Nick Franca's Journal
One Love Wednesday
Written Apr 30, 2013 4:37pmOne Love Wednesday
May 1..... To remember Nick and his amazing spirit on this day that he left earth... If you are on facebook, (or maybe could just join so you can access Nick's Tribute page), you can join in. Type in his tribute page Live Like Nick Did LLND. Then "Like" his page and then "share" the page with your friends. For those of you that don't know how to "like" a page, you just go to it and click the like button. Then anytime someone posts an LLND moment you will receive the it in your "newsfeed". Ask others to join you in a "One Love Wednesday" ... He loved that Bob Marley song. To join in the chain of love, simply do ONE small act to go out of your way tomorrow.... as small as a smile, as big as paying someone's tab, to giving blood. After you do your LLND act, Then... make an entry on His Live Like Nick Did page... keep it "alive" by making a post of what you did. Can we get at least 23 (his age) entries tomorrow, and the likes to 100?let's do it!
If you absolutely can't do facebook then make you entry here in the guestbook after you "act of LLND".. I will cut and paste them into fb..
Thank you for helping us through our grief this week... Caryn
Two Years on May 1
Written Apr 28, 2013 8:24amDear Nick,
This time two years ago we were preparing for what we couldn't imagine. I was planning the music that you would love, played by your Clifton crew. We sat by your bed, playing music you loved, holding vigil, holding you. Two years ago we didn't know how we would ever go on, but we knew we would. You would have wanted it that way.
Two years ago we didn't understand that this life is just a temporary holding place for our soul. Our human experience is just that, human. Two years ago we didn't understand the significance of our red-winged blackbird, a picture that randomly falls down, a dream where you appear so real.
When that day came on May 1, friends, family and our wonderful Clifton Community carried us through the haze. It was as if everyone took our hands, from near and far and held us up as we tumbled down into our sorrow and grief. You changed so many lives forever. You changed our purpose in life.
You wouldn't want us to stop, you never did. You didn't want us to be sad, a state you refused to linger in too long. You didn't want us to destroy life, you wanted us to build a life of good and giving and "we only all have the moment we are in" attitude.
So two years later we are trying to do just that. I just got back from New York ( I know you know that). I went up for the Band of Parents gala where we brought in over 200K to start funding a new treatment that compliments the treatment we already funded. It is an exciting new therapy and holds a lot of promise. I had a conversation with Dr. Kushner at the gala. HE made me cry. He remembered the smallest of details about you and him and experiences you had together in treatment. He remembered coming to our home and the love that was felt here. You inspire him to be a better doctor. I also spent time with your friend Rose. Damnit, after surviving neuroblastoma now at age 32, the treatment ended up giving her leukemia. She is stuck living at the RMhouse for a loooong time. I gave her one of our LLND key chains that Fran made for us, with your tattoo words written on the back..
I also got to do a little LLND while I was there. Marti Smith, a new friend, emailed and knew I was going to NY. She had a connection for tickets to Totem.... a Cirque du Soleil show. Rose took 3 other friends and then because of angel Barbara another cool thing happened. A mom with a 15 year old daughter recovering from bone marrow transplant and 3 other kids all live long term in the RMhouse in one room. Money is very, very tight. I was able to get 5 more tickets for the show and with some of my "LLND" money I was able to get them a car service and treat money and send them across the river to the show! I was sooo happy to be able to bring joy to these people, and so blessed that Marti had a giving heart that got it started. Nick, I saw you live your life like this all the time.
Two years later I dedicate myself a new to doing more of the things that bring LLND to the world. From treating people in Newton Ct. at the Bakery, to sending people to see Totem, to smiling at someone who needs a smile like you had, I want to radiate your spirit during my earthly time.
So two years later technology has changed. We tweet, instagram, facebook, and hashtag. For everyone reading this I have a hashtag for Nick called #LLND. As you walk through this next year, capture pictures on your smartphone and post them in our #LLND collection. It will be a living wall to celebrate the acts of love and giving that were his life. If taht is too techy for you, simply leave a guestbook message here. I am also in the process of creating a facebook page simply called... Live Like Nick Did LLND. I will post when I get it rolling so you can go there to post your stories!
Two years later I am almost ready to write my book... "Lessons from my son's tattoo". I will be using stories, pictures and LLND moments, so please share, give, love and bring them to me!
Two years this Wednesday. If you can do something to give to someone else that day please do. Give blood, give platelets, volunteer, help the less fortunate, LLND.
Friends are awesome!
Written May 20, 2012 5:53pmFriends
Since our one year anniversary mark several things have touched me. The first being a gesture from the ever giving Mike Gillette, recipient of the LLND award at the gala last year. He bid on a silent auction item at some event and won a cool gift. He was able to choose a day to fly an American flag at the US capitol any day he wanted to . He picked May 1 in honor of Nick. He also received the flag and a certificate dedicated to Nick's life and the courage and strength with which he fought for 6 years. Thank you Mike... Alyson (always a wonderful support) went to Mike's house, got the flag, folded in the traditional triangle in a frame and the certificate and presented it to us on Mother's Day... Thank you sweet daughter.
Next, I got several beautiful messages from friends of Nick... I'd like to share them here as they touched me deeply.
From a blog one of Nick's friends posted on as a part of her work in college to become an English teacher.
Kim Rolince wrote...
Last night was the first night I really felt your loss. Maybe it was the state of mind that I was in, but I really missed you. I joined a sorority (I can see your eye roll from here, and that smirk!), but I love it! I’ve met some really cool girls I’m so glad have become my friends. One of them being Amelia. Amelia lives with Robyn and I want her to be my big! But you’re not allowed to tell, these things are secret. Remember when I got to meet Drive-By Truckers?! Anyway, Amelia, my pledge sister Dallas and I went to see SOJA last night. Well Amelia and I were standing in the front row talking about how we wanted to meet SOJA and how cool it would be to hang out with them. We creepily waited until after the show when they were doing autographs to talk to them. We were so excited! Amelia stepped up and asked Jacob, the lead singer what he was doing that night. After a little bit of small talk, he looked over at his manager and said, “They look trustworthy, right?” He told us to step to the side and get his manager’s number, and we could meet up that night to hang out with the band! We could not believe it. The whole walk back to Amelia’s apartment we were discussing what we were going to wear and if this was a hoax, because this was not real life. We texted the manager and he gave us directions to the tour bus. Hardly containing our excitement, we got a ride in the back of a truck to the bus where the band was hanging out. I sat next to Jacob and we started talking about his music and everything. I asked him about your brother’s band and he said he knew them! Minds blown, Robyn and I listened as the leader vocalist and guitarist of a band we idolized knew your brother, knew you.
How many people you were able to meet and touch while you were here I find to be incredible. I know how much you hate when people try to give you credit or put you on a pedestal, but you really do deserve it. You taught a lot of people how to live and how to love in the best, healthiest, most carefree ways. And you did all of this without trying. When I went to camp, it struck me as your element. Camp Varsity was that close knit group of down to earth, comfortable, funny, and a little rough around the edge kids that everyone wanted to be. You were like the leader of that. Going to camp and being friends with you, I was automatically accepted. The people you surrounded yourself with still carry your light. I can feel it when I’m around them, and I hope others can feel a similar light around me. You are truly amazing, an inspiration. I don’t know how it all works, but I hope you know how many times a day I think about you, and how thinking about you helps me get through some things that I seem too hard at first.
It was an early spring morning, before the rest of the world was awake. When I got the news, I was at Tech visiting Connor for his formal. Sara texted me, and I went outside on Connor’s little deck and just sat. A few days before this I had left Florida for good; leaving behind Nate, the first boy I fell in love with. Within minutes of putting something on facebook, Nate texted me to see if I was ok. This is not a boy who usually checks up on me, or is overly caring. For a few minutes, I was able to mourn your loss with just you and him, and that was so special to me. At home for the services, everyone really came together. There were so many people from camp, and Caleb was there from North Carolina. The Clifton park has never looked so beautiful, or held that amount of wine bottles and kegs (You can thank Julie for the wine). We raised our drinks in your honor, as Ryan Farrish threw a handful of your ashes into your campfire at your parents’ house. I had my first sip of moonshine there, as the boys passed around a mason jar. Hope that makes you proud.
Sitting there on that tour bus, I wanted to call you. I wanted to talk to you, and share this with you, and I couldn’t. And that is when it hit me. Like a train emerging into a tunnel, there was this uncomfortable sense of permanence that I couldn’t shake. Life continues to move swiftly on, and as much as I want to pause it, have just a few more hours to talk to you, I can’t. This letter is not to be sad, or tell you I’m having a hard time handling it, because I’m doing pretty well. This letter is to say how lucky I am that our lives crossed, and so often. This letter is to say I had some of the best times with you, at beach week and at the lake house. I love you Nick Franca, and I am better because of you.
“Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality. “
And from another friend:
It's so hard to believe it's been a year since Nick left us for a better place. I have been thinking about him a lot recently. I'm in nursing school at UVA and I had to write a short essay about where I see my future in nursing and I wanted to share it with you:
Nursing is more than a career, it is a calling. For me, I have always known that I want to work with children—I am one of seven children, I am a summer camp counselor, and I love babysitting. But it was not until after I lost one of my best friends from summer camp, Nick Franca, to neuroblastoma cancer last May, that I knew how I would use my nursing education.
In the fall of 2010, in my Introduction to Nursing class, a pediatric oncologist nurse gave a guest lecture. After knowing what Nick went through as he suffered with cancer, I thought to myself, “I could NEVER do that.” However, after that lecture, the idea kept floating around my mind. A few months later, at Nick’s life ceremony, Nick’s parents spoke very highly of all the nurses that cared for him throughout the years. Members from his cancer team even came down from New York to help celebrate his life.
That summer, grieving Nick’s death, I again told myself there was no way I would ever be able to work with kids with cancer and terminal illnesses. However, when I went to camp, I was surrounded by Nick’s presence. I felt a calling telling me that becoming a pediatric oncology nurse is what I'm supposed to do with my life. I learned from Nick, a courageous soul who fought his diagnosis year after year with a big smile and an unceasing joy for life, that nursing is so much more than medicine. It is the personal care that nurses provide that inspire children to remain strong and to fight against their sicknesses. I strive to use my nursing education to become the nurse who makes life better for children with cancer—children just like Nick.
I hope you and your family are filled with joy today as you remember your amazing son! I never saw how Nick interacted with other patients in the hospital, but at camp, all the campers truly admired him. I imagine it was the same with the younger patients in the hospital. I know he served as a role model for the younger children of how to be brave and fight their diagnoses with an endearing love for life. I know Nick watches out for those kids still and helps them find the inner courage to fight to get well. He is an amazing soul and I know that God needed him to be an angel for the rest of us.
Sending you love,
And from our guestbook... just today :)
Nick, we all miss you terribly. After confirmation at BUMC and all of our wild, crazy, and maturing years at Camp Varsity it is still numbing. I read something today that completely reminded me of you and what all of us have been going though since you left us. By no means are they my words. I wish I could be so poetical. But I love and miss you brother...
"I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gorged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.
As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."
Keep an eye over us you crazy crazy man... I miss you Franca!
Others have shared how much they still try and pull together Nick's mantra for living... LLND through their journey of life. His roommate from college Jack McKain put down his last cigarette the day Nick passed to honor his struggle. Nick HATED cigarettes and I know he helped Jack celebrate one year cigarette free on May 1.
So now.. navigating our second year we continue to invite everyone to continue to share the stories... I will be starting a book this fall... using the concept of Nick's compass tattoo and the points on it... representing Courage, Friends, Faith, Family and Strength... to weave in journal entries, your shared stories and some of my insight... Following My Son's Compass is a thought for the title.. If ANYONE has connections with a good publishing company I'd love to network with you!
Thank you again everyone who has helped us learn to live again by supporting our causes, our joys and our sorrows. We are blessed.