand the entire way into the doctor's office. She gave me hope and brought me joy during some of the worst appointments and news I've had, and she has always been my shoulder to cry on when I couldn't stand the thought of living through another seizure. Every single time I've been in the hospital she was there. She always brought her game of yahtzee, snacks, and a new angel decoration for me. Rewind to my senior year in high school when I was transported to Children's from a seizure at a basketball game... I was first brought to the River Fall's hospital where it was determined I needed to be transported to Children's in St Paul. The seizure took place around 830/9pm and I didn't make it to Children's until around midnight or later. I was extremely out of it due to the anti-seizure drugs so I truthfully don't remember much of the next few days but what I do remember is most important... My granny. She was there as soon as they let her in the next morning with gramps by her side. Because of the medications they had pumping in my IV, I could barely open my eyes, eat, or walk. She helped me with ALL of that. I mean seriously, I could go on forever about everything she has done for me. The most memorable part of that stay was the glass angel she had brought for me and hung on my IV stand. It was there to take care of me, guide me, and keep me safe when she wasn't around. So, fast forward to January of 2017, all I could wait for was the snacks, countless yahtzee games, and my angel... My granny left our house later on Thursday to head home because her and gramps had an appointment that next morning. It was around 2pm that Friday when I was sitting on the couch. Mom was in the bathroom. Dad was on his way home. Rii was at school. I heard my mom's phone going off on the kitchen counter but didn't want to get off the couch to get it because I figured it wasn't an emergency. It rang again. I let it ring. The third ring finally got me up. It was the phone call that I will never be able to get out of my memory, the phone call that changed my life. It was my gramps calling to tell us that him and granny were in an accident. The adrenaline and shock of everything, thank goodness, made him so aware in this situation, out of it, but aware enough to make a phone call. I was able to get every detail I could out of him, and keep him on the phone long enough to be able to hear both the ambulance and helicopter arrive to realize how serious this was. I stayed on the phone with him as long as he could and when I lost him it was the most unreal feeling ever. In a panic, I called my cousin Dani to tell her what I knew and my mom and I raced out the door. We made it to Regions in St. Paul where my Uncle Brad and cousin, Nate, were waiting. I can't imagine everything happening in any other way.. As we walked into the room the staff led us to, Brad stood there with open arms. He gave me the biggest hug I have ever received and held me while he told me the worst news I had ever received. Granny was gone. The rest of the evening was filled with an unbelievable amount of tears and the most incredible family I could ever imagine having.
I say this without exaggeration when I tell you that there hasn't been a day since the accident that I haven't relived two specific moments. One - the phone call. I will never forget gramps' voice that day. The worst moment I have ever experienced. But number two, let me tell you, number two is one of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced.. Uncle Brad. When I felt like our worlds were completely falling apart, he gave me hope. His hug was what most people call a bearhug, or a deadlock, yet it felt so much more powerful. It had the body-crushing feeling that bordered on the fear of letting go. It squeezed out every last drop of air separating us. It felt like a cold winter day, snuggled up on the couch at granny and gramps', laying under granny's blanket while she lightly scratched your back or played with your hair. It felt like if we let go, somehow we would leave. It screamed "I'll never let go." I felt safe. In the most shattering moment of my life, I felt safe.
The next week was weird. I don’t know a better word to describe it than that. I barely worked. I felt somewhat emotionless at times. We were constantly surrounded by family planning details we never imagined we’d need to even think about so soon in life. Every night that we went back home was quiet. We didn’t know what to say to each other. If we talked we cried and we didn’t want to keep crying. So we sat, sometimes in unwavering silence, but other times in a soft peace. Peace where we could try to find our faith. Our faith that we knew wholeheartedly got us through the night of the accident, but also the same faith that we questioned ever since. Everything, everything was just weird.
We had the wake on the following Friday with the funeral following that next Sunday morning.
The next couple months were hard, but what was to come was even worse.. Let’s backtrack to December 26th, 2016. My best friend’s mother, Judi Helmer, had been battling cancer since the day I met her. That night it took a terrible turn for the worse .. With little hope and little faith, Judi did what she did best and fought her way through. She fought with everything she possibly could, with loving family and friends by her side every step of the way.
March 14th of 2017 Judi passed away. The week prior I had spent what I could with Liv. I was over with them when Scott asked me to learn a few things to help transfer Judi when he wasn’t available. If anyone knows Scott Helmer, you know he doesn’t take help. He takes on whatever life throws at him head on and doesn’t let fear scare him away. When he asked me for help, I truly realized how bad things were. Liv headed back to school that Sunday. The next morning I got a call at work from her. Her dad told her she needed to come home and we all knew but feared what was next. That day was my first day of softball practice for our 2017 season and softball was the last thing on my mind. I fought tears the entire day, waiting for the call, but most importantly, imagining what Liv and her family were going through. The next day, March 14th, I got the call during practice. It was one of the most earth shattering moments of my life, alongside losing my granny. As I ran outside in the halls, I thankfully caught our principal and super-intendant where they talked me through what to do next. They followed me back in the gym where I had all of the girls circle up so I could tell them the news. The tears were instant. I think once the girls saw me come back in with eyes full of tears they knew something wasn’t okay, but I don’t think they ever imagined the impact Judi made on their lives and the heart wrenching realization of losing her. I’m not sure anyone did.
If you are grieving, I urge you to read what this older man has to say about grief. He's lost friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, mentors, and a whole host of others.
“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter.’ I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it.Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see. As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph.Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive. In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out.But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself.And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”
Three months in and 2017 was already the worst year of my life, with two major shipwrecks. As twisted as it sounded, Liv and I would joke about 2017 and how it could seriously kiss our @$$ because we were so done with it. We lost two of the most influential people in our lives and we couldn’t quite understand, but all we could do was hang on to the wreckage.
The rest of 2017 didn’t disappoint with the amount of obstacles it threw our way. To think my seizures were over was only in my dreams, heck, to think they are right this very moment is a far fetched dream. My next seizure was in April of 2017 at Easter. This was the first one most of my non immediate family members had encountered. It was hard, but then again, none of them are easy. I have a really hard time thinking about my family and what they go through during any single seizure of mine. It kills me to wake up next to my mom, dad, or sister looking at the tears in their eyes or the worry on their face. It kills me inside. I also have a hard time talking about it with my family. I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to show the slightest ounce of pain or worry. They experience pain in a whole new light with me and their worry is never ending. With that being said, there’s no one else in the world I would want by my side than my loved ones.
On to the next several months, really up to today, I continued to have seizures. Not all too often, but often enough. One being at a volleyball practice - the one place I swore to myself that I could never let my athletes experience (like I have control right). Another being at my own coed volleyball league, both equally as embarrassing and frustrating.
However, with the pain and frustration these seizures bring me, they also bring me an incredible new perspective of life, every single time…. how amazing people truly can be. You. Me. Him. Her. Them. US…. Most importantly, Jesus. I don’t know why, after every seizure I have experienced and every fall I have taken in result, I’m still here today. I’m still working. I’m still driving. I’m still doing, for the majority, everything I want to do and more. I have a lot and can complain about a little. Jesus is the only explanation.
This past year has been hard as hell. It has truly put my faith to the test. But, it also has shown me some of the most beautiful things in life - family and friends. When granny passed, the outpouring of love from friends, family, and even the community of both Goodhue and Ellsworth was unreal. When Judi passed, the outpouring of love from anyone she had touched (which was everyone that knew her) was insane. And, after each and every seizure, I always woke up.
2017, you broke my heart. Nothing will mend those holes. But, you are the testament to the most memorable people in my life.
You are the testament to my life.
Heres to Granny and to Judi, you are so unbelievably missed but so incredibly loved and admired. & Here’s to whatever and whoever you have lost, may their break in your heart never be mended, but be the testament that you need in your life