Sept 20th is the hardest day of the year for me. It is the anniversary of the worst day of my life, but a memory of one of the best people I have known and loved. It is the anniversary of the death of my son Nick, who committed suicide at 19. He was bi polar (manic depressive) all his life, and today he would have been diagnosed by the time he was 4 years old (although I suspected it when he was 2 or even younger), and then psychiatrists didn’t diagnose bi polar that early, so he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 16, three years before he died.
He was an absolutely amazing person, with incredible talent in writing and music. He was the lead singer in a successful band, had toured the country with them several times,wrote songs and lyrics, was a terrific writer, and had a great sense of humor. He was a gorgeous, funny, wonderful boy, and so greatly loved by us all. In spite of his illness, he was one of the funniest people, and made us all laugh a lot of the time. (He never went anywhere without a whoopee cushion, and used it often and well, a tradition we’ve tried to live up to, although he was a lot gutsier about when he used it and on whom!!!). There are a million silly stories in the family about him, and he left a huge hole in all of us when he died. It is one of those terrible life events that change everything, you think you cant live through, but you have to. There is no other choice. He died 13 years ago, and would be 32 years old today, although that’s hard to believe. It seems like he was here yesterday, and he will always be 19 in my mind. He will live forever in my heart.
I wrote a book about him, his victories and struggles with his illness. It’s called “His Bright Light, the story of Nick Traina.” And he is still remembered by his young fans, who write to his web site, still hang his posters and listen to his music in college dorms. His music was a mixture of punk and reggae, and some of his writing and lyrics were very wise for someone so young. He faced a lot of challenges with his illness and it gave him depth and maturity beyond his years. And in writing the book, I wanted to share the experience with others suffering from bi polar, or their loved ones or families, so they wouldn’t feel so alone. Many people live well in spite of the disease, and lead productive lives. Nick wasn’t one of the lucky ones to survive, but many people do.
So this is a hard day for me and my family. There is no easy way to get through it. His birthday is tough too (and most holidays when his absence is felt even more sorely than on ordinary days, when we feel it too). But his birthday is the anniversary of a once happy day, and he was such a joyful person that it’s hard to remember in a sad way. But the anniversary of his passing is just a very tough day. Some years are worse than others. I used to try and spend the day in a useful way, and for 12 years, I spent it working among the homeless, which is one of my passions, and was something I got involved in because helping the homeless was very important to him. He played concerts for them whenever possible, and would always stop and buy someone a meal if he saw that they were in need on the streets. Last year I spent the day on an airplane, between Paris and New York, to meet two of my daughters for dinner so we could be together on a hard day. But it’s pretty hard to turn this date into a good day. All we can do is remember him with all the love we had, be together, and know how much we miss him.
If you have lost someone you love dearly, my heart goes out to you as well. It’s not an easy thing to live through, but we grow from it. All hard experiences make us stronger and better, wiser, more compassionate, more loving and even closer to those we love. I’m sure losing Nick has brought our family even closer than it was before. There are blessings in these hard experiences if you look for them. And as they say, you are stronger in the broken places. “In each loss there is a gain…..and with each ending comes a new beginning.” Nicky’s life was much too short, but what a huge blessing it was. Some life stories are not as long as we hope they will be, and I wish Nick’s had been longer, but I am grateful for every minute we had with him for those precious 19 years. And he has helped so many people through the book I wrote about him, and the two foundations we established in his memory (for mental illness, and to help the homeless). May today be a peaceful, loving day for you, and I hope for us as well. Nick would have wanted it that way. Thank you for sharing these memories of him with me on this day.