Eight years ago... the last two minutes of the second period of a hockey game, it changed everything.
I still remember the smells, the times, the faces....
He dropped to block a shot, came to the bench, and only made it half way over the boards. As the guys were celebrating a short handed goal I was tugging on coaches leg.... "He isn't breathing and I can't turn him over, I need help."
The rest is a story that is told in hushed tones, usually with tears welled up on my lower eye lids.
I lost him, we lost him. It wasn't due to a lack of trying, that is for damn sure. He had everything he needed, and fast.... the timeline of things is actually quite impressive.... but the finality of it is, it just didn't work.
It made me question everything. And I mean everything.
I questioned that night, our actions, my career, my life, my relationships. I questioned my hobbies, my dedications. I questioned it all.
In the end I came out of it with the reassuring understanding that we did every little thing we possibly could have done that night. I decided that my career was one that I loved, even if it gave me such a stinging experience as this. I decided that my life was one that should be lived, and fully....
We have a lot of pictures of Jaxon, and all of them are him absorbing every bit of life he can. I have tried to adopt that, to soak up that piece of him and carry it with me. He was fearless, and I've tried to pull a piece of that with me. I've tried to conquer life with the same tenacity that he did.... to not let fear stand in the way. And honestly, in the past eight years, I've had a lot of amazing experiences because of it. Sometimes those tiny battles turn into little conversations, just him and I, and in the end it always turns out magical.
Eight years ago today, has it really been that long? The night that changed my life? The night I will never forget? The night that put a ring on my right hand that I wear constantly, that means so much to me and represents such specific determinations?
I write to him on his website often, www.rockonjaxon.com, and I always end with the only thing that seems appropriate. "Thanks for everything..." because honestly, that is the only thing that seems to summarize my tears. He has taught me so much, and ironically I learned more through his living than through his dying.
I still remember, the freshman that skated up asking me to tape his wrists so his black fabric on his elbow pads wouldn't touch because he was allergic. I thought he was crazy. But his older brother (whom I had been friends with for years) gave me a nod.... well, that started it, and I completely adored that smiling freshman for the rest of the semester. December came, his brother graduated and moved away saying, "Take care of my little bro...." and then a month later I called him, late on a Friday night. He didn't answer and all I could choke into the voice mail was, "Dustin, I'm so sorry.... call me."
The rest is a whirlwind of grieving family, team, league, school and community. The support we received was staggering. Letters from around the world, people that never knew this spunky kid. We did everything we could, and I still do.... his energy lives on, and always will.
Rock on, Jaxon. I adore you, always will. Thank you for teaching me so many things, not only through your death, but mostly through your life. January 21st. Today will always be a day of remembering, a day of memories, a day of re-dedication to be fearless and attack life with a gusto that you harnessed so well.
Rock on, Jax. Thanks for everything....