-a sudden arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities.
Avalanche. A word that didn’t even own a place in my vocabulary until I met Nick. I enjoyed hobbies in the mountains, but I was more of a summer mountain gal.
Now I sit here in a coffee shop in Golden, British Columbia reflecting on what happened one year ago today.
Let me take you back there.
February 20, 2016, I woke up and immediately looked at my phone.
“Goodmorning Gorgeous. Just headed to the staging area.”
Nick sent me that message at 09:13hrs. By the time I read it, I knew they would have probably gone up, so I didn’t bother texting him back. I got out of bed and made my coffee. My plan for the day was to finish packing for my trip, and my Mom was going to be headed to Calgary to pick me up. Julie and I would drive from Medicine Hat to Great Falls to catch our flight to Vegas.
I piled up my summer clothes and started to organize what I wanted to take, but something just felt off, just as it had the day before. I was packing for this trip, but I didn’t have any excitement whatsoever, and I didn’t feel like it was even going to happen. It was the strangest feeling I have yet to be able to explain.
I had a bath, drank some tea, and still couldn’t seem to shake it off.
Around noon I walked through my kitchen, and I said out loud to myself, “Why do I feel like this?”
1:05 PM I received a text message saying call me ASAP.
This can’t be good, I thought. I was informed the boys had been in an Avalanche and that everyone would be meeting in one place until we could get more information. I managed to stay calm on the phone, but I knew in the depths of my soul that Nick was not okay.
I called my Mom, and she was already on her way to Calgary to pick me up. I called Julie and told her I wouldn’t be coming right away, and something told me our trip was going to be canceled. I called Sarah, and we prayed on the phone. I texted everyone I knew that would pray. I have never felt so helpless in my entire life and why isn’t Nick calling me? Why haven’t I heard from him? Where is he?
My friend picked me up, and we made our way to the meeting place, and as soon as we arrived, I just knew it wasn’t going to be okay. I remember hugging you, Heather. I remember seeing your face and just needing to be hugged. I texted my friend Scriv. “Pray Scriv, just pray” I texted Sandy, “please pray.”
I went into the house, and we gathered in the living room. I felt like people were avoiding me. I couldn’t figure out why. I know now why but at the time I didn’t. I remember all of a sudden being the only one pacing back and forth in the living room wondering where everyone went. I didn’t know the police were parked outside and that the others asked them to park down the street. I didn’t know they were all having a pow-wow outside because they now knew that Nick was dead. I didn’t know that the police were unable to tell me yet because they hadn’t received confirmation from the RCMP and I didn’t know that the group made a decision that they needed to tell me.
Next thing I knew everyone came inside. Except for Rian. Where was Rian? I now know he was in the truck and devastated.
Justin looked at me with a face I will never forget. He grabbed on to my arm and walked me over to the couch. I looked at him and remembered thinking what are you doing. Justin looked at me while we were still standing because I was resisting sitting down. Justin looked at me and said:
“Nick didn’t make it.”
Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life. All I remember is looking at Heather and screaming. I just remember seeing her face and just saying No over and over and over. I cried in Justin’s lap for a short period, and then something came over me. I had to go outside, and I needed to pray for Nick.
I ran outside, and I remember seeing someone across the street. I remember feeling this numbness. My world had stopped, but yet other things around me were still moving. What was happening? It was the most overwhelming and painful feeling I had ever felt. I could do nothing but cry and pray and call out for Nick. I called out for him and prayed he was okay. I told him I wasn’t mad. I told him not to be upset.
I just cried. What else could I do?
I called my Mom. I didn’t want to tell my Mom over the phone but she was still a half an hour away, and I couldn’t wait that long. I called Jennie. It was awful. I will never forget that phone call. Not ever. Jennie tried to convince me Nick would be okay but I had to say,
“No Jennie. Nick is dead.”
I called his Uncle, and while I was on the phone with him, Scriv called. Heather answered and kept him in conversation until I was off the phone.
I told Scriv, and my heart fell apart even more.
I went back downstairs, and I remember looking out the front door, and I saw the police standing there. I went outside, and I told the street Sgt that the one who died is my fiancé. He said he couldn’t confirm anything yet, but he knew that I had been informed. The Sgt also knew that I was a member with CPS and it was at that moment I realized that this was really happening and it was happening to me. I was not in uniform, and I was not giving the next of kin; I was receiving it.
At one point I remember thinking I need to cancel my yoga appointment but then I looked at my phone and realized it was too late.
Phone calls, messages, phone calls, messages.
WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING, I am supposed to be getting married. I am supposed to be with Nick forever. People are meant to be saying congratulations not; I am so sorry.
Nick’s dead? No this can’t be right.
My life was changed in an instant. I was numb and could barely cry once I got to Jennie’s, I felt like I was in a dream.
No a fucking Nightmare.
A lot of phone calls were made, and people were beginning to arrive from Medicine Hat, Saskatchewan, and Banff and also some of my colleagues.
I will never forget the looks on everyone’s face when they saw me for the first time. Those faces haunt me just as mine probably haunts them. Hugging my parents was the hardest thing I have ever experienced. I needed them so bad, but I felt so bad that they had to witness their daughter in an absolute horrific state of shock.
And they lost a son. Nick was so much like a son, and they loved him.
That night when I got home, I went straight to my room. My closet first to find Nick’s smell and then his side of the bed. I just cried. There is no fucking way I am going to survive this, nor do I want to. I was already coming up with ideas on how I was going to kill myself, and as you know, this didn’t go away for quite some time.
I remember laying in bed and the next thing I knew my cousin Melissa walked in and just jumped on me with her arms open. We just laid there and hugged. She was supposed to be my maid of honour, and now she is sleeping where my dead fiance should have been. She slept with me in my bed and woke up with me multiple times as I would scream in horror each time I realized what happened.
I have never felt so scared, and so helpless in my entire life.
My life was over in an instant.
So now I sit here today, and I realize my life didn’t end on that day, one year ago. I did not die, and instead, I was awakened. I sit here, and I cry, in public as usual, and I wonder how the hell I got through. I sit here, and I stare out the windows at those mountains, and I wonder why they had to take my Nick. How could something so beautiful create such horror?
Here is what I learned. Bad things happen all the time. Bad things happen to good people and Bad things can either define you and destroy you or they can reshape you and provoke you to rise to be better and more aware of how truly magnificent this life is.
Today I went up to the staging area of Quartz Creek and enjoyed my coffee. I was content and at peace but I cried. I cried for Nick, and I cried for everyone in this world who has to endure such a huge loss. I cried for those others who have died, and I cried for those who may die in the future.
I watched several snowmobilers ride off into the mountain, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder if they would all make it home.
The sun shined on me, and I thanked Nick. I thanked him for allowing me to be his. I thanked him for allowing me to love him and for always loving me and I thanked him for being so beautiful, and I realized;
he is even more beautiful now.
Nick is the mountain, and the mountain is Nick, and I have the power to move on in this life and make it something it would have never been if Nick would not have died. I will let his death be my rebirth, and I will embrace everything that happens to me good and bad.
One year it has been.
Ride safe everyone. Live hard, play hard, and always remember to love hard because as we know, one day there may be an Avalanche.