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The Secret life of Techs : The Fragile Pearl

“The brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object known in the universe.”
-Michio Kaku

I was getting ready to leave for the day and walked up to the operating room charge desk to say goodnight. The charge nurse hung up the phone. He looked at me and asked, “Can you stay late? We have an emergency crani. coming in.” I shrugged and said, “Sure, I can stay. Do we have any details about the case yet?” “They have an MVA coming into the E.R., a 30-year-old female. She has a bad head injury. They think she may have a bleed. Can you get room nine prepped?” He asked me. I ran over to room nine and pulled in the emergency crani. cart. Some techs and nurses came into the room to help prepare for the case.

I scrubbed in, then a flurry of sterile packages were opened onto my table in every direction. They begin bringing neuro equipment into the room, and multiple people are firing questions and answers all around me. “What is his glove size? Do you have everything? What else do you need?” They ask me. Anesthesia is prepping their station with meds. The surgeon passes through to make sure we are getting the room ready. I call out to him to ask him about the case. “Dr. Smith, can I ask you some questions?” He walks over and looks at me. “Are you doing a flap or just burr holes? What do her scans look like? Do you want a drain?” I asked him. He carefully answers all of my questions. He tells me that her bleed is acute and the brain is already starting to herniate. She has a Subdural Hematoma. He will be doing a flap, and he needs a ventricular drain set up. As he walks away, I turn my attention back to the pile of sterile supplies on my table and begin inventorying what I have and what I still need to get. I start spouting out the supplies that I need to the nurses and techs around me. “Hey guys, can you get me a ventric. drain and more patties? I need Floseal too. Thanks!”

I begin to organize my set up. Each step has to be systematically laid out to ensure the surgery will go smoothly. At this time of night Dr. Smith did not have his P.A. or an assistant, so it would just be him and I. I would need to stay five steps ahead of him and assist in the procedure as his second pair of hands. My set up had to be perfect to enable me to do this. As I was running through the steps of the procedure and organizing my table, the nurse asked me to count. I counted all my sponges and sharps with her. All of this activity, the chaos, and preparation happened in less than 20 minutes. My heart was pounding. My pupils were dilated; everything around you seems to slow down as you focus in preparation for emergency surgeries.

The patient was wheeled into the room. My back was to the patient as I continued focusing on my current task. I start to hear distant sounds of beeping from the monitors and the murmur of people giving commands to each other about meds and positioning. They get the patient on the operating room table, and anesthesia goes to work putting in central lines and connecting EKG cables. Dr. Smith walks in again to put on the Mayfield positioner. The Mayfield is an essential and crucial positioning device that holds the head stable while the surgeon works on the brain. One jolt or slight bump during surgery could be fatal. The Mayfield latches onto the skull clamp or “Gardener Wells Tongs.” They look a bit like an ancient torture device. The three steel, razor sharp pins are inserted into the skull clamp and then clamped down onto the head. They pierce straight into the skull to keep the head completely stable. It is brutal but necessary.

I hear the “click” “click” “click” of the skull clamp being placed onto the patient. Then, I hear the electric razor. They started to shave the portion of her head where the surgeon will make his incision. I turn around as I hear this and as I watch, long thick locks of dark hair float to the O.R. floor. I think of my mother, my aunt, and my sister. I think of this woman’s family. It weighs on me. I start to feel her humanity and the sadness a tragedy like this brings. I see a small tattoo on her shoulder. I start to think of her and what she may be like. No! Stop it! Focus!

I quickly turn around and shut out my feelings. I need to be laser sharp right now. Dr. Smith was not a very patient surgeon, and her bleed was severe. I must be robotic and mechanical. No matter how hard we try it is difficult for people who work in surgery to not feel empathy and become overwhelmed with the fragility of human life. In surgery we must not let our emotions affect us, we must stay focused to do our jobs. So, we push away the thoughts of their children, their memories, or their lives to do what we need to do to help them to see another day. It is a strange emotional balance that all operating room staff has to maintain. We must feel to stay sensitive and human, but we must press that invisible button in our minds to turn off emotion when we need to see and do grotesque tasks to save a life.

The nurse cleans and preps the patient’s head. It is time. Dr. Smith walks in, hands out-stretched and dripping from his surgical scrub. I look into his eyes. I can see thoughts of the systematic steps being checked off in his mind that he is about to perform. I gown and glove him. One last glimpse of the patient’s hair and her face, one final thought of who she was and who she may be to someone. Stop. Focus.

The sterile towels are placed on her head. He uses a stapler to secure them in place. “Kerchunk.” Kerchunk.” “Kerchunk.” The sound echoes in my ears as he presses each staple into her scalp. The sterile craniotomy drape goes on. I take a deep breath. No more shiny dark locks of hair, no more long eyelashes. That invisible switch flips in my brain and my mechanical mind takes over.

We all do a surgical time out, and I hand him the ten blade. I grab a suction as he incises. The scalp has so many capillaries that it bleeds more than any other part of skin on the body. I chase his incision with my suction tip collecting all the blood to keep it out of his view. He starts using a sponge and his fingers to separate the skin from the skull. It peels with ease like peeling an orange rind. I hand him some raney clips to pinch the edges of the skin to provide hemostasis while not damaging the tissue. He peels the flap of skin back and secures it to the drape so it will not flip back and get in his way. I place a wet sponge on top of it to preserve the delicate tissue and keep it moist. I hand him a Lagenbeck elevator to scrape the remaining tissue away from the bone.

That is when you see it, the hard protective bone of our skull that protects our being. It is the one final barrier guarding our thoughts, our functions, and our existence. This white, smooth, rock hard shell encapsulates the most precious part of who we are as humans. In a world filled with prejudice and racism, it always fills me with anger and frustration when I see the internal workings of our bodies. If only everyone could see it? If only every person in this world could see the undeniable similarities that make us human, reguardless of skin color, race, or gender. Once you see that skull with the skin peeled back the meer thought of one person being treated differently from another due to what they look like becomes incomprehensible.

I handed the perforator to Dr. Smith. The huge drill looks horrifying as it moves towards the patients head. Medical technology has advanced so much over the years. At one point, it was a hand crank drill which was slow and hard to keep steady; once they made it motorized, creating burr holes became a thing of ease. The hard part for the surgeon was knowing when to stop drilling. Their training and practice taught them how to feel this. Times of emergency, high stress, or lack of experience allowed for mistakes to be made. So, today there is an automatic stop on the perforator drill when it has reached the edge of the bone. Regardless of the technology, it still looks massive and barbaric to anyone watching.

He presses the perforator down, creating two, three, or four holes, whatever is needed to create the correct size of bone flap. I grab the bulb syringe and irrigate the bone away from the hole as he burrs. The bone slivers and flakes build up around each hole as it would when drilling a hole into a plank of thick wood. He completes his burr holes and I hand him a penfield 3 to dissect the dura off the bone edges of the hole. He takes small balls of bone wax and smears them on the bleeding edges of the bone. The skull has now transformed from a smooth and uninterrupted casing with beautiful fissures and varying characteristics to looking something like a cream colored bowling ball with finger holes cut into it.

I switch the drill to a cutter. The surgeon needs to connect the holes that he made to remove the flap. The guarded cutter slips into the burr hole and begins to create a line from one hole to the next. I irrigate and suction while he cuts. The bone dust slides down off the edges of the cut into the pouch that is connected to the drapes. Blood is pouring out of the burr holes. Yep. There is a bleed alright and we are getting close.

He peels back the bone flap as I irrigate. The slurping and crunching sound it makes is similar to the sound of opening an oyster shell. He hands me the bone flap. I rinse it off, wrap it into a wet sponge and clamp it to my instrument tray to keep it safe. The responsibility and weight that a scrub tech feels when handed a piece of someone’s body is overwhelming at times. You, and you alone, are holding a piece of that person’s body. You cannot drop it, lose it, or damage it. You are being entrusted with a priceless and irreplaceable item. It doesn’t matter how long someone has been scrubbing or working in the operating room. I genuinely believe that all of our hearts skip a beat every time we are handed an organ, bone, or piece of tissue. What a gift, yet what a burden it is. A surgeon once told me that if I dropped the bone flap, he would take mine to give to the patient. He said this to me in order to scare me into being cautious. So, accepting and securing the bone flap is one of my most focused moments in any craniotomy.

After securing the bone flap to my tray to keep it safe, I began to irrigate the brain. Blood was oozing out, and blood clots were clinging to the brain’s surface. As I suctioned to help Dr. Smith to see the brain and find the bleeder he asked me for patties or cottonoids. He lined these small sponges all around the edges of the skull where the bone flap used to be. We are starting to make progress. He asks me for the bipolar and I realize he has found the bleeder. Irrigate. “Buzz.” “Buzz.” “Buzz.” Irrigate. “Buzz.” “Buzz.” “Buzz.” Then Dr. Smith mumbles, “Half by half.” I load one on a bayonetted forcep and hand it to him. “Dammit!” He shouts. He had found the vessel, but he could not get it to stop bleeding. Irrigate. “Buzz.” “Buzz.” “Buzz.” Irrigate. “Buzz.” “Buzz.” “Buzz.” Then Dr. Smith mumbles again, “Brain spatula.” I place the malleable retractor inside the brain to gingerly pull aside the brain tissue. It feels soft and spongy, almost like retracting a piece of angel food cake. My thoughts drift to the complex network of nerves and small blood vessels inside the tissue that I was retracting. How incredible this soft spongy tissue was that controlled our whole body!

He found it! Dr. Smith found the bleeder. “Patty and Floseal” He says to me. I hand it to him and he dabs the vessel. No oozing. Then we wait and watch. He examines the rest of the brain making sure he did not miss any other bleeders. He irrigates and suctions all the old blood. While he was doing this, the brain tissue started to reveal its beauty.

The coils and swirls of pink and grey tissue wrapping around each other like a labyrinth. The tiny vessels were weaving in and out of those coils and swirls like ivy vines. It had a sheen now, a slight shimmer under the O.R. lights. As I watched it, it slightly pulsed. To this day it is one of my favorite sights. To see a brain pulse with life inside of someone’s head is such a life-changing experience. It’s complexity and power is overwhelming. It is like a pearl, a fragile pearl guarded by a hard armored shell. It is so soft and susceptible yet controls everything that we are and makes us who we are. Though all of us look alike inside, like a pearl, our brains are unique and signature. It is our guarded treasure. So, every time I see those intricate swirls and the pulse of life when I look at a brain, it humbles me and enlightens me. What incredible creatures we are!

The patient’s brain appeared dry. It had stopped bleeding. Dr. Smith was able to save this pearl, this brain, this mother, aunt, or sister. I began to hand him 4-0 neurolon sutures for him to close the dura. The thin, delicate tissue of the dura slides back on top of the brain like a satin sheet tucking it in for the night. Each stitch securing the dura tucks the brain in tighter and tighter. Good night precious pearl, stay safe and warm.

I count all of my sharps and sponges with my nurse and start gathering the closing supplies. Dr. Smith and I place small screws and plates onto the bone flap to attach it back onto the skull. I hand him the bone flap, relinquishing my guardianship of the patient’s precious piece of bone. I give him small screws to secure the bone. Good night pearl. You are safe now. The hard skull resumes its duties of protecting the woman’s command center. 

All of it is covered again but one burr hole which Dr. Smith uses to place the ventricular drain to monitor the ICP levels of the brain. Dr. Smith slowly puts the skin flap back on top of the skull and sutures it on. Goodnight hard shell. Keep that pearl safe.

We wipe the incision site and begin to pull back the drapes. There she is again, the 30-year-old mother, sister, aunt? Her long dark locks of hair, her long eyelashes, her small tattoo. Dr. Smith takes off the Mayfield and releases her from the skull clamp’s death grip. “Click.” “Click.” “Click.” We all work together to get her onto the hospital bed, carefully guarding drains, I.V.’s, catheters, and monitors. The nurse covers her up with warm blankets. Other than the small ventricular drain coming out of her head it was as if we were never there.

The switch flips back on in my brain to feel again. I looked down at her and smiled. Your going to be ok. Your going to live another day. I say to the patient in my mind. Live well girl, live well. It is a strange feeling to look at someone’s face and know that you have seen the innermost part of what makes them who they are. You feel as though you know them even though you have never met them.

As a scrub tech, you carry these moments with you every day.

The gift.  The responsibility.  The burden.

Today was a good day. Another fragile pearl was saved, to hopefully change the world around it.

Sending you all love and light,

Wild Antevasin

 

**All details and names have been changed to protect the identities of people in this story including the patient**

**Images were all taken from online public sites**

Glossary:

Crani– an abbreviated term for Craniotomy or making an opening into the cranium (the skull)

MVA– Motor vehicle accident

Herniated– when something shifts the brain due to pressure

Ventricular drain– a drain put into the ventricles to monitor CSF and ICP in the brain

P.A.– Physician’s Assistant

Central lines– an I.V. placed into a large vein

EKG– An Electrocardiogram. It monitors heart function

Mayfield– A positioner used in neurosurgery

Skull Clamp– A device that secures the cranium to the Mayfield

Raney clips– Clips used in surgery to pinch the tissue to stop bleeding

Perforator– A type of drill used in neurosurgery

Penfield 3– An instrument used for dissection in neurosurgery

Bipolar– A forceps that cauterizes between the two tips of the instrument only

Patty or cottonoid– a small sponge with a string on it, used in neurosurgery

Dura– the layer of tissue that encases the brain

4-0 neurolon– A type of suture used in surgery

ICP– Intracranial pressure

Subdural Hematoma– When blood gathers between the inner layer of the dura mater and the arachnoid mater of the brain.

Bone wax- A wax used in surgery to stop bleeding on bone

Lagenbeck elevator- an instrument used to scrape in surgery

The Phoenix

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – Frida Kahlo

She burned with pain and fury for so long, yet smiled through the pain

No one saw her.

She wilted and withered into the ashes of her sorrow.

No one saw her.

One day she heard a soft whisper. 

One word.

“Tomorrow.”

It took her hearing it many times until she finally sprouted from the ashes. 

She then shot up with gleaming feathers of beauty screaming:

“Tomorrow!!!”

As she soared over the mountain tops and saw the beauty of the world with new eyes and how much more there was to see-

She saw tomorrow.

She held onto tomorrow and never let go.

In that moment, they saw what she had become.

 The Phoenix.

 They all saw her living for tomorrow because yesterday she almost never knew

Tomorrow.

-TJH

Sending you all love and light,

Wild Antevasin

**credit to Thom Williams for photos**

Heroes Never Die – Part 8 – LIVE (The Conclusion)

“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the mother fucking shit out of it.”
Cheryl Strayed

I walked over the branches and brush, led by the moonlight. I made it up to the top and stood there. I drew in a deep breath, taking in the smells of the quarry. Kevin.

I walked some more to get to the tree where Kevin fell. When I made it there, I started talking to him. I’m so sorry I failed you, Kevin. I miss you so much. You were hurting, and I didn’t help you. I didn’t catch you when you needed me to. I can’t be strong anymore. I can’t be my own hero; I need you! I can’t do this without you! I am so tired. I closed my eyes and held onto the large tree branch where he fell. I lifted one foot out over the ledge. I could hear the tiny pebbles and small rocks cascade down the cliff. The sound echoed in the silence of the night. The branch creaked with the new weight I had put on it. I took a breath and closed my eyes. I smiled and said: “I’m coming to you Kevin…I’m coming.”

As I started to lift my other foot to let the wind take me to my peace, my long slumber, something happened that I never thought I would be able to talk about to anyone. Kevin’s face appeared right in front of me as if he was standing there in the flesh. I froze. To this day, I don’t know if it was God, my dead father acting as Kevin, or if it was actually Kevin? Maybe I had a psychotic episode? I may never know? All I can do is describe what I saw. He was right there in front of me. He was angry. I couldn’t breathe. Why was he angry? Was he angry with me? Then his angered face slowly turned into a smirk. His sly eyes and toothy grin appeared. His hand shot through my protective forcefield just as it had that day by the creek when I was a child. I smiled. I reached out to take his hand. He wasn’t angry. He was helping me. He wanted me to come and be with him. Kevin.

I grinned and started to lift my other foot off the cliff again. At that moment, the wildest thing happened! He didn’t take my hand to pull me with him as he did once before, he pushed me! He pushed me hard. I felt a force push me back onto the ground away from the edge. I stumbled and fell onto all fours. I was dazed and confused. What the!? “KEVIN, WHY!!?? I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!! FUCK YOU KEVIN!! WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME!? I HATE YOU!!! LET ME GO!!! LET ME BE WITH YOU!! I CAN’T TAKE THE PAIN ANYMORE!!”

I screamed into the night. I sobbed and sputtered. I shouted out awful things. I was enraged now. Why wouldn’t he let me die!? I started shouting that I was so sorry and I missed him. I screamed that I wanted to die. I yelled at him for leaving me here alone. As I began to quiet down and tried to pick myself up off the ground, I stopped and looked out at the quarry. His face was fading into the night sky. He was smiling. All I could hear as he faded away was the soft whisper of his voice: “Live Taw-shina….Live.”

I sat there in complete wonderment and confusion. What just happened? I cried for a few hours thinking about what he said. When I finally felt strong enough, I walked down from the cliff of the quarry, leaving my heart and my hero behind me.

Kevin told me to live. I needed to live. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but I have to keep fighting. I have to fight the pain and live. I will live for you, Kevin. I will be strong. I will be my own hero you asshole.

As I got down from the quarry, I was walking back to my car when I saw my parents drive past. My boyfriend had notified them of my texts. They were so upset. They turned around and picked me up. I didn’t talk. I was silent and stared out the window; all sounds were muffled. I was still holding onto my moment, my moment with Kevin.

When we got back to the house, Eric left me with my parents. They were distraught. They thought they would have to commit me to a psych ward to get me help. I wouldn’t talk to them. I couldn’t talk to them. My mind was racing. I was stuck in a moment.

Then, my little brother walked into the kitchen. He looked at me, and I looked at him. My mouth curled into a smile. Without even speaking he knew. My brother knew I was okay. He looked at my parents and told them I was okay. He saw the tiny flicker in my eyes. He saw fear and excitement. He understood. I didn’t want to die anymore. I wanted to live! I wanted to live life to the fullest! The fear in my eyes was not knowing where to start. I didn’t know what was in store for me; I just knew it had to be epic! Kevin said to live. So, damn you, Kevin, I am going to live. I am going to live so passionately that you will be proud.

After that night, I faced every challenge and obstacle along the way like an angry pit bull. “Let ’em try! Nothing can get me down.” I hear Kevin say in my ear all the time still. “Yeah, Kev. You know it. Let ’em try.” I say back to him smiling.

When I tried to take my own life that night at the quarry, I had discovered that Kevin was still with me. He would always be with me. I wasn’t alone. I feel that he left a part of himself there in the quarry when he died. He let his spirit and essence merge with the water and the trees that horrible day. Kevin spread through the veins of nature bringing him everywhere. He now lives in the wind, the water, and the earth.

When I walk through the forest, I feel him all around me. I feel him with every soft touch of a leaf or brush of a branch. Every time I reach a cliff or a ridge the wind blows his strength into me. I feel him wrap his long arms around me and hold me tight in those strong gusts of wind.  I feel him reminding me to be strong and I feel his love again. Kevin.

Ending thoughts:

I finished writing my Heroes Never Die series after I climbed Mt. Humphreys in AZ. Every agonizing step that I took, I pushed forward, carrying the weight of my heartbreak with me. Once I reached the top, I opened my arms to welcome Kevin’s embrace. Every time I do this, he reminds me to live. It is how I remain whole. It is how I survive this life without him.

The world lost a great man on January 27th, 2008, but the universe gained a magnificent soul. In life he was able to help hundreds; in his death, he can now reach billions. You will never be forgotten, Kevin O’Brien. You can let the sand demon sleep now because now you know that you are loved by many.

So, in conclusion:

Get ready world! Kevin said to live, so I plan to mother fucking live! I hope you all do too.

*To my family and friends:

Thank you for all of your support through this saga. I love you all and can’t wait to see you and hug you one day soon. Thank you for helping me to keep Kevin’s memory alive.

*To my readers:

This story was incredibly hard for me to write. Kevin was my world. Having to survive his death and fight my depression was the hardest fight I may ever fight. There are so many of us who have lost people we love. We all suffer in different ways. My only advice to you from my own experience is to talk about your pain. Do not let it fester. Allow others to help you and to heal you. Be patient with yourself. FORGIVE YOURSELF. The scars of losing someone never heal. They stay with you forever, but the pain does fade. Through time allow that pain to transform you. Allow it to enable you to help others in their journey. We are all more alike than our brains will lead us to believe. We are all in this together. Never hesitate to reach out a hand to someone or a be a shoulder for them to cry on; you never know the pain that they may be fighting. Never judge anyone or yourself for fighting depression or contemplating suicide. It is not something to scoff at or be ashamed of; it is a battle that millions of people fight. You are not alone.

Find something healthy that brings you peace and helps you to feel alive. Choose to live for those who you have lost. Allow them to fill you with a strength to experience all the moments they will miss. Live those moments for them. They want you to. They need you to. Wake up every day saying to yourself: 

“Heroes are for the weak, I’m going to be my own hero today.”

Because of you Kevin…Today I am my own hero. I love you, I miss you, and I am still living everyday…for you.

Sending you all love and light,

Wild Antevasin

 

Rise above this- by Seether

Take the light, and darken everything around me
Call the clowns, and listen closely, I’m lost without you

Call your name everyday, when I feel so helpless
I’ve fallen down, but I’ll rise above this (rise above this)

Hate your mind, regrets are better left unspoken
For all we know this void will grow
And everything’s in vain, distressing you, don’t leave me open
Feels so right but I’ll end this all before it gets me

Call your name everyday, when I feel so helpless
I’ve fallen down (fallen down) but I’ll rise above this (rise above this)

Call your name everyday when I seem so helpless
I’ve fallen down (fallen down) but I’ll rise above this (rise above this)

I’ll mend myself before it gets me
I’ll mend myself before it gets me
I’ll mend

 

Heroes Never Die – Part 7 – In Memory

“If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is never to stop loving them.”
James O’Barr

The funeral was beautiful. The building was filled to the brim with people. Kevin had been so loved, he had touched so many lives. I wish he could have seen all of them gathered there that day. Becca’s mother Linda had made a DVD of music and pictures of Kevin. It was wonderful! They played the DVD on repeat until the service started. Every image that flashed his big goofy grin onto the screen brought tears to my eyes and filled the room with his spirit. It was nice to be around family. It helped to distract me from the brutal empty feeling slowly tearing me apart on the inside.

My sister had flown in from Seattle shortly before the funeral. I was so happy she was there. Even though I am older than my sister, she has always seemed to know just how to keep me whole and how to put me back together again if I broke. Her and I were very close. She knew Kevin meant everything to me. She knew she needed to be there in case I fell apart. She stood next to me at the funeral stealing glances, watching my face every few minutes or so to make sure I was okay. 

The tears started lining up and collecting at the edges of my eyes but didn’t dare to fall yet. At that moment Becca and the girls walked in to sit in the front row. Kevin’s three girls : Bryanna, Shannon, and Kiera dressed in beautiful red plaid dresses. After seeing them a flood of thoughts and emotions filled my head. God, Kevin loved them so much. Those poor girls. Poor Becca. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to tell them their father was gone. It brought back vivid memories of my mother having to tell me my father was dead when I was younger. “Bye daddy, I love you.” My childlike voice said. A flash of me kissing my father in his coffin filled my mind. The tears couldn’t hold on any longer. They started to run down my cheeks allowing the full-fledged sobs and sniffles to begin their performance. Sarah, my sister, grabbed my hand. She saw the girls as well and I know she was reliving the same pain that I was. The warmth and tight squeeze of Sarah’s hand helped to keep me whole. Without her support, I am pretty sure I would have had a full-on psychotic break that day. With the amount of pain surging through me, I can’t even begin to imagine how Kevin’s mother, stepfather, brother, and sister were feeling. It was a beautiful service, but an awful day for all of us.

There were many other events after the funeral with various groups of friends to celebrate Kevin’s life. He would have loved them! The gatherings were loud, filled with punk and Irish music, whiskey, and stories of Kevin and the old days. We all laughed and sang into the night. It truly was a celebration of life. As the night went on the songs and laughter slowly turned to tears and hugs. Seeing the heartbreak in his friend’s eyes was overwhelming. More and more I started to realize that I was probably not the only one that allowed Kevin to become their world or their hero.

At one point in the night, there was a split second where I thought it had all been a mistake; that Kevin had played an unforgivable practical joke and had just walked up to me to laugh about it. “Hey Taw-shina”. I heard behind me. My eyes flew open and I swung around thinking it was Kevin. It wasn’t. The man standing in front of me was Steve. Kevin’s lifelong friend. He only knew how to say my name that way because he had just heard my name recited by Kevin. He saw the disappointment in my eyes and knew right away that he had sounded like Kevin to my ears. We didn’t know each other very well, but he knew how much I loved Kevin. He grabbed me and hugged me. I started to cry. I tried to compose myself and pull away, but he wouldn’t let go. He knew what to do. He held on until I stopped. He tried to squeeze the pain out of me just like I used to do for Kevin. So many others wrapped me in open arms of love and mutual grief that night as well. I left there still feeling empty and broken without Kevin, but I did feel like I had gained another family. We were bonded together now. We were all bonded by our deep love and loss for the same great man.

Life slowly started to go back to normal, as normal as things could be after all of that tragedy. We all did our best to put what armor on that we could manage to go out and face the world again. The grief process is slow and everyone goes through it differently : Some of us get angry. Some get bitter. Some reckless. Some get lost in darkness. Some try to forget. Some go through them all. I drank, I drank heavily, and I shielded myself with what love I had in my life at the time, my boyfriend, Eric. His love for me became a small temporary band-aid placed over a large festering wound. It was only a matter of time before that wound spread. No one’s love was going to heal it, no one’s love but my own.

Sometime had gone by, most of that time I had spent drinking and crying. Eric had done his best to console me and survive my depression and melancholy. We decided to go to Atlantic City with some friends. I did my best to be social and entertaining. I had gotten very good at the whole “fake happy” thing. Sex was honestly the only time that I was able to forget the pain for a moment. I used it like a drug to get moments of peace. At the end of our night in Atlantic City we all went back to the hotel. We had drank a lot. The booze had crippled my “fake happy” mask. I was unraveling. I wanted to walk. I needed to walk. I couldn’t breathe. Eric wouldn’t let me leave the hotel room. I am so glad he didn’t! I was trying to walk around by myself in Atlantic City, drunk out of my mind, in the middle of the night! That would not have ended well. It turned into a big fight, and Eric ended up going to bed.

I went out onto the balcony. I started talking to Kevin. I know. I am trying Kevin. It’s so hard. I can’t do this without you. I miss you so much. I began to cry. I leaned against the railing. The wind caressed my tear covered face. We were up on a very high floor. It had to be higher than ten stories up if I remember correctly. I looked over the railing down into the street where everything looked so small and so far away. My heart ached so badly. I wanted the pain to stop. The thought of closing my eyes and falling forward seemed incredibly soothing. The wind called to me. It pulled me forward. I just wanted to see him again. I needed to hear his voice and feel his safe embrace once more. I knew it was a fantasy. Kevin was gone and he wasn’t coming back! My heart and mind kept reminding me that he was gone. Day after day those thoughts sent surges of pain through me, continually knocking me down every time I tried to forget or tried to heal. I was so tired of the pain. I couldn’t take it anymore! The thought of closing my eyes and landing on that far away street below was so tempting. I craved anything that would make the excruciating pain go away.

I stepped on the first bar of the railing. The wind blew stronger, whipping my hair all around me. “I’m coming Kevin.” I whispered to him. “I can’t do this without you.” I stepped on the second bar of the railing. The wind roared in my ears. I looked down at the faraway street again. My heart was pounding but my eyes were glazed over and I began to smile. No more pain. I just don’t want to feel anymore! My smile grew a bit bigger. I felt a wave of peace flow through me. I lifted my foot to step over the last bar of the railing when my friend burst out of the door and onto the balcony. He didn’t say a word. He grabbed me and pulled me off the railing. 

Once I was back on the balcony I broke out in tears. “Why did you do that!?” I screamed at my friend. I was so ready. I was so happy. The pain was almost gone for good. My friend stared at me dumbfounded. “What!?” I just saved your life! What were you doing!?” I glared at him. “Forget about it! You wouldn’t understand.” I was crying and staring out into the distance. I was so close. He grabbed my arm. “Maybe I will understand, try me.” He scanned my face trying to bring me back to the real world. I took a breath, lit a cigarette and decided to tell him everything.

We talked for hours. Being able to pour my heart out and take off my “fake happy” mask for awhile really helped. My friend didn’t try to fix me or to take away the pain. He just listened. Sometimes that is all a person needs. My friend saved my life that night. I had been angry with him at first. I felt so close to Kevin on that railing. I felt him calling me. My friend stole that moment away from me. I wasn’t thinking rationally, I just wanted to crawl into my protective forcefield and hide from the world. I eventually came to the conclusion that I was grateful that he had saved my life that night and that I would be able to see another sunrise again. It took a long time though, each month that went by I pushed my pain deeper and deeper inside of me. My wound appeared to heal on the outside, but rapidly grew on the inside.

With each year that went by mine and Eric’s relationship began to crumble. The honeymoon phase was well over. My depression and grieving invaded our bubble of happiness. He had changed a lot as well. Where I had once felt safe and loved, I was now surrounded by deceit and drama. Our relationship had become toxic. 

I had caught Eric in another lie one night. It caused a monumental fight. We were in a texting battle and I was drinking myself sick. He was tired of my mellow drama and depression. I was tired of all his lies and scams. I jumped into my car and started driving. I kept texting him that I was so tired and I just wanted to sleep. My eyes were filled with tears, my mind was spinning. I am happy I didn’t hurt anyone that night. I was so intoxicated, I should not have been driving! All I could think about was stopping the pain. I just wanted to sleep. I was tired of putting the “fake happy” mask on. I was tired of being strong for people around me. I was tired of trying. I was tired of life. I wanted to sleep forever. I wanted Kevin. I wanted to feel safe and loved again.

I miraculously arrived at the quarry without an accident. The night air was brisk and refreshing. I looked up at the stars dazed and lost in my mind. I found the path to the quarry. I’m coming Kevin. I am coming to be with you forever. I walked over the branches and brush, led by the moonlight. I made it up to the top and stood there. I drew in a deep breath, taking in the smells of the quarry. Kevin.

I walked some more to get to the tree where Kevin fell. When I made it there I started talking to him. I’m so sorry I failed you Kevin. I miss you so much. You were hurting and I didn’t help you. I didn’t catch you when you needed me to. I can’t be strong anymore. I can’t be my own hero, I need you! I can’t do this without you! I am so tired. I closed my eyes and held onto the large tree branch where he fell. I lifted one foot out over the ledge. I could hear the tiny pebbles and small rocks cascade down the cliff. The sound echoed in the silence of the night. The branch creaked with the new weight I had put onto it. I took a breath and closed my eyes. I smiled and said : I’m coming Kevin…I’m coming.

To be continued….

Coming soon-The conclusion to my Heroes never die series:

Heroes Never die – part 8- LIVE

Sending you all love and light,

Wild Antevasin

 

Heroes Never Die – Part 6 – Darkness

“Forever I’ll find you, forever we’ll be forever your power and strength stays with me…” Dropkick Murphys

The Chapman quarry was about 20-30 minutes from where I was living. I drove like a bat out of hell. It is a mystery how I got there without getting a ticket or getting into an accident. The whole ride was a blur. My mind kept spinning with thoughts of the past few months: The voicemails. Kevin. A gun. Sleeping pills. I don’t know what to do. Please hurry. The show. Halloween. The phone calls. Kevin. Please Hurry. Sleeping pills. The quarry. Hurry!! My heart was pounding in my ears. My mouth was bone dry. I need to get to him. I need to yell out his name. He needs to know I love him, that everything will be okay. I’m on my way Kevin…I’m coming, please hold on. Please wait for me. I am so sorry I ignored the calls. I am so stupid! I am so selfish!
I was almost there when my parents called. They had gotten there before I did. I answered the phone. “Shina, are you driving?” They asked. “Yes, I am almost there, what is happening? Is someone hiking into the quarry to get him? They just need to yell his name. He needs to know he is loved. He needs his family right now. Is someone going in to get him? He is in Ice man’s cave.” I said in a breathy, anxiety-filled voice. “Tashina, we need you to pull over.” They replied back. “What!? Why!? I am almost there!” I half shouted at them. “Just pull over.” They insisted. I pulled over and parked. I got out of the car and said “What!? I am parked now. Hurry up though; I need to get to him.” I urged them. “Kevin has a gun up there with him.” They informed me. “Yes, yes I know this. We would all go up there to shoot sometimes. It’s not a big deal. I know this. Why did you make me stop to tell me this?” I answered them. “The police were called because he had a gun. They are not letting us in.” They stated calmly. “Nooooo!!!” I shouted at them. “Kevin hates the cops! He will run from them or do something stupid because he took sleeping pills! No! Why!? Why would they do that!? I can’t believe they called the cops!” I blurted out. “He wouldn’t hurt us! We are his family! Why won’t they let us in to get him!? Ugh! When I get there, I will just sneak around them or fight my way through!” I yelled. “No, honey, that’s why we are warning you. Sandy (Kevin’s mother) did that, and they put her in the car and told her to stay there until she calmed down. They are treating it as a crime scene. There isn’t anything we can do right now but wait for him to come out.” My mother said as calmly as she could. “Well, I will find a back way in! I will scream his name so loud that he will know to come out and we are there for him.” I replied. “Mom? Mom? Are you listening to me? Ask around if there is a back way into the quarry. We need to get to him, so he doesn’t run!” I said and waited. She was talking to someone else now. I told myself: Screw this! I am wasting time! I need to get to him. I began getting back into my car when my mother got back on the phone. “Shina?” She said in a small cracked voice. “Shina, they saw a body in the water. They think it’s Kevin.” Her words echoed in my ears growing louder and farther away each time. Everything went black.

I don’t know how long I was lying on the ground by the side of the road, but I finally awoke. No! It’s not real! They don’t know what they saw! He could have been swimming to get out of the quarry? Maybe he fell and was hurt, but would be okay? I picked up my phone and got back into the car. I don’t know how I managed to drive the rest of the way. It was as if I was transported there or floating miraculously. I don’t remember anything until I got there.

I arrived at the quarry. Becca, the family, and some friends that lived nearby were there. The police were all over. It was like walking into a scene from your worst nightmare. I was still in shock and disbelief. I felt tears forming behind my eyes. No! Never let them see ya cry kid. Be tough. I sucked up the tears and pulled back my shoulders. Kevin said to be tough. I have to be tough. I remember walking around and getting whatever information I could from anyone who knew anything. I got to Becca. She looked dazed. I started to apologize to her for not answering her calls. She cut me off and said, “ He called me and told me he wanted to talk. He said he had a gun and sleeping pills. I didn’t know what to do? He wanted to talk about us and the girls. Later he called again and said, ‘ Tell the girls that they will always have an angel on their shoulder now. Tell them I love them.’ I didn’t know what to do!?” She kept repeating it over and over to me, half speaking and half crying. I grabbed her and hugged her. I squeezed her shoulder with my hand so tightly. Don’t let them see you cry kid. Be tough. I need to stay strong for Becca and for my family.

I will never forget the smell of the air that day or the sound of the gravel under my shoes, the flashing lights of the cop cars or the looks on my family’s faces. They say that when you experience a traumatic moment in life, that it creates a scar or an injury to your brain that you never fully heal from. Those smells, the sights, and all of the tiny details that day repeat themselves in my mind everyday. They don’t stop. They reappear at the most random moments.

I was still in denial and disbelief. I started asking more questions. Due to Kevin having a gun and the thick woods of the area they had sent in a robot. A ROBOT!!? What the f**k!? A few cops went in behind the robot. When they saw the body in the water everything stopped. He was floating in the middle of the quarry. Now they needed a boat to get to him. The rescue process was slow. We all waited, standing in our winter coats and holding our breaths. It had been hours until they finally got a crew together to go out on a boat to get him. Either as they got there or in the process of trying to retrieve him, he sank. It was real now. Kevin was gone.

I couldn’t scream his name or tell him I needed him. I couldn’t tell him that I loved him. I couldn’t hug him and try to squeeze the pain out of him. He couldn’t lift me off my feet or call me “kid” or “beautiful.” I wouldn’t see his toothy grin anymore. I wouldn’t hear him say my name anymore “Taw-shina”. I couldn’t tell him I was sorry. I’m sorry Kevin! I am so sorry!!! I let him down. I failed him. I didn’t catch him when he fell. I started to hyperventilate. I had to walk away. I had to be strong for my family. I had to be brave.

We all began making phone calls to other family. Sandy (Kevin’s mother) asked me to tell her other son, Brad, that Kevin was dead. I could barely get the words out of my mouth without choking or starting to sob. I held back my tears and forced the words out. He wouldn’t believe me. I had to keep saying it over and over again, each time shoving a dagger further into my heart. I went from person to person to try and be there for them. Kevin would have looked after them. He would have been strong for everyone. We all stayed as long as we were allowed. Once it started to get dark the police made us leave. They said they would have to send in dive teams. We all went back to Kevin’s parents house.

When we all got there, we were all silent. We all sat down in the living room. Becca was sitting by herself. I wanted to be angry at her still for hurting Kevin. I wanted to blame her. I am sure she felt the same energy from the rest of my family. I decided to sit next to her. I looked at her and couldn’t imagine how she felt or what it was like to be in her shoes at that moment. I only knew one thing : that Kevin loved her. He loved her so much that he was willing to threaten his own life to get her back. Kevin was my life, my world, and my heart. If Kevin loved her than I loved her. That is how he and I worked. In that instant I knew what I needed to do. I needed to love her for him. He would have wanted me to . I reached over and grabbed her hand. It was cold as ice. She looked so pale. Kevin’s mother looked frozen in a faraway place. The rest of the family was distraught, confused, angry, and sad. After some discussion we all decided to go back the next morning. I held in my tears until I got home that night. I stayed strong for my family. Kevin would have nodded his head at me and said, “You did good kid, You stayed tough.”

I walked in the door of my boyfriend’s parents house and went down to the basement where I was staying. I burst out in tears. I didn’t stop crying until morning. I didn’t want to believe he was gone. Flashes of memories swam through my mind all night, freezing them in time for me forever. I could feel that he was gone now. The fear was back. The grey haze surrounded me again. My protective forcefield wrapped itself around me once more with an evil grin. Everything felt cold and empty. Kevin was gone, my hero was gone, my heart was broken, and nothing was going to bring him back this time.

We all went to the quarry everyday that we could. The diving teams were unsuccessful. The quarry waters were so deep and frigid in January that it made it difficult for the divers. Our pain of losing Kevin was multiplied day by day as he remained at the bottom of the quarry. We would all cry and wait as they would dive. Each day that they failed to bring him up, our spirits would shatter once more and we would come back again the next morning with hopeful hearts. Kevin’s stepfather John even cursed out the dive team. “That’s my f**king son down there! You get him out!!” He screamed.

It was as if the quarry didn’t want to give him up. Kevin loved it there so much. He would go there to target practice and cliff dive. Kevin would go to iceman’s cave and drink with friends. He and Becca would go there often as well. It was the place where he would go to find peace. Maybe the quarry knew that? Maybe it was giving him one more moment of happiness? Maybe it was helping him to leave a part of his soul there at the bottom of the quarry floor to live there in nature forever?

While we were waiting for them to find Kevin, a friend nearby took us the back way to ice man’s cave to investigate the scene. Those closest to Kevin knew he didn’t kill himself. We wouldn’t believe it. We knew he fought his demons and depression, but he didn’t want to die. That wasn’t Kevin. He loved life and his girls too much. As we walked along the pathways on top of the quarry we stopped and saw a broken branch. It was freshly broken and a very large branch. Underneath it was a patch of thick ice. We all talked and examined it. We believed that as Kevin was evading the cops, he started to run out of the quarry. He had taken some sleeping pills at this point, so he would not have been very sturdy in each step he took. We believe as he stepped on that patch of ice, that he probably slipped and tried to grab onto the tree branch. The branch broke, allowing him to fall into the quarry. There was a line of rocks 20 ft or more under the tree. He could have hit them before he hit the water. 

These details were never recorded or reported. The cops didn’t know the quarry like we did. They didn’t know Kevin like we did either. He was a fighter. Kevin could break at times, but he never quit. He was too stubborn to quit anything including his life.

I also went to see Kevin’s friends house where he had been staying. They showed me his room and his stuff. I walked over to his closet somberly and took down one of his shirts. I brought it to my nose and smelled it. Kevin…my heart whispered as I breathed in his smell. My eyes filled with tears. As I looked up, his friends had brought me a picture. “We wanted to give this to you. He had it by his bed.” I looked down at the picture. My breath caught in my throat. It was my 8th grade graduation picture. He was hugging me in the picture. I took the picture with trembling hands. I stared at the picture in disbelief. He kept it? He kept the picture of him hugging me? Why would he do that? I felt a wave of guilt and grief fold over me. I had to sit down. Kevin, I am so sorry. I failed you. I love you so much! You can’t be gone.


 

I went up to the quarry that night and brought a six pack of Guinness with me. I had brought a small stereo as well. I sat and drank beer after beer listening to “Forever” by Dropkick Murphy’s on repeat. I talked to him as if he was sitting right next to me. As I got up and started to leave for the night, I stopped and left him a beer. “Slainte Kev.” I made my way down from the quarry under the moonlight crying.

Finally, on February 4th they got his body out of the water. They did a corner’s examination on him and decided that the cause of death was head trauma and sleeping pills. He had died from hitting his head and then drowned most likely. His family offered for me to come and view the body. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see him like that. I worked in the medical field and had gotten very comfortable seeing corpses, but they were strangers, they weren’t Kevin. I needed to remember his laugh and his toothy grin, his bear hugs, and his sly eyes the way they were : Full of life. I had to carry them with me. I had to hold on to those memories so tightly that my mind would see him as still alive. I knew if I didn’t, I would break too.

To be continued…

Coming soon: Heroes Never Die – part 7- In Memory

Sending you all love and light,

Wild Antevasin

“Forever”
by Dropkick Murphys

All of my dreams seem to fall by the side like a discarded thought or days fading light
I know that if I could just see you tonight
Forever
At times we may fall like we all tend to do, but I’ll reach out and find that I’ll run into you
Your power and strength that carried me through
Forever
Your kindness for weakness I never mistook I worried you often yet you understood that life is so fleeting these troubles won’t last
Forever
Inspired me truly you did from the start to not be afraid and to follow my heart there’s a piece of you with me they can’t tear apart
Forever
Forever I’ll find you, forever you we’ll be
Forever your power and strength stays with me
Forever I’ll find you, forever you we’ll be
Forever your power and strength stays with me

Forever….

***To my family: I did the best that I could to write the story to the best of my abilities. I focused mainly on my emotions and the events that I experienced that day. Everyone had various feelings that day and a different sequence of events than my own. My only intention with this story is to represent Kevin in the way that I remember him and to keep his memory alive. It is also a way to help others heal. It is also helping me to heal as well. I hope I have not hurt or offended anyone with the words that I wrote. I love you all, and together we will all keep him alive and keep this family together. Thank you for all of your love and support.- Tashina ***

Heroes Never Die – Part 5 – Heartbreak

“Here I go! I scream my lungs out and try to get to you! You are my only one. I let go. There’s just no one who gets me like you do. You are my only, my only one…”
Yellow Card

Over the first few years of my marriage, I began realizing that I was trying to live the life that I thought I was supposed to live, the life everyone wanted me to live. It was not the life my heart wanted for me. More and more I fell into a deep depression. To make a very long story short, I decided to divorce my husband. My childhood love had reappeared into my life at the time of my divorce. It was like I was living a scene out of “The Notebook.” I was exuberantly happy with one man while having to crush another man’s heart. My family was angry. They felt I had killed my husband for them. I woke up every day carrying a huge burden of guilt while trying to hide my new found joy. They disagreed with my decision and would not speak to me. I felt so confused and isolated. No one knew how unhappy I was in my marriage except my sister. To everyone else, our divorce was a complete surprise. When I talked to Kevin about it, his only question was: “Do you love this new guy?” “I think so Kev. I am happier than I have ever felt.” I told him. He smiled and hugged me. “Well, if you’re happy then I‘m happy, and that means I am happy with this new guy, but if he ever hurts you, I’ll kill him okay?” I laughed, “Okay Kev. I like it, sounds perfect to me.”

Kevin and some friends single-handedly got me through that crazy time. I felt horrible for hurting such a good man, but I had to follow my heart. If I continued living a life that I didn’t fit into I would come apart at the seams. I was so happy with Eric (the new guy). Other than with Kevin, I had never felt so whole, so safe, so loved. Our love was so intense in the beginning, (Eric and I) that a natural disaster could have come through our city and we wouldn’t have even noticed. I wrapped myself so tightly in our cocoon of love that I believed nothing could penetrate it.

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Shortly after, while I was enjoying the honeymoon phase with Eric and surviving my divorce, Kevin called me. He needed to talk. We met at Bicentennial Park. When I got there, he was sitting in his car. I pulled up, parked, and tapped on his window. He didn’t move. I opened the car door. He looked up at me with a dazed look. His eyes were red, and his cheeks covered in tears. “Kevin! What’s wrong! What happened!?” I said as I touched his arm. “I think Becca is seeing someone else. I think she is going to leave me.” He managed between gulps and sobs. He started to get out of the car. I followed his lead. He pulled out a bottle of Tullamore Dew and lit a cigarette. He was smoking again. Oh yeah, this was bad. I had started smoking as well shortly before my divorce. I had also walked away from the church and decided to become Gnostic. A lot had changed for us both in recent days and would continue to evolve over the next year.

As he took a swig of Tullamore Dew, I lit a cigarette and chewed on what he just told me. I was so angry my body was shaking with rage. Anything or anyone that hurt Kevin would set me off like an atom bomb. I wanted to scratch her eyes out; I wanted to kill Becca. I wanted to make her feel the worst pain imaginable. As I was getting flashes of vengeful ways to hurt her, I stopped myself as I had an epiphany. Wait a minute, how can I condemn this girl? How can I judge her? I just did the same exact thing to a good man. What do I do with that? Tearing her apart wouldn’t help him at all, especially if they got back together. Although, in my heart, I knew her mind was made up. As a young bride and having children so young she had never had a chance to figure out who she was. I had faced the same internal battle when making my decision to divorce my husband. So, what do I do with all these thoughts and emotions? I wanted to kill her for hurting Kevin, but I knew and understood why she did it. I also knew that Kevin had done the same thing to her earlier in their marriage and may have done it again if he wasn’t happy. Why is love so complicated? Why is there never a clear answer when it comes to what to do when following your heart?

After working through all of these thoughts in my head, I did the only thing I knew I could do without saying the wrong words. I grabbed him and latched on. I held Kevin so tight. I concentrated with all my might and tried to absorb all of his pain like an amoeba. I kept telling him that I was so sorry. I tried to console him while tasting the bitter flavor of guilt in my mouth knowing that this was the pain that I had caused my ex-husband to feel. Kevin’s grip loosened, and he seemed to calm down a bit. We spent the next few hours talking about what happened and what to do next. I tried to give him some advice on how to woo her back into his arms, but I also had a gut feeling that those attempts would be unsuccessful. Before he left, I told him that everything might work out and to be patient. I told him he was strong and he would get through this. I said I would be there for him like he has always been there for me. I told him if he needed anything just to call me.

I left that night completely heartbroken for him. Becca had become his world. I had watched him fight his pain, depression, and darkness to be strong for her and his little girls. I knew that without those things in his daily life that he would crumble. He was “Gaara the sand demon.” If he lost his source of love, the winds would bring the sands of darkness out. I had to watch him. I had to be ready. I had to be there to catch him before those sands blew in his direction. The full effect of the break up had come to pass. Kevin was living with some friends and was doing his best to survive the change.

Celticfest was coming up. I knew Kevin would love it! That would cheer him up! I called him and invited him to go. I figured we would get a bit drunk, sing a bunch of Irish folk songs and laugh for awhile. I felt he needed it more than ever. We met up at Celticfest. We grabbed beers and walked around. We caught each other up on what was going on in our lives and enjoyed the night air filled with the sounds of Irish fiddles in the background. After our second or third beer I tried to get him to watch a band for awhile, he refused. He looked so sad. He was covered in melancholy. He pulled out his wallet and started showing me pictures of the girls and telling me stories. Some friends he knew walked by, and he repeated it all. He loved those girls more than life itself, and he missed them so much. Sitting under a pavilion, drinking my Killians Irish red, and hearing the sounds of fiddles and bagpipes around me, my heart broke into a million pieces seeing him tell story after story and show picture after picture to anyone who would listen. He will pull through this. He will be okay; I kept saying to myself.

The end of the night came, and we began saying our goodbyes. “Thanks, Taw-shina, I needed this.” He said to me with sad eyes. “Anytime Kev. I love spending time with you! If you need anything or want to hang again just call me.” I told him with a smile. “Slainte.” He replied back to me. “Slainte, cuz.” I hugged him, and he hugged back by picking me up off my feet and swaying me back and forth. “Love you Taw-shina.” He whispered. “Love you too Kevin.” My eyes were filling with tears.

To this day I am so grateful for his friends and his punk family. They stepped up to the plate when I failed. Over the next month or so he called me multiple times to hang out. He asked me to a show, I declined. He also tried to meet up with me on Halloween, and I ended up unintentionally blowing him off when my boyfriend and I went to another party. He was reaching out for love, for help, and for friendship; I ignored every sign and every signal. I was so wrapped up in my self-absorbed bubble of new love and happiness that I missed it. I offered out my hand to help then as he reached for it, I took it away. What was wrong with me!? How could I have been so blind!? I was bundled so tightly in the blanket of love I had created with Eric that I had forsaken Kevin. I had abandoned the most important person in my life. My hero. My heart. How is it that human nature and love can make us so fickle? The show, the Halloween party, the phone calls: I look back on those moments to this day and get angry at myself. How could I ever forgive myself for failing the one person that I had always promised to be there for, to catch them if they fell?

Kevin filled his days with work and spent time with his friends. They honestly got him through the next few months. I also believe he would have spiraled worse if they weren’t there for him during that time. I am so glad that he had them. Sometime after that many of us, maybe all of us stopped watching, we stopped waiting for him to break. The holidays had come and gone. All the while Kevin was fighting the hardest emotional battle he had ever fought. We all went about our lives while he was fighting a dark war. Should we have seen it? Should we have done more? What can someone do to stop someone else from breaking? He fought his mind as hard as he could, but in January he broke. He unraveled in such a way that he felt desperate. He needed our help. Since his early childhood, he only knew of one way to cry for help: to threaten his own life.

It was January 27th, 2008. I was curled up in a ball of fluffy blankets sleeping with a smile due to my new fairy tale love. My phone kept ringing and waking me up. I opened one eye and saw it was Becca. I hit the silence button and turned over to cuddle with Eric. It happened three times, four times, up to almost ten times and I kept silencing it. I will call her later, I told myself. Maybe it is about her and Kevin? I will call her when I get up; she will be okay. After Eric had gotten out of bed, I finally woke up and stretched with a grin from ear to ear. Ah, how lovely life was right now. Could it get any better? I was so happy with Eric. I got out of bed and looked at my phone finally. Ten missed calls, it said on my phone!

I began listening to the voicemails. My face started draining every bit of color out of it. My fingers began to go numb. My breath froze in my chest. I listened to the first few messages before my mind started swimming. The quarry. A gun. Sleeping pills. I don’t know what to do. Call me back! The quarry. A gun. Sleeping pills. Kevin. The show. Halloween night. The phone calls. Kevin. The quarry. The show. Sleeping pills. Becca. Halloween night. A gun. The phone calls. Call me back. Over and over the words haunted me and swirled through my mind. The feelings of guilt and ultimate fear poured over me. Kevin. I must get to him! I am coming, Kevin! I am so sorry!!! Please stay strong; please wait for me…I’m coming….

To be continued…

Coming soon: Heroes Never Die – Part 6- Darkness

As always, Sending you all love and light,

Wild Antevasin

*** Pictures of Gaara the sand demon were taken from Google. Thank you to the artists that drew them and shared them. ***

Heroes Never Die – Part 4 – Family

“I am lost in the darkness between two worlds and here I’m struggling. You’re the light that I’ve been seeking ’cause my whole life there’s been something missing. Only you can make me whole.”

Stabbing Westward

Sugar Packets and creamers had been strewn about the table. Piles of salt were scattered here and there from multiple lessons on how to balance a salt shaker on its side. The ashtray was full, and smoke was rising from a freshly lit cigarette. Bits of leftover S.O.S (“shit on a shingle” or otherwise known as chipped beef on toast) sat on a plate. The low rumble of conversations filled the diner. Kevin and I were talking about life and debating our ideals. Our voices started to escalate and turned to yelling. All of a sudden Kevin’s giant fist slammed down on the table and all of the sugar and salt fluffed up into the air like fake snow. “You hypocritical Christian bitch!” Kevin belted out. “You stupid atheist asshole!” I yelled back in reply. The diner patrons quieted down around us. We glared at each other. Then his mouth started to curl into a smile, and I started laughing out loud. He did the same. The people sitting around us must have thought we were crazy! That was just a typical night for us at Miller’s diner or any diner for that matter. We would drink coffee, chain smoke, and talk about life. Some nights were emotional, and we would be each other’s shoulder to cry on, and some nights were shouting matches. I loved our time together on those nights. The sight or smell of a diner today still sends a pang of pain through my heart.

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I had grown up worshiping Kevin in my early years, but after a few years of partying on my own I had a change of heart as to my ideals and started to adopt my strict Christian upbringing. We argued about this a lot. I still saw him as my hero and my heart, but I wouldn’t budge on my Christian beliefs. To be completely honest, I even got a bit self-righteous there for a time. My new way of loving and protecting him was to try and save his soul. Regardless of the disagreements we had, he cared for me just the same. He still made me feel like the strongest and most beautiful person. He made me feel like he needed me and that I was a princess in his world. How Ironic it was. I was claiming to be the Christian one, and as an atheist he was the one with the unconditional love and was not trying to change me?

Some time had gone by and Kevin was adjusting to the life of being a father. He had also married Becca. I don’t remember many details about their wedding. I was not there. I think they did a private wedding with just the two of them or maybe with only a small amount of family. The pictures were beautiful. It was in a park or somewhere outside. He was wearing his Irish cap. He glowed with happiness! He loved Becca so much. She completed him. They were best friends and needed each other.

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received_10215655953418432 (Kevin and Becca on their wedding day)

Kevin was always seeking love. He needed and wanted so badly, something or someone to mend his broken heart and mind. He also needed to protect and to look after someone. It was how he was wired. If Kevin didn’t have anyone to protect or love he would lose it. He would spiral and not know what to do with himself. (He related to and admired the character Gaara from Naruto for this reason. He saw himself as a sand demon tortured by his pain, only to be saved by love) All I knew was at that time he was the happiest I had ever seen him. He loved his beautiful baby girl Bryanna and loved his wife Becca with everything that he was. He was so proud to be a father. He would show me pictures and talk about Bryanna all the time, every time I would see him.

68fbc33f7cd5570dbfbdd5161298497b (Gaara from Naruto)

While he was busy with his family, I had met a “good guy,” the kind of man you bring home to mom and dad. We had gotten engaged and were about to be married. During that time things got so busy that I lost touch with Kevin. He and Becca had a falling out, and Kevin was seeing another woman. I never met this girl, but I know it had caused a lot of drama in the family. (I said he was my hero…. I never said he was perfect okay.) My memory is hazy around this time, but I do remember that he couldn’t come to my wedding for some reason, maybe due to the family drama. I was disappointed and heartbroken, but I understood.

What I do remember is that the day of my wedding I was freaking out. I was 19 and thought I knew everything up until that point. I thought I was so grown up and had everything figured out. (Oldest sibling syndrome I guess?) Well, I didn’t feel like that the day I got married. What was I doing?! Marriage is forever!? Well…no turning back now. At that moment, Kevin showed up at the back door of the church where I was getting ready and waiting to go into the chapel with my bridesmaids. He poked his head in and said, “Hey kid…wow…You look beautiful!” I blushed, “Thanks, Kev.” I replied. “I am sorry I can’t stay Taw-shina, but I wanted to bring this to you.” I looked down, and he handed me a printed picture of my Mom and Dad (my biological father) of the day they got married. They were my age when they got married (19 yrs old). I took the picture, hands shaking like a leaf. Why did he bring me this? Where did he get it? I didn’t know what to say. I looked up at him, but before I could say anything, he said, “Don’t be scared kid. I thought this picture might help you. I have to go, but I will call you later. I love you.” I was speechless. He grabbed me and gave me a gigantic Kevin bear hug. The few seconds I was in his arms I felt safe. I didn’t want him to let go. I told him I loved him and thanked him as he left. I patted my tears protecting my wedding makeup and put my big girl face on. Time to face the music. In every fearful step, I kept thinking: He came to see me….me. Kevin came to see me…I can do this…Kevin said not to be scared.

20171224_105417 (Picture of my Mom and Dad on their wedding day)

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(My wedding day picture)

I turned into a full-blown “Suzie homemaker” and was busy with my new husband and new life. Kevin and Becca had worked out their differences and had gotten back together. They had another baby girl: Shannon. They moved into my great grandparent’s house where all of us kids grew up playing outside and having rotten apple fights. I would come to visit them and play with the babies, and he would show me the latest video game he was playing. He had gone full blown Dad mode. He loved all of his girls so much. He worked so hard to take care of them. There are days that I am not sure how I will get by with the money that I make today, but at that time he had two little girls and one on the way and a wife that he provided for. He made a quarter of what I make now, and he made it work. A lot of that was Becca as well; she was a wonderful mother and incredibly creative and resourceful. Through love and a lot of compromises they made it work.

 

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I will never forget a family party we went to one night. I had offered him a cigarette. He turned it down. I looked at him questioningly, and he looked back at me and said, “I quit smoking.” My jaw dropped. “What!? When!?” I asked, shocked. “Well, when you go to the store and have enough in your wallet for diapers or cigarettes, you buy the diapers because if you buy the cigarettes, well, your just a huge asshole, so I bought the diapers and quit that day.” He answered me. “Wow! Kev. I don’t even know what to say? That sucks, um, but awesome and good for you!” I am so proud of you!” I told him. “Thanks, cuz. It wasn’t easy, but I love my girls. I gotta do what I gotta do for them.” He said back to me. Just as everything else so far in my life, he inspired me yet again. A short time after that I quit smoking. I stopped smoking for two years. I kept telling myself on the hard days that if Kevin could do it, then I can do it. So I did. If he only knew how much influence he had on me or how much strength he gave me. If he only knew how much I needed him…he had no idea. He told me to be my own hero, so I tried to do just that and tried not to show him how much I truly needed him. Maybe I should have?

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I will never forget the day that I thought I could lose him. I was working at Easton hospital and got a call from my Mom. “Kevin is in the hospital.” “What!? Why is he there!? What happened! Is he okay?! Tell me everything!” I frantically replied. “He has a collapsed lung.” My mother answered me. “That is all we know Shina.” I couldn’t breathe. The room went grey and hazy. I could hear my heart beating in my ears. “What hospital is he at?” I asked my mom. She told me the name of the hospital and gave me the information to call his room. “Kevin! Are you okay!? What is going on!?” I shrieked at him. “Hey kid,” he croaked. He sounded awful. “I am okay. Doc says I will be alright, don’t freak out.” He told me, trying to console me. “ Are you sure? Okay, Kevin, if you say so. What happened though?” I asked him. He began explaining that working in the freezer at his job had collapsed his lung. It had been the severe cold and the back and forth of it all. Apparently, that kind of thing can happen. My heart started to slow, and we started to joke around and talk about his family and everyday life. “I will pray for you Kev,” I told him. “Yeah, Yeah, yeah.” He grumbled back at me. “Do you want me to come and see you?” I asked him. “No, cuz, it’s okay I am okay don’t miss work for me. I will see you soon. Love you!” he replied. “Okay, Kev. Don’t scare me like that again though. I love you too.” I hung up the phone and took a deep breath. The fear and numb feeling that rushed through me when I thought I could lose him was overwhelming. If I ever did lose him, I don’t know if I could survive it. Even though we had our own lives and spent time apart, he was everything to me.

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Things went on like this for a few years. I was playing the part of “good wife” and he was working like a dog and being a good father. We saw each other at family parties, and I would soak up every hug and toothy smile I could get from him at those get-togethers. I watched as his little girls grew up and got older and more beautiful with each day. Things were nice. They were calm. It was surreal. Things were never this mellow in our lives. It was nice to soak that up for awhile.

It was all temporary however. The things we were about to face would break him and I. No matter how strong we tried to be, Kevin and I were already torn and injured on the inside.We would need each other more than ever.

To be continued…

Coming soon: Heroes Never die – Part 5 – Heartbreak

Sending you all love and light,
Wild Antevasin