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Updated on February 7, 2012

Forever in our hearts - a tribute

It has been quite some time since I've posted or even been on hubpages. My goal was to post at least one article a week, but of course, life gets to everyone. Ironically enough, it is that very reason that I have returned, even if only briefly. I have come to pay a tribute to a great man who lived a great life. It may only scratch the surface of my feelings, but there will never be enough words, or the right words, that can be said perfect enough for a man such as Dino.

I'll start at the beginning...

December was supposed to be a month of relaxation, family, and fun. I was finally on winter break, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I had plans for almost every weekend until the spring semester. I planned on spending weekends snowboarding, getting a massage thanks to a generous gift card from my loving boy friend, and enjoying as much time as I could being cozy by the fire or playing in the snow.

December, however, proved to be quite the opposite of what I had anticipated. Christmas was only a week away when I finished my last final, and it seemed way too soon to be possible. The semester seemed to end later than usual, and not only that, the landscape was barren and rather depressing. We had not seen snow since the freak nor'easter we got on Halloween, and I was really hoping for another white Christmas, or any snow in general to put me in the Christmas spirit.

I spent that week before Christmas finishing last minuting gift shopping and wrapping, and before I knew it, it was Christmas morning. Of course, I couldn't have asked for a better holiday. I saw my entire family, and, of course, got lots of gifts from Santa, even though I didn't ask for anything ;)

My boyfriend and I enjoyed a trip to see the Enchanted Village at Jordan's furniture, which proved to be well worth the 2 hour drive and brought out the inner child in me. Before I knew it, it was New Year's Eve. In the past, my family used to throw extravagant parties in our tiny ranch home. The living room and dinning room would be decorated with everything Christmas and the kitchen was filled with warmth and scents of hot meat, spicy chilly, and tons of snacks and desserts. Laughter and cheers could be heard from down the street as friends and family gathered from all around to share another year with us.

Over time, however, my parents grew tired of the New Year's Eve after effects. The cleaning, the hangovers, that guy still passed out on our couch... After years of winding down, or New Year's finally came down to sitting in the living room and watching our favorite shows and movies on Netflix, pigging out on chips and pop corn shrimp.

With the excitement of the holidays finally passed, I realized how little time left I had of my winter break. I still hadn't brought my snowboard out and my back was aching for that massage.

But, once again, all plans were cut short by a quite unexpected and unfortunate event. My boyfriend's dad had a heart attack. Though only a few weeks ago, it feels like an eternity. Still so unreal to me. I spent that Wednesday night at his house, dog sitting their sick with cancer dog, making sure she didn't have any accidents due to the meds she was on, while my boyfriend, his mother, and his sister drove two hours to visit him in the hospital.

I sat on their couch all night, flicking to every sit com and comedy on tv I could find, laptop nearby, talking to friends to keep me busy, and texting my boyfriend with updates on his father's condition. He was unconscious, and, according to doctors, was dead for 25 minutes before brought back to life. The moment he said those words, I knew that was it. No one could live after being dead for 25 minutes. It was physically impossible - there was no air to reach his brain, to brain function to pump his blood, no blood to pump the heart. It was a miracle in its self that they brought him back, but I knew there was no way he'd ever be the same if he lived. There could not possibly be any brain function left. I couldn't stop thinking about the possibility of my boyfriend losing his father at such a young age. I tried desperately to be hopeful, to think positive, but I couldn't let myself get away from the reality of the situation.

I stayed up til 3:00 that morning, when he finally texted me to tell me they were heading home. I made myself comfortable in his bed to catch a few z's while they headed home.

The rest of the week dragged by at an incredibly hopeless rate. Zac and his family continued to spend their days at the hospital, waiting for any good news. He was in a medically induced coma, and the doctors were slowly beginning the process of waking him up. They performed several small tests on him - shinning a light in his eyes, tapping on his limbs - and he responded. His pupils widened and his limbs twitched. That was a good sign. I was suddenly hopeful. He had some brain function. But would he be able to talk? Walk? Recognize his family? Breathe on his own?

When he was brought out of the coma the next day, he was able to breathe on his own. He'd mumble every now and then and his heart rate would spike when he heard his family. He was going to come out of this. He was going to be okay.

But the tests came out negative. After doing a scan on his brain, there was nothing left. How could that be? He was responsive to so many things, he just had to be okay.

Just a few days from that Wednesday night, his fate was decided. They had to pull the plug.

I spent that Saturday night at his house, once again, dog sitting their sickly dog as they drove the two hours down to say their goodbyes. It was around 8 when they got there, and close to 7 when they returned home. He was still alive. He wasn't on any machines, but he was some how breathing on his own. Somehow, his heart was pumping. Something was keeping him alive, yet there was no brain activity left for this to be possible. But, I was sure that there was no hope left. He would die. It may take days, but eventually, something had to give up. And the waiting was torture.

It was on Monday when they got the news - he had died.

On Friday, Zac and I drove the two hours down to the funeral home where his service was held. After three hours of watching his family receive hugs, kind words, and share tears, people sat to listen to those who chose to speak about the man they once knew. Stories were shared of his early days, jokes were passed, and his familiar expressions were mocked lovingly. I could see him, right there, rolling his eyes and laughing with everyone in the over crowded room.

That day, a father was lost. A father that would never see his children get married or have kids. A husband was lost, despite a divorce that had just been settled, causing just something to be missing in their life. A son was lost, too soon for his parents to accept. A brother was lost, someone who had once risked his own life for his siblings. And a friend was lost. A friend who had shared so many memories with so many people. A man who had impacted so many people in so many ways. And it was obvious that night, as people filled the room and poured into the hall way. As people came, only for a few minutes, because they took the time out of their work day to come and pay their respects.

It didn't seem real. Even though it was happening, right before my eyes, it felt like a dream. I couldn't believe that such young people had lost their father, their brother, their son. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it, even when I held his mother in my arms and told her I loved her as she cried on my shoulder. I felt like the outsider, unaffected by the unfortunate event that had befallen this family. But I did mourn, for I too lost a significant man in my life. I lost someone who treated me like his own daughter. Who called me to see how I was doing and loved me as part of his family. And I loved him.

However, despite the reason we were all gathered in this room, for a few moments, we were able to forget. I met family members I had never met before. Friends that had been with them through thick and thin. And for those few moments, we talked and laughed and shared with each other, brought together by one man.

I didn't feel like an outsider anymore. I was accepted and loved by complete strangers, and, despite the death that lingered in that room, they couldn't have been happier to see me and accept me as one of them. Friend. Family. They gushed to Zac about how beautiful I was, how sweet I was, how caring and strong I was. And how supportive I was. And though I had only known some of his family members and friends for a couple hours, I was accepted into an eternity of friendship and family with them. I belonged.

Dino's death was a tragedy for everyone he knew. It might not have been some terrible accident with a horribly dramatic twist, but it affected the lives of many. He affected the lives of many. And it is because of how he affected my life that I attempt to write a tribute to him. There is no way I can even begin to describe how much he meant to me, his family, and his friends. There are no words for the loss of a man such as Dino. Only those who have suffered a death in their family could begin to understand this. Even I cannot fully understand. Even though he was a father to me, the truth of it was, he wasn't my father, and, unless the same happens to my father, I may never be able to fully understand. But I understand in my way, and I understand that nothing will be the same without him. Nothing will change what has happened, and nothing can fix the wounds this event has inflicted upon his family and friends. But, we have each other, and that makes moving on a little bit easier, even if it's to forget for just a moment. The reality is, we will never forget. Our lives were forever changed by him, and that will never be forgotten.

"What moves through us is a silence, a quite sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch. We may not understand why he left this earth so soon, or why he left before we were ready to say goodbye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that he died, but that he lived, and that his life gave us memories too beautiful to forget."


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