It was only last week that a fan sent me a tweet about Anthony Modanano.
It was the day after the Lightning had clinched a playoff spot and a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I’d had enough of losing, so I tweeted him back.
“It’s over,” he wrote.
“I don’t think you’ll see me cry for a week.
You have a beautiful wife and kids.
You won’t lose to a good team.”
I replied, “It doesn’t matter.
I know you’re not alone in your grief.”
That sentiment made me feel good.
After a while, I just couldn’t stop thinking about Modanans crying.
I’m sure I cried a lot when I watched the Lightning play the New Jersey Devils.
I still do.
I remember when the fans booed the first few games of the season, when the players had to stand during warmups.
I cried in the locker room.
Modananans voice was loud and full of emotion.
I had never felt anything like it.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a fan of the Lightning and a husband and father.
I’ve lost my husband to cancer, and my daughter has been diagnosed with leukemia.
He and I were able to watch our son, Riley, die of leukemia in November.
And I’m grateful for the way he played and for the support he gave me and our family.
I love him and miss him every day.
But it wasn’t the emotional highs and lows of the playoffs that broke me down.
The emotions came from a different place.
For the first time in a while in years, I started to question my own sanity.
I felt like the entire time I was watching the games, I was thinking about what could happen to me, my family, and Riley.
But I couldn’t get away from the emotions.
When I finally got to a certain point, I told myself, I’m just going to cry.
And then I started crying.
After the Lightning clinched the first playoff spot in franchise history, the only person who could help me cry was my father.
He told me that he thought the playoffs would be the hardest for my son.
I thought that he was exaggerating.
I knew he had his own demons to deal with.
But he wasn’t lying.
When you’re a kid, and you’ve never lost, what you think of as a dream life can feel like something you don’t even want.
In a way, that’s what I was experiencing during those playoffs.
I think the way my father said it, it was a little more emotional than what I had expected.
My emotions were still there, but I had to go through it, too.
As much as I wanted to let it go, the tears came more.
I wanted him to know that I was OK.
I told him how much I wanted his love and support.
It wasn’t enough.
I kept thinking about Riley, my boy, my brother, and our beautiful family.
And it got harder to accept.
I started thinking about how he could die without me.
I wasn’t thinking about my own health, my wife’s health, and the children’s health.
I was worried about them all.
I didn’t know when I’d lose the love and respect of the fans, the people I love, and even the family I love.
That was a very difficult time for me.
And when I saw the video of my son, I cried even harder.
Riley was going through cancer treatment and was in the ICU, a very lonely place.
My son had been a hero to me since I was a kid.
And yet, my son’s death seemed so out of the ordinary.
I just felt like Riley and I had no chance of being together again.
I couldn’ t believe that we’d let it happen.
My husband, the person who taught me so much about the game of hockey, and a person I’ve never met, was gone.
I finally felt that the whole world was going to be watching us.
My feelings about Riley and the rest of the family started to come flooding back to me.
There was no way that I could ever be with them, but at the same time, I couldn t see my son and the other people in the family without crying.
Riley had a great heart and always put Riley first, no matter what.
I never wanted Riley to feel that way.
But as Riley’s cancer progressed, I became even more concerned.
I worried that the pain he was going thru might make him weaker.
I began to wonder what Riley’s mind was going on.
Did Riley know that the cancer was too advanced for him to live?
Or was he being selfish?
He was dying at a young age.
I realized that Riley was not only hurting his family, but also his own.
And so I went to him, asking if he knew anything about the condition of his heart.