Avalanche - Three years later
For the last 28 days I have been trying to figure out what I wanted to write for my February post and although I have a million ideas, I kept going back to this. For me, February is a month of reflection and I can’t help but be completely amazed with how far my life has come in the last three years.
If someone had told me three years ago that by this time I would be in a relationship with a man named Scott, a step mom of two and a mother of one I would have shook my head, used some curse words, and said that it would never happen because my life will never be okay again; nor do I want it to be.
At the beginning I didn’t want to overcome my loss, I didn’t want to get through my grief journey and I didn't want to imagine life being beautiful again. I didn’t want any of these things because it simply hurt too much to think about it, but now; now I understand why everyone wanted me to dig deep and do my best to come back to a life where I could dream again, find joy again, and experience love again.
I love this life and although my days are busy, exhausting, and sometimes stressful; I wouldn’t change a single thing. I have realized that every experience, the good, the bad, and the ugly, have a way of being exactly what it is meant to be; even when it doesn’t always make sense at the time.
So for this month I want to take you back. I want to take you back to the day I truly thought my life was over. I remember wishing I would go to sleep and never wake up and believing wholeheartedly that that was best for not only me but everyone who knew me as well. I want to take you back to the day that my digging deep began.
Always remember that no matter what it is you are going through right now; it doesn’t have to be over. I hesitate to say, things will get better , because I know that was the last thing I wanted to hear in the thick of things, but the truth is; things do get better and although you never “get over” what you have been through, you find a way to carry it and it remains a part of you forever.
-a sudden arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities.
Avalanche. A word that didn’t even own a place in my vocabulary until I met Nick. I loved the mountains, but I preferred them in the summer.
Now I sit here in a coffee shop in Golden, British Columbia reflecting on what happened that warm February day.
February 20, 2016.
I woke up and immediately looked at my phone.
“Good morning Gorgeous. Just headed to the staging area.”
Nick sent me that message at 09:13hrs. By the time I read it, I knew they would have probably gone up the mountain with no service, so I didn’t bother texting him back. A decision I would later regret. I got out of bed and made my coffee. My plan for the day was to finish packing for my trip. My Mom was headed to Calgary to pick me up and take me back to Medicine Hat. Julie and I would drive from Medicine Hat to Great Falls to catch our flight to Vegas.
I piled up my summer clothes and started organizing what I wanted to take, but something just felt off; just as it had the day before. I was packing for this trip, but I lacked excitement. It felt as though it wasn't going to happen. It was the strangest feeling I have yet to be able to explain.
I had a bath, drank some tea, and still couldn’t seem to shake it off.
Around noon I walked through my kitchen and said out loud to myself, “Why do I feel like this?”
1:05 PM I received a text message saying "call me ASAP."
The first thought to enter my mind was "this can’t be good."
The boys had been in an Avalanche, and the plan was to congregate in one place until we could get more information. I managed to stay calm on the phone, but I knew in the depths of my soul; Nick was not okay.
I called my Mom. She was already on her way to Calgary to pick me up which ended up being a blessing in disguise. I called Julie and told her the plans had changed, and something told me our trip would be canceled. I called Sarah. We prayed on the phone. I texted everyone I knew that would pray. I've never felt so helpless.
Why isn’t Nick calling me?
Why haven’t I heard from him?
Where is he?
My friend picked me up, and we made our way to the meeting place. As soon as we arrived, I just knew it wasn’t going to be okay. I remember hugging Heather. I remember seeing her face and just needing to be hugged. I texted my friend Scriv.
“Pray Scriv, just pray” I texted Sandy, “please pray.”
I went into the house, and we gathered in the living room. I felt like people were avoiding me. I couldn’t figure out why. I now know why, but at the time; I didn’t. I remember at one point being the only one pacing back and forth in the living room, wondering where everyone went. I was oblivious to the fact that the police were parked outside and that the others asked them to park down the street so I wouldn’t see them. I didn’t realize they were all having a moment in the front yard because they now knew that Nick was dead. I didn’t know that the police were unable to tell me yet because they hadn’t received confirmation from the RCMP.
That didn't stop my friends.
The next thing I remember is everyone gathering back inside.
Justin looked at me in a way I will never forget. He took hold of my arm and walked me over to the couch. I looked at him and remembered thinking what are you doing? I resisted sitting down. Justin locked eyes with me and said:
“Nick didn’t make it.”
Four words that would haunt me for the rest of my life. All I remember is looking at Heather and screaming. I just remember seeing her face and howling out "No" over and over and over. I cried in Justin’s lap for a short period, until something came over me. I had an intense urge to go outside. I needed to pray for Nick.
I ran outside, and I remember seeing someone across the street. I remember feeling this numbness. My world had stopped, but yet other things around me were still moving. What was happening? It was the most overwhelming and painful feeling I had ever felt. I could do nothing but cry, and pray, and call out for Nick. I called out to him and hoped he was okay. I told him I wasn’t mad. I told him not to be upset.
I just cried. What else could I do?
I called my Mom. I didn’t want to tell her over the phone but she was still a half an hour away, and I couldn’t wait that long. I called Jennie. It was awful. I will never forget that phone call. Not ever. Jennie tried to convince me Nick would be okay and she forced me to say;
“No Jennie. Nick is dead.”
I went back downstairs. I remember looking out the front door, and I could see the police standing there. I went outside. I told the street Sergeant that the one who died was my fiancé. He said he couldn’t confirm anything yet, but he knew that I had been informed. The Sergeant also knew that I was a member of the Calgary Police Service. It was at that moment I realized that this was actually happening and it was happening to me. I was not in uniform, and I was not giving the next of kin; I was receiving it.
At one point I remember thinking I need to cancel my yoga appointment but then I looked at my phone and realized it was too late.
Phone calls, messages, phone calls, messages.
WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING, I am supposed to be getting married. I am supposed to be with Nick forever. People are meant to be saying congratulations not; I am so sorry.
Nick’s dead? No this can’t be right.
My life changed in an instant. I was numb and could barely cry once I got to Jennie’s, I felt like I was in a dream.
No. A fucking Nightmare.
So many phone calls were made, and people were beginning to arrive from all over the place. Friends, family, and colleagues.
I will never forget the looks on everyone’s face when they saw me for the first time. Those faces haunt me just as mine probably haunts them. Hugging my parents was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I needed them more than ever, but I felt sick they had to witness their daughter in an absolute horrific state of shock.
And they lost a son. Nick was so much like a son.
That night when I got home, I went straight to my room. My closet first to find Nick’s scent and then his side of the bed. I just cried. There is no fucking way I am going to survive this, nor do I want to. I was already coming up with ideas on how I was going to kill myself, and this didn’t go away for quite some time.
I remember lying in bed and the next thing I knew my cousin Melissa walked in and jumped on me with her arms open. We just laid there and hugged. She was supposed to be my maid of honor, and now she is sleeping where my dead fiancé should have been. She slept with me in my bed and woke up with me multiple times as I would scream in horror each time I realized what had happened.
I have never felt so scared, and so helpless in my entire life.
My life was over in an instant.
So now I sit here today, and I realize my life didn’t end on that day, three years ago. I did not die, and instead, I was awakened. I sit here and I wonder how the hell I got through. I sit here and I think about those mountains, and I wonder why they had to take my Nick. How could something so beautiful create such horror?
Here is what I learned. Bad things happen all the time. Bad things happen to good people and Bad things can either define you and destroy you or they can reshape you and provoke you to rise to be better and more aware of how truly magnificent this life is.
I have the power to move forward in this life and make it something it would have never been had Nick not died. I will let his death be my rebirth, and I will embrace everything that happens to me. The good the bad and the ugly.
Three years it has been.
Live hard, play hard, and always remember to love hard because as we know, one day there may be an Avalanche.