The complexity of trying to eulogize someone you’ve never truly met, but was – and still is – someone you connected with you on a level not many can is difficult. It’s a trying process – finality itself – and coming to terms with the realization someone you talked to regularly is gone. Someone who understood your struggles and to some degree you understood theirs.
Which culminated with the goal of trying to understand theirs as much as possible, so that empathy and sympathy -the former more than the latter – were always at the forefront.
In trying to understand who Nicole was – the Nicole I knew – I realize that I’m of a bias and I only got to experience who she was from a unique vantage point. She was by all accounts @bratriice, someone whose namesake bordered on a cult status. She loved Brad Marchand and if you didn’t she brought a nearly religious perspective to why you should.
Every discussion about Marchand – and Patrice Bergeron to a slightly lesser extent, though NEVER forgotten – was like the sermon on the mount. It was her court, her time to spread a gospel which made those awful Sunday preachers on TV look like amateurs. You got the real sense immediately that fandom – this fandom that she held so dearly – was what really made her standout.
And those traits, those innate appreciations are what made her friendship so infectious. I can rarely remember a time that stands out where I came across someone who knew of her, but had a bad thing to say in 140 characters or less. Nicole was – and is – still someone who could look at you with unbiased eyes and still find ways to care or worry about you.
She cared deeply for those who she grew close to and I was privileged to receive that from her. A level of respect, admiration, and unconditional love that isn’t normally found in Hockey Twitter but that made it wholesome to some respects. Even with the in-fighting, the mediocrity, the trash, the moments that didn’t tear the community apart, and god knows what else she was there as one should be: finding enjoyment where she could.
When times sucked and she needed to rant or stunt on someone she brought the heat. If you made mistakes, Nicole made sure you learned from them, and she tried to make sure she could help you be the best person you could be. Again: you don’t find these types of people regularly online; especially ones who are transparent about their battles.
I can’t speak to the impact that her battles with mental illness had on her and her friends or family. I can’t speak to those intimate details or the late nights with friends trying to understand the demons she fought. I can speak to how she approached them and explained them to me. And try as I might I can’t come to terms properly with whether or not I failed her in her darkest hour.
Mental illnesses and the impact that they have not just on the person suffering from them, but the immediate friends and family around them is indescribable. More often than not it’s the illness winning and creating the worst outcome; in some cases it’s different, with a positive ending.
The unfortunate side effect of what happened – or may or may not have – is the speculation aspect. I just know that Nicole kept fighting her battles with more courage than many can muster. Respecting who she was and what she represented is so vital to holding onto her memory. I know that from our growth in our friendship over the last few months, with many heart to hearts I saw someone who just wanted balance and control.
It’s so damn easy to empathize with that and want that for them. Not for anything more than the belief that Nicole deserved that. She deserved happiness.
In those talks about finding that equilibrium you could tell how much she believed in her friends. Even at your lowest, with no confidence, and the bleakest of times around you she saw what you were aspiring to be. She saw you, for who you are – at your very best – and she believed you could achieve it. Without her help and guidance as a friend – someone she never got to meet in person – she helped push me into therapy.
She believed in me and supported me, unconditionally with love, and the hope for a brighter tomorrow that I’d get there. And that’s the most heartbreaking part in all of this for me and from what I saw. It’s the admiration and the love she cherished from her friends in hoping they reach their goals that she won’t get to see.
It’s impossible to replace someone like her – and I would dare any mortal to attempt it – and I hope no one tries to replace her in their lives. I really hope that we can remember her regularly for the joy she brought to our daily routine, probably unknowingly.
I used to call her my favourite peach and I meant it. No one is like @bratriice and no one ever will be. I really believe that because it’s only been a few days since you left this mortal plain and the profound impact you left on us Nicole shows. There’s a dozen of us in a group chat still reflecting on you, trying to make sure we stay as positive as we can while holding you close to our heart.
63 + 37 = 100. I love you buddy and I’m confident that if there is some sort of afterlife, we’ll be watching hockey there. You framed one of my stupid tweets and put it up in your home. The attention you took of knowing how important meta humor was to me means more than I can ever express. This is – among so many other things – a representation of the amazing soul you are.
— nicola (@bratriice) November 27, 2016
Twitter, talking about life, and trying to solve our girl problems will never be the same. You were you, a perfect friend to me and I’ll love you for forever. 63 + 37 = 100.
Your favourite good content boy,