I don’t know why I thought she was going to be Okay. Maybe it was the fact that throughout my entire life she was the strongest person I had ever known. Or it could’ve been the fact that I assumed my needing her so badly would keep her here. She fought the cancer. She was in remission. The fight was long and hard, and I admired her for never giving up. In the end, it wasn’t the cancer that took her. She died suddenly of congestive heart failure. She was on a business trip. To this day it bothers me that she died alone in a hotel room at the casino. She always hated the air in those rooms. She said it was so recycled and stuffy. No matter what they tried to do they couldn’t take the cigarette smell out.
Nancy Alice Spitko
Nancy was my aunt, but she was so much more like a mother to me. She paid for my dance classes, taught me how to write school papers, brought me school clothes shopping…really, she was an example of the kind of person that I wanted to be. As dysfunctional and convoluted as my childhood was, she was constant. I could always count on her. She was there for me no matter what. She was my rock. Not only did she help me get out of my abusive marriage, but she helped me stay out by giving me and my daughter a place to live that was safe and supportive. We didn’t need to go into a shelter because of her. As if that weren’t enough, she picked up the other parent role in my daughters life. When I needed help or someone to watch my daughter she was always there. She would do the same things for my daughter that she used to do for me. When she died, my world turned upside down. More than two years later, on Wednesday, August 26, I will begin the conscious work of turning it right side up again.
Two years later, I wasn’t exactly looking for a wake up call. I didn’t need to be blindsided by the fact that I still had a lot of grieving to do. After experiencing some very traumatic events as a young girl, I had become extremely adept at convincing myself that I was more OK than I really was. In fact it was almost involuntary. Put on your blinders and carry-on. The world doesn’t stop for my feelings. And then the Facebook posts began. One of my best friends from childhood, Nathan, had just experienced a loss of his own. His cousin had died in a tragic accident.
August 13, 2015
Tyler was 20 years old when he fell to his death. He was 6’5″ and in amazing shape. He worked as a lifeguard. He was making a movie about pushing past limits. He would film himself swimming under the water, cliff jumping and other types of thrill seeking activities. His father died in a house fire when Tyler was 18. Being that his mother has MS, after his fathers sudden death, he followed in his father’s footsteps, taking care of her to the best of his ability. Tyler was a dreamer who planned on seeing those dreams through. He was interested in becoming an EMT and also wanted to go to film school. It’s safe to say that Tyler was an amazing person. He loved to push the boundaries of what most people would do. Hearing about him made me realize the yin and yang of his personality. He was a dreamer who loved excitement and fun, trying to share his stunts with the world through film, but he was sole to the Earth, in his desire to help people as a lifeguard, steadfast caretaker, and desire to be an EMT. He loved excitement and living life to the fullest, but he was grounded by a profound love for his family and dedication to his mother. Tyler died too soon at the age of 20. All the people who loved him, family and friends, theirlives will never be the same.
My blog is about the healing process. About what I have to do, steps I have to take, to heal my heart and soul of the pain I have experienced in my life. Grief is my most hated part of that process. I have no control of it. I don’t know when it will sweep over me like a dark cloud bringing sudden thunder and rain. Or when it will hit me at the most inopportune time, like in the store or on an important phone call or during a meeting, that I feel like I want to cry and scream and crawl out of my skin. There is no one for me to bargain with. Neither God nor the universe has been willing to negotiate with me thus far. I miss Nancy. I want her back. I can’t have that.
Yet, here I am reminded of all the things I learned from her. About who I want to be and how I want to live, or don’t want to live. I’ve been able to meld the lessons I learned by her example, and my own wants and desires, into a beautiful mosaic of my life vision. The truth is, as cliché as it may sound, that these people leave their footprints in our lives and on our hearts. That can never be taken away. The gifts they’ve given are more than just these lessons. The gifts they give are themselves. We are all entwined. Our lives are not singular. Our influence goes further than just our own reflection. The same footprints those people who we have lost, have left on our lives, are the same prints our own feet are leaving. We have the real true opportunity to affect every single living being we come in contact with, during the entire span of our lives.
In Nancy’s memory, I move forward. Not because I would be stagnant if she were still here, but because in her absence I think it’s important to be an example of the strength that I learned. Because I’ve literally got bigger shoes to fill than I was made to. But much like Nancy taught me, and much like Tyler showed us, we are capable of so much more than what we think we were made to do.
To the Bresnahan, Selwyn, & Brouillette families, I am truly deeply sorry for your loss. If you are moved to help the family with burial expenses please visit their gofundme page at