Nash Bash

Nash’s first birthday fell on a Friday. When I woke up the Monday of that week, I was already emotional, just knowing it was coming. I was picturing what he would be doing and what he may look like. Would he finally have hair? How many teeth would he have? It was almost too much to bear. Luckily, all the party planning kept me distracted for the most part and I managed to keep my breakdowns to a minimum. As his birthday inched closer, my worries dissolved into one question,”Would people show up?” The news was calling for a winter storm and we are at the peak of flu season. I kept telling myself not to expect too much. Even if just family shows up, there will be at least 75 people, and that’s not horrible. The girls helping plan the party were not concerned at all. They were worried about the opposite problem–what if too many people showed up? Their confidence put my mind at ease.
The morning of the party, Natalie group-messaged all the girls, “It’s Nash day!!” The other girls all chimed in with cheers and excitement. I was starting to get excited. Todd, on the other hand, was more concerned than me. This is the thing about men, they don’t listen. For months he had been asking me what had been planned and for months I had been telling him, but he was still concerned we may not be prepared. The other girls were dealing with the same reactions from their significant others. I truly believe they thought we just met every week to hang out and gossip.
The morning of the party, I expected to be so busy and was surprised that I wasn’t. Most everything was set. I just had to be there early to decorate the gym. It became a game of hurry up and wait. Shawn had stayed the night and Jessie and Julie drove through the horrible snow storm to get there early that morning. Accidents were all over the news and I began to worry about my friends and family driving from so far away. I started to get messages of apology that the roads were too bad or that people were sick and couldn’t make it. I was thankful they stayed home. I didn’t want anyone getting in an accident on their way. We had projected that there may be up to 100 kids there and I didn’t want to be the cause of an even bigger flu outbreak. It really started sinking in that not a lot of people were going to make it. When I got to the gym, I was happy to see that the majority of people that were supposed to be there to help set up, were actually there. We couldn’t get into the gym because of basketball tryouts, so we did everything that we possibly could do in the hallway. We were supposed to get the gym at 4:30, which only gave us an hour and a half to prepare which already made me nervous. Then, to top it all off, they ran over the time. I was on the verge of an anxiety attack. The photo booth people showed up and some of the volunteers.We were still waiting in the hallway to get in. This is why I love my girls. I looked at Kasey with absolute panic in my eyes and her and Caroline just started moving tables in. Kasey just shook her head at me and said, “Oh no! We are going in there!” No one has a personality like Kasey. She is all wit and exudes happiness with an equal amount of sarcastic humor. When I explained how nervous I was earlier that week about the possibility that school may be canceled due to a snow day, she said she would personally walk all the back roads of Livingston and Genesee county with a salt shaker if she had to. Oh, these girls knew how to make me laugh. The funny thing is, I knew she would do it. I even pictured it and laughed out loud.
We finally had the gym with only a little over an hour to set up. We had made most of our balloon arches the night before which, could truly be a story all its own, but I can sum it up just by saying none of us want to see another balloon again in our lifetime. As we all scurried to decorate, friends from everywhere started showing up asking me what they could do, and how could they help. I was surprised at how well I was doing delegating. I hate asking others for help, but I didn’t have time to worry about that. I needed things done and fast. The photo booth people were setting up. Then the DJ and the bounce house people arrived . We started putting our game stations together. They consisted of the most decorated tables in the world. Each with its own game, prizes and theme: superhero, cars, Strawberry Shortcake and Frozen. Each booth was sponsored by a business. I was not only worried about them looking nice, but also making the businesses that donated money proud of them. My head was spinning with anxiety. People were setting up the silent auction in the hall and decorating the cafeteria. Then the cake arrived. Wendy, a girl who follows Nash’s story, reached out to me months earlier, asking if she could make his cake. When she arrived with it, I was almost moved to tears. I knew to hold them back because if I started now, I knew there would be no stopping them. It was huge, with candy balloons going all the way up the side of the cake spelling “Happy Birthday Nash.” She had asked me questions at one point that I hadn’t even thought of. Do you want a candle? Are you going to sing happy birthday? Things that don’t usually have to be asked for any other first birthday party. Todd and I decided to do both. Nash deserved everything anyone else would get on their birthday.
Stacy, my sister-in-law, got there to set up her table. She was selling team Nash t-shirts and hoodies and giving away: bracelets, Nash day cards, and car decals. I stopped for only a minute in the midst of chaos and looked around the gym. Everything was starting to come together. David from news 5 arrived and interviewed me about the party. It was starting to set in. At 6:00, the party was to start and at about 15 minutes until 6:00, I went to the hallway to see how the welcome table was doing. People were already showing up. I learned quite quickly that I could not stand in the hallway or I would never be able to take part in the party. Everyone wanted to stop and talk. It was amazing. The gym started to fill with people. I started thinking about our big surprise, the gender reveal, and I was getting down-right giddy about it. I was so happy to have a surprise for them all. I knew when those blue balloons came flying out of that box, it was going to be an emotional and exciting moment.
As I walked around the gym, all I saw were kids smiling and laughing and, for the first time since Nash passed, this scene made me happy and not sad. Seeing how good of a time they were all having filled my heart with joy. Todd said on numerous occasions that seeing how good a time the kids were having was his favorite part. If seeing the photo booth, game stations, bounce house, popcorn popping, and DJ were not enough, the Disney characters arrived. As Elsa from frozen walked in singing, “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman”, all the little girls ran to her screaming. Now, for some reason, this of all things made me cry. To see just how excited they all were. Like their dreams had just come true. Moments later, Captain America came in. As I looked around the party, I saw so many familiar faces. Some people I had known forever and some just from Facebook. People I had never met that had been moved by Nash’s story and wanted to come help celebrate were there. As I walked through the gym, kids were lined up at every game station, bouncing in the bounce house, singing with Elsa and I started to think of Nash and how much fun he would be having. Tears started to fill my eyes and then I felt a gust of wind on my head and heard the loud thump of Captain America landing from a flip he had just done. It stopped my tears immediately and all the little boys looked at my shocked face and started laughing hysterically. I couldn’t help but laugh with them. Wouldn’t that be a headline? Nash’s mom taken out by Captain America at the Nash Bash!
The photographer showed up, who also was a stranger to me until that day. She had written me weeks before, asking if she could document the day. Johnny’s Pizzeria started bringing in the pizza and Uncle Rays brought the ice cream. The gym looked to have a couple hundred people, easily. It amazed me in this weather that at least two hundred people were present. I then went to the cafeteria to direct the people with food and saw the cafeteria itself had a couple hundred more people. Tears began to flow. I was so overwhelmed. Volunteers were all in their spots to help with pizza and pop. People were all smiling and having a good time. I can’t describe the feeling I had seeing hundreds of people celebrating Nash. We have gotten so much support, it’s too much to wrap our brains around sometimes–this was one of those moments.
It was almost 7:35 and David had a surprise video for us. As the DJ announced it, everyone started piling into the gym. They shut the lights off and the video started. David started talking about how Nash’s story came to be and how he became a part of it. After that, the first interview I had ever done with David played. I watched myself telling the story of the day Nash died and all the random acts of kindness that came after. Seeing myself when it was still so raw and so new brought me to tears. Then, David asked everyone to take the different color glow sticks they had been given earlier and crack them and make them shine and hold them up. He started talking about the rainbow and its meaning to us. I looked around the gym and saw all the different colors and continued my sobbing. Todd smiled and wrapped his arms around me. Then, pictures of Nash started playing to the song, “Heal The World”. After his pictures, came the many pictures of people doing their random acts of kindness. As the music built in strength, chills went up and down my body and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by all the support we have had and just how much has happened since Nash passed. I couldn’t help but in all my sadness to feel lucky. Todd and I got to be Nash’s Mommy and Daddy. When the video stopped, the DJ announced I had something to say. As I approached the microphone, I was a mess. This is where I was to announce the six honorary guests and why they are so special to Todd and I. I had no written speech I was just trying to speak from the heart. I then began to explain and announce them one by one and handed them a certificate of appreciation for all they had done. First, David Custer from news 5, then Dominic Adams from the Flint Journal, Kelly who coined the phrase, “Have a Nash Day”, Misty who created the “When Nash Smiled” Facebook page, Mike who was the first responder the day Nash died and finally, Dr. Bo Schumaker, my boss and reason I am able to work close to home now and who sponsored the whole event. One by one, they came up to hug me and I managed to keep some form of composure. I looked around the room and saw many tears. Then I announced the five women who have come to mean so much to me: Caroline, Kasey, Natalie, Becca, and Christina. I referred to them as the dream team and explained all they had done for me. I asked them to come up and stand with me, the crowd cheered. I knew the gender reveal was coming and I wanted these girls to have a front row seat. I then spoke into the microphone, “What’s a birthday party without a surprise?!” I continued, “I know a lot of you are wondering what this little nugget is”, as I rubbed my belly. I asked, “Who wants to find out if Nash is getting a little brother or sister?” I heard my sister-in-law, Becca, scream and I then I heard screeches from the crowd and busy commotion. Then, Chris brought the wrapped box Lauren had filled earlier with blue balloons. I spoke into the microphone again, teasing the crowd and asking if they were ready. Todd and I started ripping open the box and blue balloons burst out, rising high to the ceiling and all you could hear was clapping and screaming. Todd pulled me in for a hug. It was an amazing moment. I apologized to the crowd for lying for so long and asked them to move to the cafeteria to sing the birthday song. It was 8:18 pm, the minute Nash was born and we wanted to sing happy birthday as close to that moment as possible. All the kids gathered around the table. I lit the candle and we all started singing. It was a bitter sweet moment. As the song ended, all the kids leaned in to blow out the candle. It could not have been more perfect. I looked around in awe of all our friends and family. All the Nash supporters in their team Nash shirts and felt……happy. I was all smiles. Not quite what I expected to feel at that moment. Everyone ran outside to release sky lanterns, 100 in all. As I watched them float to the sky and looked at all the people laughing and smiling trying to get theirs lit in the crazy winds and sub-zero temperatures, I laughed and smiled. It was a perfect night. The only thing that could have topped it was Nash being there himself. I know he was there in his own way though, looking down on all of us and smiling. Looking at all that has been done in his honor. Since that day, I have not had one breakdown. I know there will be more but, at the moment, I’m doing ok. Although I miss him more then I can ever express, that ache has lightened, my shoulders less heavy. Thinking back on it now, I think Nash may have said goodbye that night. Almost like you see in the movies when a spirit knows its job is done and feels it can go on. I think he may have hung around to make sure Todd and I were ok. I know he will check in on us from time to time, but I know he is happy to see us happy–happy for the first time since he left. When all was said and done, the Nash bash had over 500 people in attendance, spanning 49 Michigan cities and 3 states, throw in a couple from England and you get two almost full hearts.  Overwhelmingly, more than either Todd or I could have ever imagined, over 300 wrapped gifts were brought for us to donate  to children in need and over 100 baby monitors to be dispersed to local in-home day cares.  Our hearts will never be the same, and will never be completely full again. Scarred and missing a chunk, but healing and adapting to life post-Nash. Thanks to all of our amazing supporters and the love of one special, amazing little boy, I have hope we will know happiness again. If Nash is any indication of how much happiness one little boy can bring, not only to us, but also to so many, I can say with 100% certainty that it is time to bring on baby boy number two and all that lies ahead!

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4 thoughts on “Nash Bash

  1. This may be my most favorite post yet! I love how Fenton came together to celebrate Nash. It is wonderful to read how you have started to find a little joy. You truly deserve it, and while you will never forget Nash–you have a lot to look forward to in 2015. May you keep finding rainbows and bringing joy to others! You and your husband are such an inspiration.

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  2. I agree, this is the best post yet! I’m so glad you have found some peace. I’ve read every blog since the beginning, mainly I sob and sometimes I laugh but this made me smile! Unlike the YouTube video of your speech that left tears streaming down my face. 🙂

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  3. Officially started tearing up at this part: , “I think Nash may have said goodbye that night. Almost like you see in the movies when a spirit knows it’s job is done and feels it can go on. I think he may have hung around to make sure Todd and I were ok. I know he will check in on us from time to time, but I know he is happy to see us happy -happy for the first time since he left.”
    , which I’m pretty sure is the furthest I’ve got in one of your posts before I released some happy or sad tears. I’ve read this blog since, oh gosh, I think there were maybe 5 entries, and this is the first time I’ve commented.

    I plan on bringing my 2 littles to Nash Bash- 2nd edition. It looked like a blast. My “Have A Nash Day” paper is all printed out and ready to go for the next 9th as well.

    Love, love, love your words and I’m excited to see what this second bundle of yours looks like!

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  4. Oh wow, what a great party! Happy Birthday to your little Angel. It is nice to see so many people coming and celebrating his 1st birthday. If I lived closer I would have loved to go with my toddler girl.

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