It was March 25th, 2013 when Emilie called, I didn't answer. She doesn't call and she knows I don't much care for talking on the phone. I figured the first call was by accident. When the second call came through, I went and grabbed my shoes figuring her boyfriend did something that was gonna get his ass beat. This time she left a voicemail. I stood as I returned her call and she told me to meet her at St. Mary's, Nick had passed away.
I've known Nick since we were 11-12 years old and Emilie was just a newborn. Nick, Jim and I were the three stooges, three amigos, whatever you wanted to call us. Nick and Jim weren't as close as Jim and me and Nick an me were but we all lived just few homes away. We spent a lot of time together, nearly inseparable. If I wasn't with Nick, I was with Jim. If I wasn't with Jim, I was with Nick. It was like that for nearly a decade until we had to get jobs, I became a dad and we just got busy ... living.
March 22nd I thought, what the hell, I'm gonna get a tattoo, but under one condition ... Nick had to be the drawer of the artwork. He always drew random things and was pretty good at it. So, I sent Nick a text Friday asking how he was doing. Emilie called the following Monday. When she said --- actually I don't even remember what she said, I just remember my knees buckling and barely catching myself on the kitchen island ... weeping.
I kept telling myself this wasn't real, it can't be real, this is Nick's way of getting back at me for not contacting him sooner and he and Emilie are gonna be standing outside the hospital.
I pulled into the parking lot and parked my car and as I couldn't find Nick or Emilie outside, I took a deep breath, and walked into the hospital. Emilie found me, hugged me and said "this way". We walked into a waiting area/room with his grandparents, family and mom. His mom grabbed me hugged me hard crying. I didn't know what to do or say. I was ignorantly still hoping this was a prank, this can't be true. This can't be happening.
Emilie and I went to the room where Nick laid motionless ... lifeless ... his dad starring with a look of anger and disbelief as he fought back tears.
--- Scarlett had been born just six weeks earlier in that same hospital. It was the first time I got to witness my child being born and being the one to name her. ---
Nick dying of a heart attack at age 31 was and honestly to do this day is hard to comprehend. That's not supposed to happen. It did make me think twice about my own mortality. Something I hadn't thought of since I was probably about 8 years old.
Really late at night, mom came running into my room asking in a panic, "what's wrong, what's wrong, why are you crying, where does it hurt" - I looked over at her - "mom, who gets my stuff when I die? I want Damien to have my bike" --- mom (like any mother) was startled that her eight year old boy was worried about death, HIS death.
If it can happen to him, it can happen to me. It was one of several motivating factors for me to go on bicycle rides, working out at 5 AM and eating healthier. I wasn't going to leave my little sister, little brothers and sure as hell wasn't going to let my kids grow up without a father. Not if I could help it anyway.
I lost the only grandpa I knew few months after Nick passed away and later that year my last grandma passed away. Death was becoming something too familiar for me and I felt numb from the pain.
Nick's birthday was July 1st, which is the same as my grandma who passed away half year after him.
I've made some strides in accepting he's gone. Or so thought, because that's when the dreams started. The first one was a talk with his mom, Paula, who said something that made me think Nick was alive. Dream after dream, I searched up and down looking for him. Then it happened, I found him. He was going by his middle name, Wayne. He was married and had children - both a HUGE surprise if you knew Nick. I saw a name badge on his wife's shoulder, it said Sarah Jeper and the place of business. I focused my eyes so hard on it because I wanted to remember every detail just in case I had to find him again.
We talked several times. The more we talked the more I realized he was there, but something was off with him. I couldn't place my finger on it other than he was alive, but not living kinda thing. He nervously told me no one could know he was still alive and if someone found out that he and his family would be dead. I told him if he "was in trouble, why the hell didn't you come to me?" -- "Kev, I told you, I have to fight my own battles" ... I mentioned his sister, Emilie, who misses him and he started to tear up "stop, please stop". Sarah came in and took over the conversation at that point.
When I first met Sarah it was obvious who "wore the pants" in the family. After each time I met with them, I started to feel something more was going on. She always seemed end our discussions and if I started talking about a childhood memory she was quick to bring up one of their children.
It felt like Nick was suffering from selective amnesia and Sarah was controlling what he was allowed to remember. Like Sarah was his handler. It started to feel like I was in a movie.
I never found out why Nick used his coma inducing heart attack as a way to start his life over. What happened? Why did it happen? Who was he hiding from? Why didn't he come to me? Who all knows?
When I wake up, it doesn't feel like a dream. It feels like I have a "mission" to complete. That I have to find what he's hiding from and remove the "threat". It's really weird to have a series of dreams seem more real to you than the life you're living. I hope if there's another dream, I can remember that damn business name on the name badge.