These are the words I spoke at Ben’s service. I miss him horribly. I currently waffle between extreme sadness and extreme anger. I’ll get into the anger part another time. But at this moment I just miss him and my heart aches. Turns out you really can feel a broken heart.
Often when people are spoken of after they pass away, they are made to sound as though they were a person who lived a perfect life. Ben would not have wanted me to do that. He was way too real for that. He would have wanted me to speak the truth from my heart. So I will. And I’ll just jump right into it.
Ben misled me about what I was getting into when I agreed to be his partner for life. He presented himself as a courageous man, when in fact the reality was that he was petrified of spiders. A spider could live for months in our home because he was not willing to deal with it. I once had to call my kids’ 90 lb nanny to kill a spider because Ben was too scared, and he didn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed about it.
The one time I forced him to take care of a spider, he couldn’t bring himself to squish it so he trapped it in a Tupperware container. And then, while he was on duty, he put it in the back of the marked police car, drove it away from our house and emptied a can of pepper spray on it in the back parking lot of the bank. (That is a true story. I swear.)
I was sadly disillusioned that day. But I had recently vowed to love him for better or for worse, so here I still am.
Ben was annoyingly forgetful and easily distracted, which was helpful when I was trying to avoid answering a question about how much money I had spent, but not so much when he was getting ready for work in the morning.
Every work day I would say, “Have a good day at work Ben” and he’d say “Shhh. Don’t talk. I need to concentrate. Have you seen my keys? Do you know where my wallet is? Did you take my badge?” The kids and I would laugh at him and then he would get really mad and yell “Why won’t anyone help me find my stuff?!” It was annoying, but I will miss that banter in the mornings.
Ben had an awesome sense of humour. He kept me laughing from the moment I met him. He told off color jokes that were completely inappropriate but had the kids and I rolling on the floor. I had to continually explain to the kids when they were young that even though Daddy was hilarious, they were never allowed to repeat anything he said or they would be expelled from school. Maybe even arrested.
In the beginning I tried to stop him from saying stuff like that in front of the kids, but eventually I gave up. Now I’m stuck with kids who can’t pose for a picture without finding a way to flip the bird at the last second and ruin my family photo.
Ben was ridiculously stubborn. He was literally unable to force his mouth to form the word “sorry.” He would apologize in his own way, by teasing and trying to make us laugh, and he’d say to the kids “look at your mom …. She sticks her jaw out when she’s mad.” But he’d never actually say sorry. It was not his best trait, but definitely some of the funniest times happened when he was trying to be forgiven without actually asking for forgiveness.
But for each one of those crazy and annoying habits that Ben had, he had an equal number of gentle and caring characteristics.
He was a devoted parent. He loved his career, but parenting was more important to him. He devoted countless hours taking Zak to karate, or hanging out in the rain at soccer, or driving the girls to volleyball. He took them shopping and to movies, he read to them endlessly when they were young, he played Lego and pulled out little fingers that were stuck in flutes, and he kissed knees when they were scraped. He taught them to drive.
His commitment to all our children during the worst of times a few years back was solid and strong. Where other fathers would have turned their backs, Ben rushed forward with his arms wide open to make our kids feel safe and loved. He was passionate about being a good parent. He knew that there could never be a more important job. He understood the impact that fathers’ actions can have on their kids, and he was determined that his impact would only be positive and loving. He succeeded in doing that in the short time he had.
Ben was a husband who stood above the rest. He was vocal about his disdain for men who aren’t true to their families, or who simply aren’t present. I loved that about him. Ben particularly wanted to be an example to his own son of what a real, stand up husband should be, and to demonstrate for his daughters what they should demand from the men in their lives.
With the exception perhaps of anything to do with spiders, Ben was a brave man. He ran towards danger where others run away, and I know this first hand because we were often each other’s only back up on the Sunshine Coast, back in the days when members worked alone. He never showed fear and he treated everyone with respect, regardless of whether or not they deserved it. I am very proud to share a last name with Ben in our policing world.
Ben was a good friend to many. Despite suffering with unimaginable pain at times, he still found it in himself to be a support to his friend Chris who was also suffering with cancer.
Within the last couple of weeks they had an email exchange where they discussed what appeared to be the looming reality of the situation for both of them, and they decided that if the worst should come to pass they would meet in the gym in Heaven, work out together and then have a drink.
Two days after Ben passed away, Chris also passed away. And I am happy that the two of them are together while they wait for the rest of us to walk each other home.
Outside of work and family, Ben had hobbies and passions that brought him great joy. He was an avid guitar player, and our home was filled with the sounds of his acoustic and electric guitars. He passed on his love of music to our kids, but he particularly enjoyed hearing Raegan pick up her guitar and play, or hearing her play a song on the piano that she had learned just by watching it played on You Tube. In those moments he saw a piece of himself.
Ben had many goals in life, and he liked to write down his goals every New Years Eve. He always said that a goal that is not written down is just a wish. This is the first year ever that we didn’t do our goals on New Years Eve, but if he had, I don’t actually think that his goal would have been as simple as to just survive cancer. I think it would have been to ensure that the kids and I were safe, and cared for, and loved. Surviving cancer would have been a bonus, but ultimately, the kids and I were always his priority. And as Ben and I talked about many times, “one beats cancer by how they live, why they live, and the manner in which they live.” And if that is the standard by which to determine who wins the battle, then Ben came out of this with the blue ribbon.
Zak, Jaime, Raegan … I want you to know that your dad was honest, hard working and reliable. He had integrity and strength of character. He honoured his vows. He was a great leader, because he was gentle and led by example, and never expected of anyone what he wasn’t prepared to offer himself.
Your Dad loved us deeply and fiercely, and he did not want to leave us. He tried so hard, because he didn’t want to miss one moment of what is sure to be your extraordinary lives.
He himself was an extraordinary man, and you can take solace in the fact that he was so loved, just by looking around this room at the people here today. Their hearts are broken, just like ours.
Dad wanted you to know that you should not waste your time worrying, because worrying never bought anyone a moment of extra time. If he was here he would tell you to laugh every day, don’t take yourself too seriously, and above all, to make sure you play a meaningful role in the world.
I promise all three of you that I will be strong. I will not break, so don’t worry. What has happened to us as a family is devastating for now, but don’t allow fear to rule your lives. It is ok to grieve, its good to grieve, but it’s a passage and not a place to stay. And Dad would want you to laugh.
The last 10 months have been indescribably difficult, but in many ways Ben and I also experienced some of the most beautiful moments of our lives. This year was a reminder to us that people are so good. After years of being exposed to the ugly side of humanity through work, we had kindness after kindness thrust upon us. Unexpected gestures of love that moved us deeply, and allowed us to remember that people are good. That’s a blessing for which we were both so grateful.
In addition to the countless number of people who cooked for us, drove our kids around, sat with us through our sadness and enjoyed meals with us on the better days, we also found ourselves surrounded by doctors and nurses who truly cared and went above and beyond what they are paid to do.
We are so grateful to our family and friends working in the medical profession who helped us out time after time, and cared for us in our home, right until the very end. And there are no words to tell my sweet family how grateful Ben was to all of you. Barb – without you, we all would have been standing here months ago. Your hard work gave Ben and I extra time together. Thank you.
And to Andre B, our patient, patient doctor, who is here today. Ben wanted you to know that he was truly, forever grateful for the kindness you showed at the beginning when you had to break the bad news, and at the end when you answered his questions honestly. I’m grateful for all the moments in between where you tolerated me and found time for me that I know you didn’t really have available. I am really forever indebted. You are such an asset to your profession.
It hurts me deeply to have to say goodbye today to one of the greatest men I have ever known. Since I was 22 years old, it has always been Ben. He was always our light in the dark.
Thank you Ben, for choosing me to be the other half of you. I will never forget you. I will deeply miss you forever. I hope you are enjoying that drink with Chris in Heaven.
I love you.
Video taken on January 10th, three days before Ben passed away as we enjoyed the last moments that he was reasonably coherent. He kept his sense of humour right to the end. How I miss him.