On October 31st, 2010, my best friend Jason Ryan Schippers a.k.a. Fish passed away due to surgery complications. It’s been difficult to come to terms with this, but on the 2nd anniversary of the events, I wanted to let my thoughts and emotions out via this blog. Each posting will coincide with an occurrence from that date two years ago. This is not going to be easy to write, post or read. This is my view and emotions from this. I don’t know what this will accomplish, but telling this story is something I feel compelled to do.
Part VI: The Months After
The months immediately after Jason’s passing, visitation and funeral were very difficult to deal with. I spent a good deal of time feeling guilty every time I laughed or smiled. I rejected positive things, other than Rachel and Marshall, because I didn’t feel worthy of them. It was really my lowest point because I had such a hard time accepting that he was gone and that I didn’t get the chance to let him know I cared.
There were times that I felt he was still with me, though. A few short months after he passed, there was a job opening at work. It was a position I had previously held and excelled at, but left for a few reasons. Let’s just say those reasons were no longer present and the position would be good for me again. During the time I was in that spot previously, Jason was always so supportive. He loved my job, selling video games, and was always talking to me about it. When I left the position, he was my backbone and helped me deal with what caused me to initially leave. So when the spot opened up, I was sitting at my desk thinking that I was ready to return. Something internal was holding me back, though. Mostly I was nervous that the group wouldn’t want me back since I left before. I don’t want to be thought of as unreliable or shrink under pressure. None of that caused me to leave, but very few knew my real reasons so who knows what the thoughts were. I needed a push in the right direction. As I sat at my desk contemplating what to do, I got a sign from Jason. My headphones were on and as I was asking myself what I wanted to do, the song that was Jason’s ringtone for years popped on…Triple H’s theme song from the WWE, The Game. It was the sign, the moment I knew I had to take this job. I had to excel at it. He gave me the push I needed. I promised him, that day, that I would take the job and be the best. Every day I work to be the best, not only for me and my family, but for him. If I ever win sales rep of the year, it’ll be an emotional moment.
|Angie and I just having some fun|
During this time, there was one person who I did talk to, and really made me feel welcome, and that was his sister Angie. Angie was always like a little sister to me. From the moment we met, we just clicked in that way. Heck, the first time we met Jason brought her over to my house for a party. She decided to go shot for shot with us, which did not end well at all! Luckily Rachel helped a great deal in taking care of her that night. Her and I e-mailed, texted and got together on a few occasions to talk. We went over to her house a few days after everything had calmed down to talk. During that time, she found some pictures for me and also let me use his laptop to find any memories of him and I that I needed to keep. The most important thing she told me during this time was that the e-mail I sent her right after his surgery, she had read to Jason. While it wasn’t a big e-mail or filled with overwhelming love, it was a simple “Tell him we care” type of thing. The fact that he knew in his heart that I was thinking about him, made me feel a touch better. I was having a hard time living with the fact that he left this world without truly knowing I cared. To know that he heard I reached out, and he knew because of Angie deciding to read him that, meant the world to me. I can never thank her enough for that.
|Carl, Angie and I at Uno Night|
I also started to get to know some people that Jason had gotten to know during that year we weren’t in contact. If there is one thing I learned, it was that Jason was always open to everyone but the people he spent the most time with were always wonderful people. I wish I had gotten to know them with Jason because collectively, especially Neil, they would have been a great group to be part of. I was lucky to be invited and welcomed to a few events they coordinated, but especially Uno night at the High Life Lounge. It was just a fun group of people getting together, playing Uno and throwing back a few beverages. The first Uno night was really in honor of Jason and I had to be there. In addition to the usual group, Jason’s parents were going to be there. I was excited to see them again, but I was also very nervous. I still felt like I owed them an apology for how things between Jason and I broke down. When I arrived that night, they were already there. I walked over and exchanged hugs and the usual pleasantries, but I didn’t know how to bring up the subject. I still didn’t want to burden them with my issues, nor did I know what they would want to talk about. I never wanted to be the guy who brought everyone’s spirits down (even though I did on a few occasions over the last two years). Instead of stepping up and talking to them about it, I kind of blended in to the group.
The sad thing was that because of my inability to express myself and all the internal turmoil I had, I unintentionally pushed them away. Marla e-mailed me and wondered if I even wanted to keep contact with them. I felt awful that I even made her think that, but completely understood why. The good thing to come of it was that her and I began to talk via e-mail about a few things. It helped clear up why I had seemingly withdrawn myself at that time. We’ve moved past it pretty well. We’ve been able to go out to dinner on a couple of occasions, we went to Hangover 2 together, talked a little bit and I think set a good foundation for being in each other’s lives for a long time. Marla even shared with me something that was very difficult to see, but knowing she trusts me enough to share them with me was overwhelming. What did she share? Well, she showed me pictures of Jason in the hospital during that final week. It was personal, powerful and something I painfully treasure. They also made me one of the first to see the sketch of his headstone. When it was finally placed, Angie let me know so I could go see it. I had been there a few times prior to that, but it was nice to go and actually connect with something that represented him so well.
His family has always been so good to me, for reasons I’ll never know, and it is amazing they want to keep me in their lives. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I still remember the last time I saw Jason alive. We were out for an annual birthday party get together at an Iowa Energy basketball and he was there with another group. He performed a contest on court during halftime and looked to be having a blast. We weren’t talking at the time, but made brief eye contact. I still remember that moment and it was a look of wanting to get things back on track, but I was still stubborn. Every year we have that event I think of him. I will never forget 2 months after Jason’s passing, we were carpooling down to the arena and I was talking to my friend Nick. Nick had briefly worked with Jason and for some reason, had his name tag. He ran across it earlier in the week and brought it with to give to me. He said, “I thought you would appreciate this.” I don’t know why it meant so much, but it was something I absolutely cherished.
I have done and like to do things in his honor now. Every year now I donate to the United Way and make sure my full donation goes to Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Iowa. I want to make sure that something Jason supported so enthusiastically continues getting support. I used to spend every Wrestlemania with friends, but now it just doesn’t seem right. It’s a part of me that is missing so I’ve started buying them alone and watching. I also went forward with getting two tattoos in his honor.
The first is a koi fish dragon on my ribs (location decided because I wanted to go through the most physical pain I could think of) with the words “Count to five” transcribed. I had to get a fish, for obvious reasons, and the koi was ideal. It has a deep meaning of friendship and love in the Japanese culture and it fit too perfectly. The words were something Jason had tattooed, but also had a deeper meaning for him. He was a massive fan of the TV show Lost, of which I have still yet to see. Based on the meaning given in the show, it’s a belief that you can really get through anything. From the show, here is the explanation:
Well, fear's sort of an odd thing. When I was in residency my first solo procedure was a spinal surgery on a sixteen year old kid, a girl. And at the end, after thirteen hours, I was closing her up and I, I accidentally ripped her dural sac, shredded the base of the spine where all the nerves come together, membrane as thin as tissue. And so it ripped open and the nerves just spilled out of her like angel hair pasta, spinal fluid flowing out of her and I... and the terror was just so crazy. So real. And I knew I had to deal with it. So I just made a choice. I'd let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for five seconds, that's all I was going to give it. So I started to count: one, two, three, four, five. Then it was gone. I went back to work, sewed her up and she was fine.
It’s quite powerful and also helped guide me towards a third tattoo, which comes from my religious beliefs; Philippians 4:13 (translation is slightly different depending on the version, but all means the same):
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
To me, they both held very powerful statements and ones that help push me in good days and bad.
If you’ve read my previous post regarding Batman, you’ll understand the second one a little bit. I’ve always been a huge fan of Batman. I definitely don’t profess to know about the lore, but I was always captured with the dark character that seemingly carried the weight of his parents’ death on his shoulders. When Jason passed, I placed a lot of it on my shoulders. I obsessively played the “What if” game. What if he had never left to go to Colorado? What if I wouldn’t have been such a jerk to him? If I had done things differently, would he have left? I even wondered that if he were here and going through medical issues, could friends of mine in the medical field have saved his life? It’s such an unfair thing to do to myself, but also to anyone who would have been affected by any change. Had he been here and friends of mine were helping treat him, how would I have reacted had he passed away in their care? It would be horribly unfair to place that burden and/or blame on them.
So I decided that I needed to represent Jason and also the burden that I have/had into one piece. Given his love of comics, heading to Heaven in a Superman shirt and the association I felt with Batman, it became fitting to work them in together. It’s a piece that I am extremely proud of, not only for what it represents but also for tying us together in a way that he would be proud of.
Life moves on whether you want it to or not. I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to go back, fix things and see if I could have helped. It was impossible to do, though. As the months progressed I realized I needed to, not only remember him and the lessons from my mistake, but also move forward in a way that he would be proud of. Hopefully he’s looking down upon me and seeing some of those changes.