I remember as if it were yesterday, we were running in the parking lot, laughing; our small close group of friends, smiles from ear to ear; singing I.C.P. and quoting lines from movies. I was in the 10th grade. I can remember the warmth in his hug and the sparkle in his eye. I remember him alive and well. My best friend, Nicholas Wayne Cibelli, was there right in front of me, not a pain in the world, healthy and strong.
I close my eyes now and he’s there. I can feel him I know he’s with me. I can see him and hear his laugh. I can touch him and feel his skin. I watch as he strums the strings on his guitar and sings to me. His voice plays, a melody that flows within my thoughts, the theme song of my life, the lullaby when I sleep. I listen to the lyrics; “Cry alone, I’ve gone away no more nights, no more pain. I’ve gone alone, took all my strength;. I’ve made the change, I won’t see you tonight”, how it seems so ironic; the song he used to sing now connects with the feelings of his absence.
I write about this memory because it makes me feel like he will never be forgotten. It keeps him alive in my mind.
Nicholas Wayne Cibelli, was diagnosed with malignant brain cancer at the age of fifteen. I remember the last words he spoke to me before he passed away, “Without hope we have nothing.” It didn’t hit me till later after his funeral what he meant by that. Hope was his strength, it was what kept him going, he didn’t live in hope to survive because he knew that would be a miracle, but he lived in hope to see the ones he loved laughing. Laughter is what he brought to the world and if people forgot to laugh his legacy would be nothing and Nick never wanted to be nothing.
I can remember him making fun of me because I was afraid of Chicken Run, it used to give me nightmares as a child. I look back now and realize that fear was completely pathetic and quite hilarious but a few years ago it truly did scare me. Nick thought he was funny and snuck into my room and placed a picture of a scene from Chicken Run on my pillow, later that night I went to fall asleep and next to me was the picture I started bugging out and called him on the phone, he burst into hysterical laughter, through his laughs I heard him say, “Torie you need to face your fears.” He always found a way to give me advice through humor. I sat back and laughed with him that night. I miss that laugh.
Soon after his death a charity group developed; “Laughs for Nick” which reminded everyone to laugh at least once a day, because throughout Nicks two years of struggle he made it a point to keep on laughing. His wish came true, tears turned into smiles and smiles to laughs, laughs of the memories and good times Nick brought to us, I guess it was our way of mourning; laughter!
I remember way before the diagnoses was ever made. I remember when the headaches came. I remember he couldn’t talk to loudly or look at light. I remember how he found it hard to breathe. I remember watching him rub his temples trying to find some release. “Nick you’re being overdramatic”, was the usual line the group uttered. None of us took these headaches seriously, especially me! I knew how Nick was and how he overreacted and exaggerated a lot. I told him to take an Advil and go to sleep. The days passed and we saw less and less of him, still none of us took notice to what was occurring deep inside the chambers of his brain.
I remember the day I found out, the worst day of my life, the longest night of the year. My phone vibrated, text message from Scott, “Nick has a brain tumor’, Gina and I looked at each other blank stares reflected off our eyes showing reflections of lost souls. My face suddenly became pale and guilt filled my soul, if only I showed some remorse maybe they could have caught the tumor early, before it got this bad. Maybe they could have stopped it and he would still be here to this day. Maybe he would have lived a healthy life. Maybe life would have worked out differently. Maybe just maybe if I would have pushed him to see a doctor the tumor would have been nonexistent and we all could live knowing he was fine and our assumption of an overdramatic boy was correct. That of course was a fantasy. Like a broken record these “What if’s” played thought out my mind the entire night. I couldn’t help but blame myself for his pain. I was supposed to look out for him, keep him safe, we protected each other and I let him down. Nick was always there for me when no one else was. When I was suffering from depression, self mutilation and suicidal thoughts Nick would come to me in the middle of the night and take away the pain, he’d look me in the eye and suddenly the pain would just disappear and I didn’t feel so alone anymore. We formed a bond that was like no other and soon he became not only my best friend but my brother, and now my brother the one that kept me strong when I felt so weak was in pain, in a battle for his life and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t take the pain away, this was permeant and this was deadly! I cried myself to sleep consecutively every night for a good month, I found it hard to sleep and when I finally fell asleep I had no intention of waking up. Reality had finally hit me.
May 7th 2010, my best friend passed away. I felt my heart break into pieces. His absence made me feel lost and empty, to this day I still feel lost and empty. When he left he took a piece of me with him, personally I feel like he took a piece of all of us with him. Nick never liked to be alone. I just don’t understand why this happened to him. What did he do to deserve this? Why was he taken away from me? These questions will never be answered and they’re questions all those who loose a love one ask. We feel compelled to ask them even though we all know the cold hard truth, the reality that hit me the night the brain tumor was discovered, life isn’t fair.
The wake is gloomy, you walk in, you smell flowers. You see his mother mourn over his body, tears running down both her cheeks. You feel dead inside. You see his sisters, spitting images of him and suddenly you’re horrified. You’re trapped in a nightmare, one you cant wake up from. Everyones in black. You see pictures, you see yourself in those pictures, your hands begin to shake and your knees wobble. Spinning; the room is spinning uncontrollably. He grabs you! A familiar face has visited you from above and you know he’s there holding you tight from heaven. You see him healthy and young. You see his skinny italian face, brown eyes starring at you, his soft brown hair flowing in heavens breeze. You see a smile that lifts your soul. You see him as he was before the tumor, before the chemo, before the pain; there he is right there, his spirit keeping you from spinning, but then you blink and he’s gone. You feel crazy at first but then you realize that this is just one of the many visits you’ll have from your dear friend. You now find yourself ready to approach the casket to pay your respects and say your last goodbyes to the outer shell of your loved one.
I didn’t cry at first. I went up to the casket multiple times without shedding a tear. However, the last time I went up to the casket, the last time I would ever see his face again, blurry was all I could see. Tears poured from my eyes I couldn’t see a thing. I touched his hand. Cold! The only way to describe the touch was cold. My friend was gone, the warmth was gone, all that was left was the outer shell of which his soul use to reside. Now his soul was galavanting within our skies. Nick always did dream of flying.
The morning of his burial is so fuzzy to me, I can’t seem to remember a thing other than the flower I placed on his closed casket. It was pink and a tad wilted. I remember thinking to myself how ridiculous it was to give out wilted flowers to those mourning the dead. The flowers were dead themselves, it was as if life just could not exist in this cemetery. The joke “Dying to get in” was definitely true in this situation. EVEN THE FLOWERS WERE DEAD! Can you believe that? Dead flowers! Now that I think about it, it’s kind of pathetic that all I could think about the day they buried my best friend was dead flowers, but hey we all deal with the absence of a soul in different ways. I found my coping method in a flower, who would have thought!
In this case I feel very connected to Joan Didion, author of The Year of Magical Thinking, for she is also has unique mourning practices and commonly held ideas about dying. She has similar questions to I about life and destiny. Another author that corresponds with my memory is Salman Rushdie, author of “The Broken Mirror”, he to feels guilty of his friends death, he feels that he could have prevented it, such as I did once the brain tumor was discovered. These two authors connect with me through their words and thoughts and I find comfort in the fact I am not alone.
There are so many more details of his struggle of brain cancer, but every detail breaks my heart into pieces and sends me into hysterics.
I miss you Nick. Thank you for staying strong. I will never let you go. You are my everything, my family and though you are so distant you are close to me in my heart. I love you Nicholas Wayne Cibelli. Rest In Peace!

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