I Wish

I wish I could go back.  I’m not even talking about going right back to better, pre cancer healthy times.  That would be lovely, but I feel as though I’d be wishing for too much if I wished for that.  I feel like that would be greedy.  I kind of feel as though I understand that it is not possible to go back too far, but maybe if I wish to just go back to last December, or even January, that might just be possible. I feel like that would not be asking for too much if I were just to ask for that because Ben was so sick by that time….how could it be asking for too much if I just want to go back to that?

I’m laying here in bed as I write this, looking at the framed picture of Ben and I hanging on the wall (it’s not even my favourite.  Why in the world did I choose that one to be blown up and framed for Ben’s service?) and thinking about how he lay right here in our bed at the very end.  

I remember the weekend right before he passed away.  A lot of people came to visit and say goodbye without really saying goodbye. Ben was still talking, albeit between bouts of falling asleep mid sentence. But he managed to have conversations with everyone and he waited for Jeff to arrive on Sunday night.  (The more time that passes, the more grateful I am to Jeff for getting on that plane to make it here for his best friend in the nick of time.  I believe Ben hung on to see him).  Ben smiled at Jeff and they exchanged a few words before Ben fell asleep, and those were essentially the last coherent words he spoke except for a weak “I love you” to the kids the next day.

I wish I could go back to just before those last moments. I wish I could tell him that in a few days I would lay beside him when he drew his last breath, and I would hold his hand, and I would comfort him.  I wish I had known before his mind went elsewhere that I had one last opportunity to have a conversation with him.  I wish I had asked him if he was scared.  I wish I had known that he would end up thinking he was drowning, and that he would panic and be desperate for some type of help that no one could give. If I had known that was going to happen I could have talked about it with him and prepared for it as we always did. I could have let him know that I would keep him safe, even though he wouldn’t feel safe. And then maybe on some level deep down, amidst the drug haze and the crazy things that bodies do when they are shutting down, he might have known on some level that he was safe.  If I had just known. If I had just talked about it.  I wish I had talked about it.

I feel so terrible for not addressing the elephant in the room with him directly. I should have addressed it.  I should have asked him.  I should have assured him I would be there with him.  That the kids would be there, and our family and friends.  I should have let him know, and if he said he was scared I should have told him I would be holding his hand. I should have told him that Jeff would be with him.  That we wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him. (You know what I mean).  That we would give him all the drugs he wanted to be comfortable and to not suffer.  He did not want to suffer.  That much I do know.

I recall how one evening last summer Ben looked at me and with shock he said, “You don’t think I’m going to die do you?”  And I couldn’t get any words out.  I couldn’t say “no”, and I couldn’t say “yes.”  I just sat on the floor at his feet and cried.  At the time I thought he was asking me if I was going to a dark place in my head that he didn’t want to go to.  But now I wonder if he was just simply asking me if he was going to die.  And if that’s what he was asking, then I let him down because I didn’t answer him.  He asked me a question and I did not answer.

I wish I could have a do-over.  One more chance to go on that limo ride where Ben was too weak to get out at each stop, but seemed so content to watch the rest of us get out and marvel at the lights.  I wonder if he was scared that night.  I wonder if he rode around in that limo thinking about how it was his last Christmas, his last limo ride, the last time he would look at the lights with the kids and I, the last time he would sit in the parking lot of a McDonalds restaurant.  All the boring, mundane, beautiful things in this life.   I wish I had forgone looking at the lights and just stayed in the limo with him and held his hand, and whispered that I would never leave him. That he need not be scared.  That he would forever be surrounded by beauty.  That we would be together again one day.

The next day the doctor told him he had 3 weeks.  She was just about bang on.

fullsizerender

Jaime took this picture of us on the way home that day.  She sent it to me the other day.  I don’t even recall any of us speaking on the way home, but I do recall us holding hands.

I was a bit of a coward, I think, and I wish I could go back and try again.  To tell him when he had a clear mind that I would be beside him until the very end.  That I wouldn’t let him down.  That I wouldn’t leave him.  And maybe if I had talked about that when he was clear headed he might have known it on some level when his mind wasn’t working properly anymore.  I wish I knew whether or not he knew that as he was panicking in the two days before he died.

I joined a grief group.  I started last Tuesday and I attend with my friend Lisa.  Her husband died suddenly last May. There are eight of us in this grief group, and all the other women are much older except one.  She has a six year old son, and she woke up one morning a few days after Ben died to find her own husband dead beside her in bed.  I feel so sad for her, but at the same time I’m a bit jealous over the fact that her husband didn’t have to suffer and she doesn’t have to wonder if she did enough to let him know she would stay by his side.

Anyway, we were there for two hours and we did a lot of listening to the counsellors. Most of the things the counsellors had to say are things I already know, because I had nine months before Ben died to research grief, and now I’ve had nine months since he died to do the same.  I’m very well read on the subject, actually, although that doesn’t seem to lessen the pain.  

I have read (and have now been told in person) that grief is like a pounding, relentless surf, kicking and clawing at your soul and knocking you down for TWO to FIVE years.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen … two to five years.  I have barely yet begun.  But I am also told that the pain eases and the pounding of the “mourning” waves slows between punches.  The knowledge that the pain will ease should bring me some peace but it does not, because I don’t actually want to live in a time when Ben is not foremost in my thoughts.  I don’t want him to be forgotten.  I am scared that one day I might wake up in the morning and actually not think of him first thing. I’m scared that I might wake up and think of him as a passing thought and a quick smile.  I feel like if that happens then he didn’t exist.  And what of all those years he put in standing in the pouring rain at soccer?  What of all the years he worked to support us?  What of all the years he spent cooking for us, taking us on vacation, laughing and loving us?  What was it all for if we just continue to live our lives without him foremost in our thoughts?

Anyway, apparently I don’t have to worry about that any time soon because the experts tell me I have anywhere between one year and three months to four years and three months before that happens.  So it appears I will continue to randomly burst into tears in my office on occasion, talk about Ben endlessly to anyone I come in contact with for hours on end until no one wants to be around me anymore, and I will continue to reach out for him when I wake up in the morning for awhile longer yet. I’m ok with that.

I’ll end with this …. Ben doesn’t have a headstone on his grave.  That is because I am scared to make that final decision on what it should say.  What few words can adequately describe the man he was?  I don’t want to make a mistake.  So I thought I’d put this question out there to the universe and the one or two people who may read this blog.  Whether you knew him and loved him in person, or whether you just got to know him by reading our words on this blog …. I would love to have your input / suggestions on what I could write on his headstone.  A word, a quote … anything really.  Just something that might help inspire me to find the right words.

I’ll leave you with Ben’s favourite quote from Bruce Lee …”Don’t pray for an easy life.  Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”  And boy did he endure.

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17 thoughts on “I Wish

  1. Wendy, I have no words of wisdom for a marker-my son has been gone over two years and we have had the same paralyzing thought-how do you sum up a life in a few words. I want to thank you for bravely saying what so many are afraid to talk about. Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room and talking about the things that we might want to speak aloud even though they are so very painful. I pray that your heart finds peace over the things you didn’t say but your precious husband probably understood anyway. Grief is a hard, hard journey and no one can make it for us. It takes as long as it takes and requires so much work. Thank you for sharing yours.

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    • If I haven’t before told you how sorry I am for your loss, let me tell you now. I am so sorry for your loss. Two months, two years, two decades … no amount of time could ever piece together that part of your soul that dies with the person you love more than yourself.

      I read a recent post on your blog about handling holidays and what people should expect of one who is grieving. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone. I often agree to do something and then back out at the last minute because I simply can’t. There’s no way to explain why that happens. I don’t even understand it myself.

      I am dreading Christmas, as everything we did seemed to be centred around Ben. He did a lot of the shopping, he cooked our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, he read Twas The Night Before Christmas, he brewed our morning coffee, he handed out the presents. I don’t want to do all that without him, so I’m not quite sure how to get through.

      I will take solace in the fact that sadly, I know I’m not alone. There should be a Christmas gathering just for the people who lost half their soul, because no one else really understands.

      Thanks for your blog

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  2. Thank you for sharing. I am not good with words and I didn’t know Ben other than Jamie’s dad. What I did see was you bringing him to volleyball games and being there and strong for him and your family. Allow yourself time and he will always be part of your soul xo

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    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Jacque. I was thinking of Ben as we watched the game today. He didn’t live volleyball but he sure loved watching the girls play their sports. He would have wanted to be there today.

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  3. Written on Brandon Lee’s grave which I visited in the 90’s :
    “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five time more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
    My own situation does not compare Wendy. Yet in my own way I am suffering deeply due to circumstances that have become overwhelming and seem endless. Your post today, of all the others, inspired me.
    Gary

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    • Funny that today of all days you wrote on this blog. I just sent you an email this week but it is unopened. I didn’t know whether or not you had access to your work email.

      I just wanted to tell you that I hope you are doing ok. I recall Ben telling you that the one thing you do have is the time to repair the damage. Make sure you take that opportunity Gary. Don’t squander your time … time that Ben desperately wanted.

      Thinking of you and your kids.

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  4. Beautifully spoken words from the heart. Wendy, when the pain eases, you will still wake up and think of Ben everyday. It just won’t hurt as much. You’ll think of him every time you look at your kids, or see his picture in your home, or attend a special event or family dinner. Allow yourself time. When the time does come and the pain has eased slightly, allow that too without the feeling of guilt. That is what I wish for you!
    Maybe Ben’s favorite quote could go on the headstone. Or even a lyric from one of his favorite bands or songs. Something musical?
    xo

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    • I had thought about using that quote – I will keep it in mind. I do love the idea of finding a line from a song he loved. Thanks for that.

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  5. A phrase I chose in 1994 for a bench at Deas Island Park in honour of my father-in-law:

    Sunshine fades and shadows fall but sweet remembrance outlasts all.

    Many people knew and loved Ben – he will live on in the hearts of many. I agree with what Paula said above – “you will still wake up and think of Ben everyday. It just won’t hurt as much” (eventually).

    Liked by 1 person

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