It has been eleven months and two days since you died. (I hate it when people say they “lost” someone. WTF is that supposed to mean? They misplaced their loved one? I didn’t lose you. You aren’t missing ….you died. Dead. Muerto, as you would have said to me in an accent that would have made me crack right up. Mmmm-werrrrr-to!)
I’ve learned a few things since you died … a few more since the last time I noticed that I had learned a few things. I decided to write them down because (a) I can look at this list when I’m feeling a little bummed out and it will serve as a reminder that I actually can get things done by myself, and (b) I want you to know that I know these things about myself. Somehow I feel like you might actually hear me if I speak them out loud or you might be able to read them if I write them down. Since the kids are home I have opted not to speak them out loud lest they think I’m losing my mind. (Which is also possible.) Here goes.
I have learned that I am inherently strong. I handle things. I am resilient. I can do things even when I don’t want to, even when I think I don’t know how, even when I think I’m too tired. I can still do things. When I don’t know how to do something I hear you say, “You know, there’s this really cool new thing called GOOGLE. You should try it.” When an electronic doesn’t work and I start to think about picking it up and throwing it across the room I hear you say, “Wendy. First line of defence is to unplug and plug it back in. When in doubt, reboot.” (And for the record, I also hear you say it in a sarcastic tone.) Overall I think you would be proud of my strength. In fact, I think you knew I was strong long before I did. I think that you knew I would take care of the kids and myself and not crumble, and I think that is why you didn’t have to ask me not to melt down and hide in bed. You already knew I wouldn’t, even when I didn’t know it.
I have learned that life is too short to do shit you don’t want to do. Not all shit, mind you. Some shit needs to be done or else you just fall into the lazy category. People need to work. Paid or unpaid, working at homemaking or doing volunteer work outside of the house – people need to contribute in some way and not lay in bed all day. But I think that life is too short to waste any time feeling trapped every day in a job you don’t love. I don’t think people should spend time doing shit they don’t want to do. If you don’t love what you do, change it. Be the change you wish to see. Isn’t that what you always told me? (I know you stole that quote from Ghandi, by the way. I just didn’t want to call you out on it at the time.)
I have learned that while you can (and should) prepare for death in practical ways like insurance and guardianship for your kids, you cannot prepare for it emotionally no matter how much you try. I had 266 days to prepare for your death. 266 days in which I approached your death like I approach work – methodically and with planning. I researched online, I sought out people who had been through it before, I spoke to counsellors and various medical professionals, I followed blogs … you name it and I did it. I planned your funeral. Yes, I did. While you sat in your chair beside me and while we quietly kept each other company night after night I was actually preparing the slide show for your service. When you asked me for my laptop so that you could see if you could get it running any faster I made an excuse about why you didn’t have to. In fact, I didn’t want you to see the slide show I was making. I checked out venues for your funeral. I ordered a dress for your funeral (which I regret wearing, by the way. I should have worn pants to be comfortable. I don’t think you would have cared.) I took countless numbers of photos so that the kids and I would have something to hold on to. (I also learned you can never take enough photos. No matter how many you take, the time will come when you have looked at every single one so many times that you still long for new ones.) I took notes in preparation for writing your obituary. For 266 days I prepared, all the while knowing that no matter what I did practically, I could never prepare emotionally. And I was right. (Being right was not something I learned because you died. I already knew that before you ever got sick. Haha.)
I have learned that no matter how much advance notice one has of their loved one dying, they will still never say all that needs to be said. There will still be regret, even when you spend 266 days trying to ensure that you would not have any regret at all. You will. You won’t take enough pictures, you won’t take enough video, and you won’t say everything you want to say.
I have learned that my brain simply cannot wrap itself around the fact that you are dead. It just can’t. I understand you are dead. I know you are dead. You died laying right beside me. I saw you die. Barb saw you die. Jeff saw you die. Raegan saw you die. Jaime saw you die. Zak saw you die. Emalee saw you die. Mom saw you die. Dad saw you die. Leanne saw you die. Marlene saw you die. Julie saw you die. I watched them take your body away. Jeff stood by you while your body was cremated. I could ask any one of those people and they would tell me that you are dead, but still it is not real for me. Eleven months and one day later and it still does not feel real. Still I feel that you will come home, and I often think about all the things I will tell you when I see you. I’m not making a word of that up – that is what my brain thinks will happen. I wonder if that will ever stop.
I have learned that I am capable of managing our finances. It took all year, but I can do it. And it’s kind of fun, especially since I get to decide how the money is spent. (You would be slightly pissed off at some of the things I have done with our money, but then again, you should not have gone and died on me so you can’t really complain.) And also, for the record, I am better at budgeting than you were. I think you may take exception to that comment, and to be fair I now know that it would be very frustrating to try to budget when someone else (possibly me) would just buy whatever was necessary (new boots) on occasion without pre-planning. BUT, overall I am still better at budgeting.
I have learned how to do some of your jobs. Get the tires changed. Maintain my car (I still don’t wash it). Stay up late to make sure the kids come home (sometimes). Lay down some rules about boyfriends / girlfriends and actually enforce them. Drive to Vancouver (still hate it). Salt the driveway in the snow. Make your Caesar salad dressing. Cook a steak. Choose new appliances (that was a big one). Buy a new mattress all by myself. Give good pep talks to the kids. Be more positive. Be less scared. Worry less (just a little bit less. I’m still a hypochondriac.) Care a bit less about what others think. Be alone a lot. Be more patient (sometimes).
I have learned that no matter how much someone loves you, life goes on. I already knew that, actually, but it is one thing to know it as an idea out there somewhere and an entirely different thing to actually experience it. To watch other people move forward as though you were never here is a tough one. (And also that is not true, I know, but it’s easy to feel that way. I know they don’t do it as though you were never here, but rather because they have no choice. None of us do, but still watching everyone move on and knowing they are not thinking of you every second of the day is hard.)
I have learned that I loved you more than I ever actually realized while you were alive. I know this because my heart still aches so badly. Because I still wait for you. Because I still talk to you. Because I miss you constantly. Because I still cannot imagine a future without you. Because I still want to know your opinion on everything. Because I still want to celebrate your life any chance I get, and because doing so makes me feel good. Well, better. For a minute.
I have learned that you were the source of most of the mess in this house. I was always pretty sure it was true, but now I know for sure.
I have learned what I thought was always true but never really had to find out … I hate cooking and I hate grocery shopping. Let me just say that I feel sorry for the kids. I try to keep a can of soup in the cupboard.
I miss you. I love you. I hope you hear me when I talk to you. I hope you know how much you were loved. I hope you pay us a visit at Christmas and I hope I feel your hug on New Years Eve. I am glad that we never really made a big deal out of New Years Eve, because I think that would make this one even lonelier. I am rather ambivalent about Christmas. I’m not excited but I don’t feel overwhelmingly sad yet, either. I made a plan to keep myself occupied, so hopefully it’s enough.
Your headstone will be set at your grave this Friday. 1pm. Zak and I will be there, and we (I) will release the Kracken.
I love you Ben.