I really don’t know how to start this one.
It was my one year cancerversary yesterday. It was the a day that changed my life. I will never forget the phone call or the emotions I felt that day. I still feel it like it was yesterday, even though this year has really felt like 10 years.
When I realized that my cancerversary would fall on Easter Sunday, I laughed a bit. Regardless of how religious you are, Easter has a meaning of rebirth. Of something special happening. Of healing. I embraced the fact that my life could mean that today too. That this would somehow be the start of a better year. A year where I would continue to fight cancer and overcome it. It was a beautiful March day in Michigan. Perfect.
Then my brother called.
My wife and I were at her parent’s house and not at my Aunt’s house. We decided we’d only do one Easter party this year and because it is easier on the kids to only go one place, we decided to skip Easter at my Aunt’s house.
Steve told me my cousin Todd wasn’t breathing and that paramedics were shocking him and giving him CPR. I told him to keep me updated and told Heather. We started to get the kids ready to go wherever we had to go to be with family, but things happened so quick.
About a half hour later Steve called again to tell me Todd didn’t make it.
I honestly haven’t cried much yet. I’m still in shock. The tears come as I remember memories of Todd, but I still just can’t believe it. There are two memories I have of him that I can’t forget.
I was always so jealous as a kid when my brother Matt hung out with Kurt and Todd. Matt was close in age to Kurt and because Todd was the older brother they always hung out more. Kurt and Todd were the “cool” cousins. I don’t know why I had such jealousy, as I had friends of my own I hung out with a lot, I just always felt it.
When I was in college at Oakland University, I caught wind that Matt was going to Todd’s new house with Kurt. Without asking much of what was going on, and this being before cell phones, I decided to skip my final few classes that day and headed over to his new house. As I arrived, I noticed this wasn’t a social call. Kurt and Matt were installing sod at Todd’s house while Todd was working. What did I get myself into? I can’t just walk away now. So I got to work helping with the sod installation.
It was hot out and it was hard work for a lazy 19 year old. But it was fun. Aunt Nancy ordered pizza for the three of us and we just worked all day laughing and having fun. We finished the whole yard before Todd got home.
When he got home he was surprised to see me… and that was because he was PAYING Matt and Kurt to install the sod. I felt so weird knowing he probably felt obligated now to pay me. But he didn’t hesitate. He handed me an equal amount, probably more than he expected to pay, and thanked me for the help. Being human, I’m sure he felt frustrated he had to pay three people instead of two, but he never showed it. He just thanked me for helping. That’s the type of person he was. That’s Todd.
The other memories I have of him all revolve around playing football at the Park by the house they grew up in, which oddly enough became the house I grew up in when my parents bought it from my Aunt and Uncle.
I remember Todd always being All Time QB, as he was older and taller than all of us, and could throw the hail mary pass beautifully. He loved being the Quarterback because he could get everyone involved and make sure everyone had an equally great time. He never failed us.
Before every snap on offense, he’d huddle everyone together and make up some crazy plays by drawing on the football. The plays all had names. Magic 7. Crazy Eights. Hail Mary. The list goes on and on. And someone else was always his go to receiver. He knew how to make everything fun for the younger cousins and loved every minute of it. He’d even let the defense full of 10 year old slow cousins sack him at times after counting 7 apples. I’ll never forget playing football with the cousins.
Over the years my health declined and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and missed a lot of the annual Cousin Bowls. And after getting married and having kids, we couldn’t always make the game, but I do wish I’d have tried harder to be there. What I do know is the next Cousin Bowl we have, I’ll be there, and so will Todd. He will always be the All-Time QB.
A year ago on March 27th I was diagnosed with cancer. It definitely changed my life. I’ll never be the same. It was devastating, but as bad as it has been, and as serious as it still is, my life has changed for the better.
I don’t know how Aunt Nancy, Uncle Mel, Jodie, Jamie and Kurt will ever get through this. I don’t know how life will ever be able to be better without him here. It can’t. It won’t. But when life does change like this, it doesn’t have to be a constant reminder of how bad it is now. Rather a constant reminder of how much he loved us all in simple things like playing football with the cousins at North Park.
He was older so I didn’t know him as well as I wished I would have, but the little things he always did to make everyone feel a part of the game will be greatly missed. I know all the cousins love and miss him for that.