The First Birthday. Da da DA!

The “Da da DA” was supposed to be the dramatic music played in the movies.

Today I am officially the same age as Ben.  He’s never going to get older but I am.  That is odd.  I always used to tell him that he could have one extra year on earth so that we could die at the same time.  He in turn always said he was going to live to be 100, but I said I’d be happy to make it anywhere into my 90’s so he’d be on his own after that.  I was always pretty sure he’d enjoy a couple of years of being able to just play guitar without being interrupted anyway.

I definitely missed our Saint-Onge Family Birthday BBQ of steak and caesar salad tonight, and I missed Ben as always, but in fact I had a happy day. The weather has been miserable lately but today the sun shone through.  A gift from Ben perhaps.

I spent the day enjoying a pedicure with Mom and Barb (how could a day ever go bad when it starts with a pedi?) …

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… followed by lunch with my family (sans Lisa and Brett unfortunately) and dinner with Connie and Kirby, Nancy and Jeremy, and Lisa and Darren.  AND, miracle of all miracles, I did not even cry once until right this moment when I received this text from Connie in response to my “thank you for the lovely evening” text.  I hope she won’t mind me posting it here.

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They miss Ben too.  That probably shouldn’t make me happy, but it does.  I like that I am not the only one that misses him.  He was worth missing.  Knowing that he had a positive impact on other people’s lives, and knowing that they will remember him too makes me happy.  I like knowing that my life is not the only one impacted by his loss.  Ben would like knowing that too.  I hope he does.

Anyway, today was evidence to me that joy can still be had in conjunction with the pain, and it allows me to imagine that more joy could possibly follow.  I think there may be a day when the joy will outweigh the pain, and perhaps the pain will fade into memories that mostly make me smile. Especially when I hear the memories that others have of Ben.  

The other day I was driving to an appointment when I noticed that the car in front of me had a sticker on it with a sweet saying followed by the name “Cassidy Briggs.”  I was immediately brought back to six years ago, when a little girl named Cassidy was in all the local papers because she was fighting cancer, and I remember when she passed away.  Ben and I talked about her a lot at the time.

I drove behind that car all the way to my appointment.  Every turn the driver made was the same turn I had to make, and eventually the car pulled into a parking stall exactly where I was going.  I stopped my car and waited until the driver got out, and before I could change my mind I walked up to the driver (who probably thought I was a crazy stalker) and asked her if she was Cassidy’s mother.  When she said “yes” I told her that I remembered her daughter, even though I had never met her.  I told her that our hearts broke all those years ago when we read their story in the news, and that I had never forgotten it.  I told her that I wanted her to know that her daughter’s life impacted people who had never met her, and that I had never forgotten her and I never would. And then I said goodbye and went on to my appointment.

I hope it made that mother happy to know that her daughter is not forgotten.

Missing you every minute of every day, Ben, but I hope you know that today I smiled and laughed. You are not forgotten.  Never forgotten.  xox

Saint-Onge family on Bens birthday Mar 13 2006

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Almost Finished …

It seems the never ending “To Do” list since Ben passed away is finally dwindling.  I’m not getting too excited about that yet, because I have thought I was close before only to find that unexpected things pop up and suck up further endless amounts of time.  Still, I feel like I am finally almost there and that makes me slightly happy, which is a pleasant break from the crap feelings of the last 135 days.  Yes, one hundred and 35 days.  Holy. Shit.  When I actually counted I could not believe it has already been that long.

The old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” does not apply here.

This past long weekend we (and by “we” I mean just Raegan and I, since Jaime worked and Zak did whatever those on the cusp of 20 years old who are solidly sober do with their time) went to Brett and Lisa’s cabin for a little getaway.  I will admit to having had a panic attack at the thought of going further then a two block radius from the house, but I managed to get it together and off we went.  I was greeted by this view, which helped slow my breathing:

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It looks like a painting, doesn’t it?  That is the actual view off of the end of their dock. Taken with my Iphone.  You know it’s a beautiful view when an Iphone can take a picture like that.

The last time I was here was less than two short years ago for Dad’s 70th-but-looks-55 birthday:

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I suppose I need to adjust to the fact that unless I plan on moving out of province (I do not), I will have to get used to a lot of “first time here without Ben” moments.  I might as well get them over with, and what better way to do it then with those I love most.

The weather was iffy and Raegan was actually quite sick, but here’s a few pics of our time:

I am still waiting for Jenna to send me the rest of the pics.  Hint hint.

The rest of the week thus far has been rather mellow.  A few moments of anxiety and freaking out that were tamed by the Lovely Lisa Opsahl, interspersed with taking care of Raegan who cannot seem to shake this sickness, along with some actual normalcy.

This day last year (yes, that is how I still continue to think) Ben wrote this.  (<< click there.) He had received the most thoughtful gift from a complete stranger who still remains near and dear to my heart, despite having never met him.  He really brought Ben a lot of joy after several weeks of anguish.

Today I did this:

One on each shoulder.  Excuse the bruising and the bleeding … that will go away.  The left shoulder is a vague replica of the picture on the urn that holds My Beloved’s remains.  The words are mine – well, mine after I stole them off the internet.

The right says “The love and the laughter will live on long after all of the sadness and the tears.”  That is a line from the song that Jeff chose to play at Ben’s service.  When I sent him a picture of the tattoo he took the opportunity to remind me that I had mocked him mercilessly for choosing a country song to play for Ben as he was dying.

Ah, Jeff.  Our relationship is one of sarcasm and insults, with an underlay of pure understanding for how we both loved Ben.  I am very grateful for him.  I wish he lived closer, but don’t tell him I said that.

This morning he also told me to check out a particular song by Miley Cyrus.  I thought I would hate it (not her biggest fan, plus it is called “The Twinkle Song”  WTF?) but it turns out I loved it.  I’m never going to hear the end of it.  I’ve tried to post the song several times but it doesn’t seem to work, so I’ll link it.  Click here.

I was also checking out a FB group recently and found that someone had posted a remake of The Sound Of Silence.  It was done by one of my son’s favorite bands … Disturbed. (Never heard of them?  Me neither until Zak went to their concert.  Pretty sure that no one over the age of 21 knows who they are.)  In any case, I normally have an automatic dislike for the bands that my son covets – must be the generation gap – but I actually loved this remake. Mostly for the passion with which it was sung.  Take a look / listen:

When I told Zak I had found a song by Disturbed that I loved, he said “Sound Of Silence?”  I said, “Yes.  I loved it.  Can you believe it?”  He said, “Meh.  I didn’t like that song.”

Apparently the generation gap cannot be closed.

In a few days our son will celebrate his 20th birthday.  Another first without Ben and I’m so very, very sorry for him that he will miss it.  I wish our story had a different ending.  In the meantime I will continue to swim through this shit storm that landed on the Saint-Onge Five.  I’ll keep looking for that crack of light and remain grateful for the time we had together and for what he left me.

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One last thing … since it is one year to the day that Ben received an unexpected Happiness Bomb from someone he never met, I want to do the same in a small way.  I want to take a moment to give a shout out to a man I have never met.  A fellow Lower Mainlander who has found himself in the same unenviable position that Ben did.  G. William Gould is his name.  I can tell from reading his blog that I would really like him, and so would have Ben. He has started an amazing foundation – a Make A Wish For Adults, if you will.  I’m going to link his blog to my home page, but in the meantime I want to share the link to the words he wrote today. He got some great news, and you can read about it here.  I have a pretty good feeling he has discovered his real purpose in life (forgive him …. he was a lawyer previously.  Lol) and will be around for a long time helping others in similar positions.

I love good news in the fight against crappy cancer with a small ‘c’.  If you want to spread some random love and good wishes, give his post a ‘like’ and let him know that strangers are rooting for him.  The comments Ben received on this blog really kept him going.  Pass on those feelings to someone else.

And in the words of G. William Gould, shamelessly stolen directly from the Welcome page of his blog, I would also like to say that “If you enjoy or otherwise find any value in my writing, please take the time to share, tweet, reblog and like your favourite posts.”

Have a great rest of the week, friends.  Hug your families, spread the love, and take a moment to remember The Titan.

Belly Laughs

This was so funny I had to link it to my blog.  Belly laughs are rare for me these days, but this video definitely did it.  So thank you to SoFlo.

I think I have dealt with one variation or another of the first girl in the video about 500 times.  Moments like that were right up there with the countless times heard “I pay your wages”  and “I’m going to have your job.”  (Surprise!  I still have it!  Let me know when you’re going to take it, and at the same time you can tell where I can mail your nickel.)

I always wanted to tell those types of people, “Do you know that we all meet at the office at the end of shift and laugh our asses off while we talk about you?”

I would have been fired if there had been social media back when I was on general duty.

Awkward Moments

Me. Today.  At the Gynocologist’s office.

Dr. Handsome Gyno:  enters the room with his handsome smile, sits his whole handsome body down in front of me and with his handsome mouth he asks “how are you?”

Me:  thinks to self “how the Hell do you think I am, you handsome man?  What kind of a stupid assed question is that to spew out of your handsome mouth? You are really handsome.”

In reality, my eyes spontaneously filled with tears like a two year old who had her soother ripped out of her hands.

Dr. Handsome Gyno:  “you look upset.  Is something bothering you?”

Me:  “Well … my husband died.  So there’s that.”

That’s actually what I said.

Dr. Handsome Gyno looked equal parts horrified and embarrassed as that little piece of information hung out there awkwardly between myself and his handsome self.

Apparently I can’t just shut my mouth, smile and say “All is well with me, Dr. Handsome Gyno.  How are YOU?”  Nope.  I’ve just got to open my mouth and vomit out whatever comes to mind.  And since The Love Of My Life is always on my mind, that is what tends to come out.

This is the continually awkward story of my life.  One minute I’m fine and the next I am sad, frustrated, angry, annoyed, short tempered or fine again.  Pick one.  If you pick the wrong one you can rest assured that within two or three minutes you will be right.  The emotions are random, unplanned and embarrassing.  And awkward.

Here’s one of Wendy’s truths … when someone passes me in the hall at work, smiles happily and says “Hey, how’re ya doin’?!” I want to punch them in the face.  Hard. Sometimes I feel badly about those nasty innermost feelings of mine, and I try to remind myself that not everyone else’s world permanently imploded on January 13, 2016.  But most of the time I don’t bother reminding myself that they are good people trying to be nice, and that they don’t really understand. That they couldn’t possibly understand, and that I’m actually glad they haven’t personally experienced this Hell themselves.  Usually I just choose to go with the moment and secretly hate them. I’m a terrible person at times. It’s not you, it’s me.

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I do my best to shake it off, but sometimes (like now) that just isn’t happening.  However, on the ‘shake it off’ note,  I did again stumble across this text from early January where Ben was carrying on a very serious conversation and still managed to have a sense of humour.  I cut out the majority of the private conversation, but left in the funny part.  (I’m not actually sure that he meant to be funny, but he was.  Ben’s part is in blue.)  Read on:

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Lol.  “Shake it off like Taylor Swift does” he says.  Haha.  If only Taylor Swift knew how the Big Bad Titan loved her!  If only he could have shaken off that fucking cancer.  With a small fucking ‘c’.

After my visit with Dr. Handsome Gyno I found myself thinking of fifty things that needed doing, but was completely unable to decide which one to do.  I can’t make a decision to save my life. Lets hope I don’t really need to any time soon.  I think I made enough decisions trying to save Ben’s life, and since we all know how that turned out, my mind has apparently decided ‘no more’ since it didn’t work anyway.

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One of the items on my “To Do” list was to go buy new vent covers to go with my new hardwood floors.  I stopped at Rona on the way home and wandered.  And wandered.  And mulled over sprinkler timers for some reason.  And wandered.  And glanced at the pendant lights which I also need.  And wandered.  You get the picture.  I bought nothing.  At this rate my home reno will never be done.  I am relying on my friends with good taste and decision making abilities to choose for me.  The other day I brought a throw rug home and then returned it.

Today I made an appointment for Friday with the people who will show me the map of the cemetery where we will have Ben’s ashes interred.  WTF.  Last year I was just barely getting used to the most recent diagnosis, and now I sit here typing about having My Sweetheart’s ashes interred?  No wonder I’m fucking cranky.

I want this again.  I want my hideous beast back again.

I will update after I have information about where Ben’s ashes will be spending the rest of eternity.  Or at least most of them.  I plan on keeping some myself, as I believe I mentioned in an earlier post.  (And speaking of indecisive …. the funeral director did ask me several times back in January if I wanted to keep some ashes aside and I said “no, no, never, absolutely not, stop asking me.”  Now I have changed my mind.  Naturally.)  Apparently I will also be deciding where my own ashes will be interred, because otherwise I will buy a single plot and then change my mind down the road.  Likely I would then try to buy out the owner of the plot next to Ben, and when they say “No” I would have to resort to grave robbing.  Not good for the career.  So I’ll buy my own resting place at the same time and save our kids the trouble down the road.

Besides, where else would I want my ashes to be for all eternity but snuggled beside Ben?

The other night I dreamed that Ben was walking beside me and laughing.  It was so sweet to be beside him again, until my twisted brain then turned that pleasant moment into a nightmare where he had a heart attack walking alongside me.  Again … WTF?  While I was screaming “Call 911” he turned his head towards me and gave me a mischievous smile. Not even kidding.  Then I woke up.

After all these months of silently begging him to come back, that’s what he does? Undoubtedly his idea of a joke, since his sense of humour was “unique,” to put it delicately.

This song is our song.  I always thought we’d dance on the beach to this song in our old age.

I love you Ben.  I miss you every minute.  I wish you had told me how I was supposed to manage life without you.

PS.  Raegan made dinner tonight.  Potato soup.  From scratch.  So that was nice.  Thanks for teaching her how to cook

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Last Year

I actually have no idea what I was doing this day last year.  I checked the blog and all I posted on May 13th, 2015 was this.  When I try to step back from this shit storm of life and pretend that I was just observing the last year from a distance, I find it odd to think that at the moment I was posting about Winnie The Pooh, I was exactly eight months away from my last moments with Ben.  I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time.

Now it has been four months since I have seen him, or heard his sweet voice.

Today I was interviewed by a woman doing research into how money should be spent to improve palliative care.  I hope that if she takes anything that I said back to the palliative care teams, it would simply be that they need to stop throwing around the word “palliative” and start using “pain management.”  Ben equated “pain” with life and “palliative” with death.  All that ended up happening was that he refused palliative pain treatment because he thought if he accepted it, that meant he was dying.  (Which he was, but how does one fight hard if they just blindly accept that?)  If the first conversation with Dr P (radiology oncologist) had been phrased as “pain management,” which is completely separate and apart from “treatment of disease,” (or lack thereof, as the case may be) then perhaps he would have been more accepting of help and he wouldn’t have suffered so horribly, and so needlessly.

Side note:  we had an awesome, fabulous pain management team.  I wouldn’t want to leave the impression with anyone that they (and in particular Dr. H) were anything less than caring and helpful.  But there is always room for improvement, right?

I also suggested that more consideration and conversation needs to be had with loved ones and children.  Despite the fact that Ben had cancer, we all lived it.   It is as much about those walking the shitty cancer path (with a small ‘c’) with the patient as it is about the patient.  The kids and I were right here every moment with Ben.  The doctors all knew from the get go that there was no cure for this, and that Ben’s time was short.  I think in those situations there needs to be more push for realistic conversation with families about what is to come.  As hard as it is to hear, I wish it would have been pushed on us (actually, on Ben) a bit more.  Those conversations do not need to steal away hope, but there needs to be recognition of the fact that if the patient refuses to deal with what is happening, then the family will suffer long after they are gone in so many ways.  The families should have the opportunity to be better prepared, and I think that is the doctor’s job to do that. It can’t fall on the loved ones to force that knowledge on the patient, and risk the patient being furious with them for the rest of their short life.

I remember Dr. B telling Ben, “everything you do from here on in is for your family, not for you.”  Ahhh, Dr. B.  He always has a knack for knowing exactly what should be said.  Unfortunately, by the time Ben finally asked the question it was really too late for him to do anything that needed to be done to help us.  And so we suffer even more than necessary.  Losing Ben was a loss from which the kids and I will never recover, so I could have done without all the extra bullshit that came along with denial, quite frankly.

(I can feel Ben standing beside me as I type this, rubbing my arm and making some kind of joke as a substitute for saying “I’m sorry.”  I know that he would be sorry if he saw how the denial affected things over the last few months.  It’s ok Ben.  I know you were also trying to protect us.)

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In speaking with someone at work the other day, I said that I feel as though I lived in a war zone for nine months, and the war raged on for the next three months after he died.  Then I suddenly found myself back at work, because I thought that was the right thing to do.  I think to many it must seem like I had “enough time,” but I have not.  I have had no time.  I still can’t relax.  Sorrow creeps up on me at the most unexpected moments, and my body aches constantly and I am exhausted. Utterly and completely exhausted to the point of wanting to collapse (and I sometimes do). And then at other times I am wide awake and completely unable to sleep.  Usually late at night, which is why I tend to blog near the witching hour.

My mind and body need a rest.  So do the kids.  And so I have finally made an actual decision, which is a small miracle in itself.

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I have decided to work until the end of June while the kids are in school, and then I will take a break.  I will take the kids to Hawaii and I am considering bringing some of Ben’s ashes to scatter on the ocean while the sun shines.  Ben loved Hawaii.  When we come back from Hawaii the girls and I are taking off to go be in nature.  We are going to drive south with no real plan, destination or schedule.  I want us to spend time hiking and soaking up the natural beauty around us, and hopefully we will discover some peace again.

Maybe we’ll leave a little bit of Ben in various places that he would have loved.  Maybe not. We’ll see.  And we’ll talk about when to bury the rest of his ashes.

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One Lucky Mother

I think I may be the luckiest mother in the world, a lot of which has to do with Ben’s years of dedication to our kids and what he taught them as he led by example.  Resilience is the word of the day, and we all learned it from him.

I had a very easy childhood.  Ben did not.  But Ben learned resilience and I never needed to until I became an adult and, well, adult things happened.  Thank God I had Ben to learn from.  I draw on his lessons constantly now, and often think “What would Ben do?”  I usually know the answer.

On Mother’s Day last year I was deeply suffering.  You can read about it here.  I am still suffering, but on this Mother’s Day there was some laughter and a lot of love.

Last year around this time the girls were in the Volleyball Provincials, and neither they nor I (nor Ben) were able to enjoy it.  This year, however, I spent the day today watching Raegan play in the finals, and I was able to focus and actually see her and finally, after sitting silently on the sidelines for a year, I was able to actually cheer.  Out loud.  Her team took first place in their tier.

From there we went over to Mom and Dad’s and had the traditional Insley Family Bar-b-que.  And we smiled.  And laughed.

You may notice there are people missing from the pictures.  Jaime was working, although I did manage to get 5 minutes with her before she ran off to bed …

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… and Lisa, Brett and the kids couldn’t make it over.  Dad bought an ice cream cake (with gluten.  Sorry, Ben, but I have a feeling you are pigging out on gluten in Heaven anyway) and had it decorated like this…

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… but since Lisa failed to make it to the party, I redecorated it …

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Tough luck, sister.  That’s what you get!  (Not that it matters … I was always the favourite child anyway.)

The kids wrote me a beautiful card …

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… and bought me some flowers and hand cream I had been wanting for about a month.  I love it.  Everyone else thinks it smells horrible.  Oh well.

One final note about the weekend … I woke up with a migraine on Saturday.  As in, I opened my eyes and two seconds later I realized a migraine was coming on strong.  I’m probably the only person in the world who can get a migraine before her day even begins. In any case, I am sick of the migraines and the medications, none of which work.  So I took a spontaneous step and drove myself to the local tattoo and piercing parlour where they stabbed me by hand (it hurt something fierce) through the part of the ear that is said to be an acupuncture point to prevent migraines.  So here is my new teenager-looking ear:

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The top piercing I did actually get as a teenager.  The middle one is the one to prevent migraines.  I’m not so sure how well that will go over at work, but if it stops the migraines then everyone should be grateful.  And if you’re wondering what is on my head, that is a turbie towel.  I just got out of the shower.  Funny side note – I told Jaime that one of the coolest things about her Dad was that he never, ever tried to voice his opinion on anything I did regarding piercings or tattoos, even though it wasn’t until the very end of his life that he became “ok” with tattoos and got his own.  When I got my first tattoo he drove me to the parlour.  When I pierced my nose, he just smiled.  When I came home from Vegas with my second tattoo he said he liked it.  So I know he’s just nodding and smiling right now and saying “It’s your body Wendy.  You get to decide.”  How I loved that about him.

All in all it was a decent weekend.  Another “first” without Ben.  I talked to him a lot this weekend, and I’m so glad that bluetooth is a “thing” now because the other people driving by me likely assume I’m on the phone.  I’m not.  I just like to talk to Ben while I drive.  For some reason talking to him in my head just doesn’t do it for me.  I need to speak the words out loud.

I miss you very much tonight, Ben.  We all do.  Thank you for teaching us resilience by example.  We really wish you were here, but we are managing.  And we are keeping your memory alive.  xo

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.  And to the best one – my own.

The Proposal

Twenty two years ago tonight, My Beloved asked me to be his partner for life.

One year ago tonight I wrote about The Proposal right here. When I wrote that post, I knew it was the last time that I would actually be in the company of My Beloved on the day of “The Proposal.”

Today I woke up and looked to my left, and was reminded by the empty space in my king size bed that I am just left with memories.  It seems My Beloved is not coming back.

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I came home after work today to an empty house and a lot of memories from when our love story started…

… and what we made together ….

Last night I went to a parent’s meeting at The Last Door Recovery house, just to get back in touch.  The only time Ben ever missed a parent’s meeting was right around the time he had his shoulder surgery.  Every Wednesday, week after week for a year he faithfully attended those meetings.  A truly dedicated father.  Much more than a father … a Dad.

As Ben mentioned in this post that he wrote last year, it was the strength he gained from those meetings and from the people in treatment that gave him the resolve to fight cancer (with a small ‘c’) as hard as he did.

Anyway, I went to the meeting last night and I was saddened to immediately see the familiar face of someone I know outside of the world of addiction.  I had no idea that addiction had touched her life, and I immediately looked to my left to tell Ben that I know her.

He wasn’t there.

This was our wedding song.  Chosen by Ben.  Our theme was ‘friendship’ in 1994, and remained that way right through our lives together.

How I miss you Ben.  I don’t go a minute without thinking of you.  Thanks for all the good years.