Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Brother's Eulogy - May 2, 2009

It’s hard to come up with words that really describe my brother Nick.  It’s equally difficult to believe that he is no longer physically with us.  After spending my lifetime with him, and then in the last 5 days, taking in hundreds of pages of his fantastic writings, sketchbooks of his colorful drawings, and perhaps a thousand pictures of him – he feels more present right now with all of us than ever.  It is impossible for me at this time, and probably for all of us, to imagine going forward without Nick to share in this journey.

I found a birthday card written to Nick by someone very special to him, and this card was my inspiration to speak about my brother today – [read card].

My brother was the chronicler of our youth.  He had the ability to remember everything we did, from playing in the sand in the backyard, to recording pretend interviews in the kitchen, all of our trips, our weekends up skiing with dad or camping with Grandma and Grandpa. I would sit and marvel at the little details that he remembered about seemingly insignificant events.  And sometimes it wasn’t until he recapped certain moments, and reinvented them in a way, that I realized how funny something actually was or how odd, or how silly… and indeed how memorable.

When we were teenagers, Nick would get upset with me for not participating in all of our family functions as a teenager.  For even at that age, it was hugely important for Nick to have all of us together regularly, building that strong family bond and making those great memories that Nick kept safely and lovingly catalogued in his own memory bank.

Nick’s memory was truly amazing.  When we were small, we had a very difficult and large book of mazes.  In the front of it, was a 3 page single spaced preface, which was written entirely in nonsense words, with phrases like: gvona itookna jew nabasana pilat, instead of in English.  Nick memorized the entire thing.  It was written by a famous smart person, like Stephen Hawking… but of course – I can’t actually remember who wrote it.  But, Nick would know.

Nick was an amazing speller.  A few words I remember him learning and spelling in 3rd grade were:

antidisestablishmentarianism and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

They are long words and that was pretty impressive, but Nick didn’t only spell them forward, he spelled them backwards too.  

His love of words and language led him to become a writer early on.  He crafted poems lyrically, with wonderful rhymes and rhythms and made it seem effortless.  He was not a struggler for words, they just dropped from his clever mind onto the page, without the need to edit. 

Nick loved music.  In fact, he wrote a poem about how much he loved music. 
[read Music]

He liked upbeat music, anything with a good groove or a good beat.  The 80s were his absolute favorite -- Prince, Queen, The Police.  Whenever we didn’t know who sang a song, we would always just ask Nick.  And later in life, we’d call him on the phone from wherever I was living, because he’d always know, no matter how old or how obscure the song. 

It is impossible to talk about Nick and not talk about his sense of humor.  It is evident in every interaction with him, in his approach to life, in his parenting, throughout his different health issues and even in the title of his blog.  Humor is one of Nick’s most loveable qualities.  And many times over, we saw this in him, not only in his daily life, but also in difficult times, when everything felt heavy or dark. 

And this leads me to probably the most important thing that I want to tell you about my brother today.

Which is -- that despite Nick’s many gifts, over the years, I think many people who have known Nick felt that he didn’t have a fair shake at things because of his health issues.  When he was 10 years old, he was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome and made embarrassing sounds and had physical ticks at a time in life, when all you want is for people to like you and affirm that you’re okay. 

When he turned 20 the ticks started to fade, and we all thought he was in the clear.  But, when Nick was 25, he started falling asleep at his computer when writing, and his legs would give out sometimes if he would laugh really hard, and he was subsequently diagnosed with Narcolepsy.  He then initiated a series of frustrating medicines to help with this, often with undesireable side effects.

But, despite all of this, we had a talk on his bed last month when I was home and he said “Isn’t this crazy?  Cancer.  I’ve been so HEALTHY all of my life!  I’ve never had anything wrong with me! I’ve never broken a bone, I never had diabetes, I’ve never had heart problems…” and I waited…. and I waited… while he sat there looking bewildered. 

And, eventually I said … well, you had the tourette’s. 

He said oh, well yeah, but that was okay. 

And then… you know, the narcolepsy… and he said – OH, well yes, that was a setback. 

But, he said, I never would have had the empathy that I have for other people, had I not experienced those things.  They made me what I am.

Growing up with extreme self consciousness, and not always having the feeling of belonging, Nick did develop an incredible sensitivity to people, to the dynamics of acceptance and tolerance, and how important it is to be good to other people.  His empathy came from his core.

We were also lucky to have a father who knew the importance in finding humor in adversity, and who was also an example of the strongest form of unconditional love that I have ever known.  We had an amazing mother, who was the most steadfast, present, loving mother than any child could hope to have.  The amount of care, time and love that she poured into my brother was extraordinary. 

So, I just want to reassure those of you who have ever felt that Nick somehow didn’t have a fair shake at life, or wasn’t given a full chance -- because of his health issues -- that he just didn’t see it like that.  But, what he overcame to become the person he was, with the attitude that he had, with the ability to stir something loving at the core of all of us, is nothing short of profound.

Our family is so grateful to have had the TIME that we as a family have had to care for Nick over the last 2 months and really LOVE ON HIM, savoring every precious moment, every glance, conversation and laugh… and every manifestation of his deep childlike sweetness that was present until the moment he passed.  Having this time with Nick has been a blessing beyond words.  He was at peace with his process, and actually had some fun with this whole cancer thing. 

When Mark Johnson’s office called Nick to get his history over the phone to speed up his port placement, after 20 minutes of answering laborious questions… he said you know I actually feel pretty healthy other than this tumor in my middle!

When Nick went in for his first chemotherapy, the nurse sat down on nick’s right side, but his port for chemotherapy was on the left, and he said quietly, “the gas tanks on the other side.”

To all his visitors and medical personnel… he would ask -- How are you doing?  Nancy, where are you from?  Aaron, how is your softball team doing?  

He took this cancer and all of its treatment, totally in stride, head on, and hardly seemed to flinch.

But, he was not at peace with was leaving his family.  Oh he loved his Sandra.  When she bought the family a Wii a few weeks ago as an anniversary present, Nick said to me – isn’t my wife awesome?  Isn’t that great? 

I won’t even attempt to put into words how much Nick loved his children, because it’s not possible.  They will be the legacy of love that Nick is leaving behind him.

Our hope is that this service will be life affirming, even though it is bittersweet.  For this cancer did not get the best of Nick, we assure you, but rather brought out his true qualities and his remarkable character. 

If this loss has taught us anything beyond the beautiful depth of who Nick was, it has taught us that we are blessed to be part of this wonderful community of people, who have grown up here, knowing Nick.  We discovered that the bonds of friendship that were forged many years ago, are still just as strong today, even after periods of dormancy. 

It is this true community -- of wonderful families and people -- that we live in, your visits, your calls, letters, cards, your lasagnas, but most of all your shared love of our Nick - that has made this process remotely tolerable.  Knowing that we are not alone in our awe and appreciation of who Nick was and how he enriched all of our lives with his humor, sensitivity, honesty, and precious moments of wisdom, from someone who KNOWS what it’s like to not always have things go their way, has provided some peace for our hearts.

It will be this community that allows our family to go forward and go on living, attempting somehow to fill the gigantic hole that Nick has left behind him.

As he said so eloquently last week…

I wouldn’t change a thing, if it meant that I had to be someone else.

And may we all learn from his example.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Kids

We have been approached by many of you who are worried about the children and want to set up a fund to help make sure that they are able to go to college and achieve all that Nick was able to achieve in his life. I'm writing this to assure each of you that the kids will be well taken care of in the years to come.

All three children have GET (Guaranteed Education Tuition) accounts that have been well-funded by their grandpa Larry. They are also eligible for Nick's social security benefit, and I have great plans to invest that money for them so that when they graduate from college, they will have nice little sum that could go towards their first home, or to help start their own families.

If you are interested in contributing something to Nick's family, we would love to have you give to the Nick Whiton Scholarship Fund.

c/o Kathy Williams
Burlington-Edison Education and Alumni Foundation
PO Box 350
Burlington, WA 98233

We think it would be such a tribute to Nick to forever be a part of the Burlington Edison School District.

However, if you would rather contribute to a family in need (in Libby and Darian's name), the Bethany Covenant Preschool Scholarship Fund would appreciate your donation. This is a wonderful preschool and I can't say enough about the love of the teachers and families there who have helped us through this time.

Of course, thank you to all who have already donated to the Nick Whiton Scholarship Fund. We have a special treat that we plan to send out as a thank you that we think you will really like.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Videos of Nick

To Everyone,

Thank you so much for coming on Saturday.

It was wonderful to see so many people honor Nick's life.

Here are a few videos we wanted to share with you. The first one, Nick took of himself the day that he was diagnosed, and the second one is from the Pep Rally last Saturday.

1. Nick on the day of diagnosis -- February 28th, 2009

2. Nick's PEP RALLY last Saturday -- April 25th, 2009

Thank you again for your love, prayers and support.

We are so grateful.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Remembering Nick

Nick's memorial service will be held on:

Saturday, May 2nd at 2:00 pm

Bethany Covenant Church
1318 S. 18th Street
Mt. Vernon, WA 98273

We will be playing a slide show of pictures from Nick's life starting at 1:45 pm, which will also be shown during the reception after the service.

In lieu of flowers, our family suggests that donations be made to:

c/o Kathy Williams
Burlington-Edison Education and Alumni Foundation
PO Box 350
Burlington, WA 98233

An additional fund is being established for Libby and Darian for their educational future through Bethany Covenant Church. More details will be announced about this shortly.

Arrangements are under the care of Hawthorne Funeral Home, Mt. Vernon, WA.

We invite you to share memories of our Nick and sign the online guest register at:


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Morning

We cannot thank you all enough for being with us yesterday afternoon as we celebrated Nick's life with him - with song, cheer, memories, balloons and most of all - overwhelming love.

We are so sorry to let all of you know that our precious Nick passed this morning at 7:50 am, while he was sleeping. His passing was without pain, anxiety or struggle, just beautifully peaceful.

Please join us for a memorial service on Saturday, May 2nd at Bethany Covenant Church in Mt. Vernon at 2pm.

With love,

Sandra, Ron, Patsy and Michal

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pep Rally for Nick

Hello to All!

It's a beautiful Friday. Nick is resting peacefully right now. He was up this morning for almost 2 hours, talking with us and meeting with the hospice nurse. He seemed to look better this morning to all of us, but he told us that he probably looks better than he feels.

Thank you to Kristen Warren who started Team Nick on Facebook. I showed it to Nick this morning and read many of the posts to him, and he loved it. He smiled at the old pictures from our days at Edison Elementary, and remembered people's names on the soccer team photo that I had forgotten!

I told him that many people from Team Nick would like to come over tomorrow and wish him well and he thought that would be great. His only worry was that he will not have the energy to talk to everyone.

Times like these are pretty extraordinary, so we have a wild idea:

At 2 - 2:30pm, we would like to gather everyone in Nick's front yard and out in the street if needed.

We would like everyone to bring one bright colored HELIUM BALLOON (if possible!) and/or a sign that says something encouraging.

At 3pm, we are going to bring Nick out on his deck in front of the house in his very cool new wheelchair.

At that time, we will all do a cheer for him, like:

We love you Nick! We love you Nick! We love you Nick!
(as many times as we want...)

And at the end of the cheer - we thought everyone could release their balloon into the air.

We will have a microphone set up in the yard. So, after the cheer - if anyone would like to tell:

- a favorite memory
- a funny story
- a poem
- or even sing a song...

WHATEVER YOU ARE INSPIRED TO DO, we think Nick will absolutely love this.

And he will probably be ready to rest again around 4pm.

Since parking will be limited here, we suggest going up Division past Haggen's and turning right on Leann Street (which is directly across from Sioux) and parking in the newly created subdivision, which is full of nice curbs. No one lives there yet, so if we need the extra parking room - that would be the best place.

After you park, cross back over Division on foot, and walk down Sioux one block, and turn right on Shoshone.

Nick's house is at: 3602 Shoshone Drive, Mt. Vernon, 98273

We are really looking forward to tomorrow, and I know Nick will be so incredibly happy to see all of your faces here!

If you have any questions, please call me at 206-406-7408.

Also, if you cannot make it tomorrow, please feel free to email me with any message that you would like relayed to Nick at a later time. I know it has been difficult to post messages on the blog, so my email is: michalwhiton@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A spigot for Nick

After thinking about it overnight, Nick decided that he wanted to put a catheter with a valve in his side that will allow us to drain his abdominal fluid when he starts to feel very distended. There are some pros and cons to this. The pros are obvious, he will get some relief from the pressure and be able to sleep on his stomach. The cons are that he might get some electrolyte inbalances due to the loss of fluids, and he may end up dehydrated again.

Dr. Kantorowitz, the radiation oncologist at SVH is going to meet with Nick and get him set up for some radiation treatment to hit the part of the tumor that in incringing on Nick's duodenum. Because he is currently partially blocked, he is not able to eat much. The thought is that if they radiate the hell out of that part of the tumor, it will either shrink or at least not progress to the point of full blockage. Chemo did not work for Nick, so we are bringing in chemo's big brother, radiation.

A hospice nurse will be coming by the house tomorrow to meet Nick and to help set up a care plan. They will help us keep Nick comfortable and cared for. It was the hardest phone call I have ever made in my life, rivaling when I had to call Michal Patsy and Ron to tell them that Nick had been diagnosed with cancer.

Nick is pretty tired right now. He had an amazing number of people come to visit him in the hospital and at home. He really appreciates seeing everyone, and feels bad when he is sleeping and people have come to see him. Because of this, we have decided to limit the visitations, and to have an 'open house' of sorts this Saturday. The time is tentatively set for 2-4 in the afternoon, but we will update the blog when we know for sure if/when this will happen.

We are sorry for the mixed messages, and changes to the story. It is a hard decision to limit visitors because we really want Nick to know that each of you cares enough to stop by and give him your love and hugs. But he needs his strength right now, and that is all we can think about. So please plan to stop by on Saturday, and if you can not make it, give us a call and we can arrange another time.

Thank you so much for your support.