April 16, 1987 - March 12, 2007
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Nicholas. He was a cheerful young boy with shiny red hair. He loved to go to the park and have his Mommy push him on the swing. Some of the slides were too tall for him, but others were fun to climb up and slide down. When he was 3 years old, he was happy to discover that he was getting a baby sister! He helped his Mommy look after her with love and attention. He enjoyed helping push her on the swings at the park; they shared the same stroller on their walks to and from their favorite park.
Nicholas grew up quickly – as all little children do! Before his parents knew it, he was starting kindergarten. Mommy took a picture of him as he headed out the door on that first day. (She took pictures of him almost every year when school started!) Nick loved kindergarten! His school was a wonderful old building with only enough space inside for the kindergarten students! They had a room for their "cubbies," with a colorful mat for storytime. There was a separate room for water toys and sand toys and another room for lunch and snacktime. A fourth room was for other kids who needed special therapy because they had trouble walking or sitting up. They always had special people in their room helping them exercise their muscles. Their play yard was very big! The little ones had lots of play structures and swings all to themselves! At recess, Nick enjoyed playing on all of the structures. Carrie was a friend of Nick's who he would often play with and help push when she wanted to go on the swings. Carrie couldn't play on the other structures. You see, when Carrie was born, her little body suffered from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Carrie couldn't walk without a walker. She had trouble speaking too. That didn't matter to Nick. When he saw her on the swings, he enjoyed helping her. He enjoyed playing with Carrie and helping her on the swings, because even in kindergarten, Nick had an understanding and open heart.
By the time Nick reached high school, he needed to use his wheelchair every day. His legs had lost their strength. However, his determination was even stronger! There was nothing he wouldn't try: he wouldn't let his poor motor skills stop him from excelling at visual arts and woodworking! He loved to try everything. His quick wit served him well every year in auditions for the Improv Team and in his humorous contributions to his high school Variety Night.
Nick proved to be a positive role model to his peers during regular opening exercises at school. Rarely would his classmates complain about having to stand for the National Anthem when they saw Nick struggle to steady himself precariously beside his desk as he stood up from his wheelchair for the duration of "O Canada."
He had a bicycle that he used to peddle with his hands! What freedom that gave him! With cell phone in pouch, he'd set off to visit his friends "in the north end" of town! Mom would fret, but realized that that was the freedom Nick craved. Nick never dwelt on what he couldn't do; he always focused on what he could do. He became extremely knowledgeable with computers, realizing that his brain was his strongest asset.
Nick graduated from high school in June of 2006. Three months later, he started a new phase of his life. Now powered by an electric wheelchair, Nick headed off to University! The more life challenged him, the more Nick rose to the challenge. The university students who would help Nick get up and dressed in the morning always commented on how cheerful he was. (Yes, you read correctly – Nick didn't have the physical strength to even dress himself but that never stopped him!) Like his hero Stephen Hawking, his philosophy in life was: "You just have to do the best you can in the situation you are in."
On February 22, 2007, Nick suffered a massive heart attack. The world class professionals at the Ottawa Heart Institute did everything they could to bring Nick back to us, but his body's main muscle had finally succumbed to the Friedreich's Ataxia Nick had been battling for 10 years. On Monday March 12, Nick left us.
Nick was an inspiration to many. From the age of nine, we watched Nick set out on a journey filled with challenges and disappointments. He was always willing to accept those challenges and meet them head on with a determination and a sense of commitment to life.
His family and friends and community gathered on March 27, 2007 to honor Nick's life. Tributes came in from as far away as Alberta, Nicaragua and France thanking Nicholas for the positive influence he brought to so many lives – the influence of his steadfast optimism and positive outlook on life.
If you ever feel as if life has dealt you a blow, remember Nicholas. Stop by your local park and go for a swing! Help someone else go for a swing! Live life to the fullest. I wonder how many young people faced with a debilitating disease would choose to use their disability to motivate, inspire and challenge. It most certainly brought happiness and contentment to Nick and everyone he met!
Post Script: Nick loved to produce videos and had produced 72 videos on his YouTube site before he suffered his heart attack. You can view any of his videos. ENJOY!!