Garth. 5873 Days. 23: I Love You, Too.

I had a concert to go to. A Garth Brooks concert with my Mom, my Uncle Dan, his girlfriend, and the man himself, Garth, on Saturday October 10, 1998. It was two weeks before this concert where I had an alcohol induced “prize fight” with one police officer, one released canine, a German shepherd, and one unforgiving dirty Creek. A thirty-five foot fall into that creek accompanied by a near drowning proved to be the epic battle of my 20 years on this earth.

I was in the fight of my life drowning for at least four minutes, until a group of three heroic police officers jumped to my rescue. Paramedics and fire rescue arrive shortly thereafter to help return my damaged body from the creek bed to dry land. I spent 19 long, fearful days in St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, MN. I was trached, taken on and off life support, was labeled as brain damaged (TBI), and the final blow was being told that the likelihood of my ever living a productive life was simply just “NOT” going to happen. It was impossible. “Let’s just focus on your son staying alive, then we’ll talk long term.”

I wasn’t going to make my concert. A family friend (i.e. My People) contacted Garth’s people (Thanks, Kim), told them the predicament I was in, and wouldn’t be able to attend my favorite artist’s concert. What happened next was truly amazing. I received in the mail, Garth’s Double Live from Texas Stadium 1993, plus an autographed photo, signed by the man himself: “Nick, God Bless ya pal, I believe, Garth Brooks!”

Steve Jobs said it perfectly when he said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward—so you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future.” And connect they did.

St. Luke’s transferred me to Abbott Northwestern for eighteen months of rehab, followed by part-time work in my father’s corporation, followed by 3 ½ years of college (against my neuropsychologist’s advice). Eleven months later I was working again for my father’s company, and then one day, my friend Steve suggested I try and get a job in a hospital. I was unemployed for six weeks, spending four of them taking a course to be a nursing assistant, and began my service on August 23, 2004 for Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital. Had my first date with Tina, a nurse, in April of 2005, married Tina in August of 2008, had our son in March of 2012. Published 23: I Love You, Too in June of 2014. I could never have connected those dots looking forward as I struggled to find my place.

In January of 2014, my wife sees online that Garth is back and returning to Minnesota’s Target Center in November of 2014. Tina and her sister Kelly are online when the tickets become available, and finally get a pair after two hours working tirelessly to get a pair of tix so I can finally get to my concert.

5873 days between concerts and in between, an overabundance of positive and negative dots. Remember, we can only connect those dots looking backwards, never looking forward!

Witnessing Teresa Shaw and seeing her trade Garth “his guitar” for “her sign” that said, “Chemo this morning, Garth Tonight, enjoying the dance” was truly providential. It truly was a meaningful exchange. It was during the song, Unanswered Prayers, I heard Garth say, “I Love You, Too,” to a person on the right side of the stage.

I was in Speech Therapy with my Mom at Sister Kenny and I was simply repeating words. I was semi-comatose, in a wheelchair, not looking like Trisha Yearwood’s, Prize Fighter. My Mom said to me, “I Love You,” and I said, “I Love You, Too!” Not a huge event, but the simple fact that I added the “too” was a huge sign that I was coming back to life.

I said those four words in November 1998, heard Garth say it sixteen years later also in November, and all the dots came together. When I heard him say those four little words—I Love You, Too—it was as if every moment in my life had meaning. Every moment I dismissed as insignificant became invaluable. I could see the pain and feel the loss of my past, and remember how things were back then. And in that pain, however, there was healing.

Would I have been able to truly appreciate Garth Brooks back in 1998? Would that concert had given me the same gifts sixteen years ago? Maybe, but to be completely honest, the answer is probably “no.” Of course I would have enjoyed seeing my favorite musical genius, that’s for certain, but I wouldn’t have been prepared. I needed those sixteen years to get prepared.

Sixteen years. Countless positive relationships. Countless defining moments… all connected by countless dots. Garth, thank you for returning to Minneapolis. Thank you for sending me the signed picture and Double Live Disc set. Thank you for your newly released album. Thank you for bringing Trisha. Thank you for introducing us to your band. Thank you for People Loving People, which is, my entire purpose and probably the greatest lesson we can all share with others—life is about faith, hope, and love. Thank You for all the lessons you’ve given us through your music. Thank you for being one of the most meaningful dots of my life. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

God Bless ya pal, I Believe, too!

Faith, Hope, & Love, Nick

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