Am I Supposed To Care?

Warning:  This is not a fun post to read.  You may wish to consider not reading it.

When you watch your husband waste away before your eyes over the span of a mere nine months, does anything really matter anymore?  I’m not talking about the big things, like the kids (or new floors. Duh. That’s a no brainer), but things like, well, work. 

With the exception of a few brief periods of time over the last 23 years I have always cared about work. I am good at my job and I have always worked hard. Regardless of whether I was on the road or working in administration, I have always cared about doing a good job. I have always felt like I was making a reasonably valuable contribution to society at work, and even in my private life I have always cared about helping others. But now I find myself having a hard time finding the heart to care about who gets which course, or whether or not this person or that person responds to my email on time in order to take advantage of opportunities they are being offered. It just seems so damn insignificant.  

I know that’s horrible (and needless to say I feel incredibly guilty about it) because it is actually my job to help people get the courses they need to advance their careers.  But right now I just kinda sorta don’t care.  Isn’t it enough to just get up and out of bed each morning?

I have no energy left. None.  Nada.  Zilch.  When you watch the person you love most in the world suffer so terribly and then just fade away without a moment of peace in months, nothing else seems important.  What could possibly come even close to comparing to that?

Ben’s body was about 150 years old by the time he died. His feet were so swollen it looked like he was walking on two stumps. He had to crawl upstairs. For weeks before he died, every time he closed his eyes he stopped breathing and I sat beside him wondering “is this it?” and often counted all the way to 30 before he gasped for air. When that first started I would shake him to get him to take a breath. Eventually I wondered if I was prolonging his suffering, and I stopped shaking him. I had to just sit and watch helplessly, and wait, and hope. I wasn’t hoping for him to breathe, I was hoping for his suffering to end. He cried and told me that he just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. He was scared of not being able to breathe, and yet in the end he thought he was drowning. He panicked and begged me to open the blinds so he could ground himself by being able to see that he wasn’t under water. At the very end he called out desperately for me and didn’t even know I was right in front of him. He tried to take off his clothes in front of his his colleagues and friends, and didn’t have a clue what he was doing. 

I watched him cry out in pain behind closed doors, and I watched him stop crying instantly when the kids walked in so that they weren’t aware. In the days when he could still get himself up to bed I would often wake to find him rubbing my arm and staring at me, and I would hug him and wonder how long he had just sat there in utter mental anguish wondering what would become of his family without him. He told me he knew that we needed him. That he couldn’t die. 

I watched him go from The Titan to a mere shell. I watched him suffer the humiliation of losing bowel control and standing patiently like a child while I cleaned him up and showered him. I watched our little girls glove up and wash the entire bathroom after him.  (No child should have to have that memory.)  I watched our children as the doctor told them that their Dad had about three weeks to live. (She nailed it almost to the day). 

IMG_5961

This was one of the rare moments around Christmas when Ben could not conceal his pain from Jaime, and she just leaned in and held him.

A few days ago I asked my doctor if Ben had suffered at the end, when he could no longer hold a conversation but was still calling out for me and trying to “escape” something that none of us could see.  He answered “Yes.  If you think you’re drowning, you’re drowning.”  (and before you get all judgey on my awesome doctor for telling me something so painful, please remember that few people are able to deny me the truth when I demand it.  If I didn’t want to know the truth I wouldn’t have asked.  He knows that.)

I watched Ben work for his entire adult life to provide for us and our future, and now he can’t even reap the benefits.  He will never see graduations, weddings, grandchildren, Iceland, retirement parties or another birthday or anniversary. He won’t be with us in Hawaii this summer.  He won’t listen to “The Fighter And The Kid.”  He won’t go to another concert and he won’t play his guitars again.  I am consumed with guilt for having all these things that he worked so hard for. 

I keep receiving cheques in the mail, and often I don’t even know what they’re for. Three of them remain uncashed.  I believe they are the last ones, and I am overcome with guilt at the thought of cashing them because I feel like HE worked for that money (or died for that money) and now I “get” to spend it.  Sometimes I want to burn them, although I know Ben would lose his mind over doing something like that.  I know he wanted us taken care of.

Raegan overheard me talking to Zak about the remaining cheques and she came over to me and suggested (in all her innocence) that maybe I should just donate it all to the Cancer Society.  That it might make me feel better. She actually said that it might make me feel better.  Sweet girl.  I wanted to say “Dad and I donated money every single month to the Canadian Cancer Society since we were about 25 years old, even when we couldn’t afford it, and it didn’t do shit.”  Childish, I know. (I didn’t say it, by the way.  I hugged her instead). In a fit of anger shortly after Ben died I cancelled our auto donation. As though that would punish someone for not saving Ben’s life.  How terrible am I?  The only ones it punishes are those with this shitty disease.  Clearly I am not rational right now.

My point is this:  nothing matters anymore. How can I be expected to care?  What could really compare to the importance of all that we went through, that we continue to go through, and all that Ben suffered emotionally and physically?  

So I don’t care who gets what course, I don’t care if I have to change offices, I don’t care about what process is supposed to be followed in order to move my own specially ordered desk two doors down, I don’t care who is not getting along with whom, who wants holidays when, whether or not transportation is covered, or that I’m overdue getting my medical exams completed for work. (What good did it do Ben to have all his medical tests done on time every three years?). I. Don’t. Care. 

That’s a shitty attitude and is definitely not conducive to doing a good job. I know this. But I ask you… if you lived through what I lived through and still had to deal with the fallout, which I do every single day, would YOU care about that stuff?  Would those things really be important to you?  If your answer is ‘yes’ then you are a better person than I.  Right now they all just seem small and insignificant, although that way of thinking may land me right out of a job if I don’t watch it.  I know this, but I can’t help it.  I barely have enough energy to get out of bed each day and try to put on a happy face for my kids.  How can I care about everyone else?

Do you want to know what I actually care about on this particular day, at this particular time?  Today I care about the fact that Jaime has been tentatively diagnosed with gall bladder disease and may have to undergo surgery. I also care about the fact that Zak had a little melt down and accused me of not letting him take over some things around here and be of help.  I realized in that moment last night that my attempts at sheltering him are just making him feel like I don’t have confidence in him.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but that is how he feels, and much like Ben believing he was drowning, if it feels real then it is.  I also care about the fact that Raegan constantly texts me from school with her current exam marks – not because she is so proud of herself (although she is, and deservedly so) but more likely because she doesn’t want me to have to worry about her. She is now apparently raising me instead of the other way around.

So pardon me, but I don’t give a shit about the rules surrounding the movement of desks and key boxes. 

I have watched others return to work from horrible losses and they appear to move on just fine. They must be stronger than me. Perhaps I am just weak. But I was not able to save Ben’s life and I was not able to save my family from this agony, and now it just feels wrong to move on. It feels wrong to be happy.  And it literally feels impossible to care. 

On this day last year My Beloved wrote this (< click there). Today he is dead.  I care about that.  That’s pretty much all I have room for.

15 thoughts on “Am I Supposed To Care?

  1. Yes, I know for certain he would, and I promised the kids I would be. But they are all I have strength for.

    Like

  2. Wendy, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t care about that work stuff on the best of days. And I’ve been through nothing! Don feel guilty. Your attitude seems like it should be expected from someone in your position. You can’t take care of everyone. I wish you didn’t have to go back to work so soon. 😕

    Like

    • It’s funny (not really) but several people have referred to my return to work as “soon”, whereas I was feeling terribly guilty about being off for “so long.” The price of having an overwhelming guilty personality.

      Like

  3. Wendy, don’t ever call yourself weak…you are literally the strongest person I know! All that matters right now is YOU and YOUR family. Nothing else matters for now. Worry about all that other stuff much later. Day by day friend. Xo

    Like

  4. while your posts make my heart ache for you ( my staff often find me teary eyed at my desk) I just recently shared with them about your family and this blog so now they know….Wendy, you make me realize life is fragile and that all the daily shit and crap doesn’t matter, our family and the ones we love matter, your posts ground me… and make me so sad at the same time. I just wanted to say thank you xo

    Like

  5. Who cares, only the ones who are not suffering with other truly important life altering events. They are the lucky ones right now but they too will feel a loss one day and you will be there helping them.
    Let others pick up some pieces for you, just like you did for them I bet!
    Sorry to hear your news about Jamie, not what she needs right now.

    Xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wendy, I always want to comment on here, but I never do…until now, I wasn’t able to read your blogs…pre-Ben’s dying, but I have caught up & continue now…in my spot, on the couch, after Ryan & Grady are both asleep…I read, I cry, & I cannot believe how strong you are, & how powerful your words are. I truly believe that work/your place of employment is not where you belong, at this time anyway. You may need to keep busy, but I am sure with those three sweet kids of yours, you can do this! Your yard would love you to give it your undivided attention, with planting some simple things…herbs, cherry tomatoes, &
    Flowers of course! You need to take this time…no one can set a time limit on how long you need to grieve. I know it’s been years since we’ve seen each other…but I am sending you a huge hug & wishes for a sunny day on your patio…even though there’s an empty chair XO

    Like

    • Thank you Shelly. I love that you read this…I love people reading about Ben and discovering what a cool cat he was. 🙂 xo

      Like

  7. Wendy
    It was by accident I came across your blog. I can’t believe how much time has passed. I’m sitting at UBC at my daughters swim meet and the mom next to me happened to be watching a video on Facebook. At first I thought nothing of it but a red serge caught my eye. It unfortunately was obvious that it was a memorial video but the glare in her phone prevented me from seeing more. Curiosity got the best of me and when I peered closer and saw your face, a deep sinking feeling could be felt in my stomach. I knew it was Bens.

    So much time has gone by since we last spoke. It’s ironic that I’m currently working in Bens unit right now and did not know that he was ill until the email was sent out in late fall from work to respect your family’s privacy.

    My heart ached for you then. It ached even more after I heard of Bens passing. Time and time again I wanted to reach out, but never got the courage to. You see we have something in common. I lost my little sister to cancer. I’m not saying this to try to take away how you are feeling. Quite the contrary. I know what it’s like to not give a shit about anything after watching someone suffer and die next to you. I think that’s why I never reached out. Even years after her passing, it floods back in an instant.

    I kept thinking to myself that I would eventually get in touch with you. Well as fate would have it I think I have been pushed in that direction today.

    It’s Kim from Whistler. I tried to add you on Facebook to reach out but that damn Facebook wouldn’t let me find you. I googled your name and found your blog….and here I am writing to you. My email is maddjax@gmail.com. That’s kinda impersonal but I figure that if you are open to reconnecting we can do so more privately.

    Xo

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s