Greys Anatomy – A Trainwreck For My Soul

I watch Greys Anatomy every Thursday night with four friends and a glass of wine.  We have done this for several seasons now, and I look forward to it every week.  But lately … lately I find that watching Greys Anatomy feels similar to watching a train wreck.  It hurts my soul but I can’t look away.  Every single week the show seems to focus on cancer diagnosis’ or cancer deaths.  It’s like a drum pounding in my head over and over.  I walk into the evening excited for the chatter and wine, and within about five minutes of the show starting all I can think is, “Again?”

And so for the last few days I have asked myself this question … are these weekly dates with my girls feeding my soul, or are they robbing me of any semblance of peace?

The most recent episode involved a pregnant woman who was dying of … wait for it …. cancer.   (Surprise!) She refused treatment in order to save her baby.  How noble of her. Blah blah blah. Before she went into surgery she secretly told the doctors she wanted to sign her own DNR.  She did not want them to take extraordinary measures to keep her alive if something went wrong.  Well, something went wrong as it usually does, and I’m sure you can figure out what happened in the end.

religious-clipart-free-graphics-images-and-pictures-of-nativity-wbdAxV-clipart

As I was watching that episode it made me think about this … I signed the DNR.  I signed that DNR.  I signed it while I sat right beside Ben in the hospital.  A doctor finally had the kahunas to broach the subject with Ben, and Ben promptly shut him down hard and fast.  “Talk to Wendy about that” he said. “She’ll know.”  I remember that he used tone with the doctor.  Angry tone.

“She’ll know.”

Well apparently, in fact, I did know.  Or at least I thought I knew at the time, because I signed it.  Ben apparently did not know so I made that decision for him.  That shitty, crappy, assholish decision that I never imagined I would actually have to make in my lifetime.   I signed that DNR, tucked it into the green plastic envelope they give you with a magnet on the back and slapped it onto our fridge for all to see. (That’s what you do with it, you know.  I’m told that EHS attendants always look on the fridge for that green envelope.  A quarter century in emergency services and I never knew that DNRs are kept in green envelopes on the fridge.  Now you know too.)  I signed that DNR.  I stuck it on the fridge and it sat there right through the Christmas holidays while everyone from both families were here “celebrating” the season, and I think I was the only one who knew it was there.  (It’s possible I could be wrong about that … there is a lot I don’t remember so maybe my sisters did know.)  But what I do indeed remember is that I signed the fucking DNR.  It was the right thing to do, and it kind of haunts me.

Not only did I sign the DNR and stick it on the fridge, but I also chose a funeral hall and signed some forms about body removal at a time when Ben was still chatting people up and taking visitors.  Everyone around him was planning for Ben’s death except Ben.  He wanted to live.  He trusted me with his life and death decisions.

I signed the DNR.  It somehow seems so businesslike … so wrong, so completely casual in hindsight.  “Sign this receipt, please.”  “Sign for the package, please.”  “Sign your husband’s DNR, please.”  Funny how it didn’t seem so wrong at the time.  At the time it seemed important to plan, to prepare, and to save Ben from the agony of possibly being brought back to life only to surely die soon after.  Now it just seems surreal, and even though it was the right thing to do, I don’t really know how I managed to do it.

I had a landscaping complication this week with the neighbour, and when I brought her flowers the next day to try to calm her ruffled feathers she went on and on and on about how she had had a bad day.  That was her reason for her bad behaviour … everything had gone wrong for her.  And I smiled and handed her the flowers and mumbled, “Oh, I’m sorry your day was so tough” while I thought about how I wanted to tell her that I wish that I could have her bad days.  I also wanted to beat her a little bit but I refrained.

(On a side note, I tend to have regular Ally McBeal moments where I envision doing exactly what I want to do when people say things that I consider absolute wastes of time and breath.  It makes me feel better to fantasize.  I try to put smile therapy into practice.)

I spent some time with Ben these last few days and I was surprised to find that someone else had been visiting him too.  They left flowers. I love that.

flowers

The bottom bunch is from someone else who must have loved him.  Can’t say as I blame them.  He was easy to love.

I asked the question earlier about whether these weekly Greys Anatomy dates are feeding my soul (the friendships) or sucking it dry (the storyline of the show).  The truth is that I could probably do without the constant cancer reminders, but then again those reminders are everywhere, every day.  I don’t need Greys Anatomy to remind me that Ben died.

On the plus side I also get at least an hour of chat before the show and I’m always guaranteed a laugh as we recount what we read on the local community Facebook page throughout the week.  (Those of you who live in this area will understand what I mean.) Those hours are worth more to me.  I couldn’t have gotten part way through this mess of Ben’s life and death without them.

Anyway, who am I kidding?  I couldn’t stop watching the 37th season of Greys Anatomy even if I was kicked out of the club.  (I don’t think they can kick me out.  I’m the original founder.)

imgres

Advertisements

I Will Miss You …

A few months after Ben died I received an email from someone I’ve never met.  She said she worked with Ben briefly in the past and told me that her husband had recently been diagnosed with cancer.  She said he was expected to make a full recovery and I was simultaneously relieved and jealous.  Fast forward one year and I’m told the cancer is now in his liver, shoulder, ribs, sternum, skull … you get the picture.  He is dying.  And now I ache for these people I don’t know.

In order to distract myself I began cleaning out my (Ben’s) office.  In doing so, I found this:

IMG_9400

Anyone remember this?  Randy Pausch, professor, husband, father, cancer victim.  Died in 2008 at the age of 48 but not before giving the Last Lecture and writing a book for his children.

In 2008 Ben and I watched his Last Lecture and cried about it and talked about it endlessly.  (OK, I cried, but Ben talked about it endlessly.  It was Ben who bought the book).  Ben admired the lessons Randy Pausch had learned in his life (in fact, Ben constantly reminded me that “Randy Pausch says we should let the kids draw on their bedroom walls”) and how he had faced his death head on. Ben made actual changes in his own life that can be attributed in part to Randy Pausch.  It was Randy Pausch’s death that caused Ben and I to have some in depth conversations about how we would face our own deaths, although Ben always said it was just a hypothetical conversation anyway since he planned to live to 100.  (I’m pretty sure Ben privately figured he’d outlive me because I would worry myself to death before anything could ever get him. I’m almost surprised he wasn’t right.)

The death and pending death of  two people I have never met have slowed me down this morning and caused me to reflect on how Ben “planned to die” when he was healthy versus what really happened when reality swooped in.  He didn’t die the way I expected him to.  He didn’t die the way he expected himself to.

Most of the time Ben did not want to acknowledge that he was dying, but there were moments when he knew.  He sent “goodbye” texts.  He sent “I will miss you” texts.  Those memories simultaneously make me smile and cry.  The logical Ben would have scoffed at that and said, “You can’t miss people when you’re dead.”  The dying Ben thought he would miss his family and friends.

I remember the time when I told him “You cannot die on me. I need you!” and he cried and said “I know.” That moment was probably the catalyst that caused Ben to never specifically sit down to discuss his pending death with the kids and I.  He worked around it, especially at the end, but I think to him he felt that if he said the words “I’m going to die” he would have felt he failed us.  I think it hurt him too much to think about missing us.  I get that.

I know Ben lived the best life he could, and he died the best way he could which for him meant refusing to let negative thoughts of death creep into his head during the majority of his illness.  He focussed on life.  Good for him.  I need to remember that.

My plan to distract myself by cleaning the office has not worked.  I found these:

Look at his smile.  The pictures remind me that Ben always lived his life like “The Last Lecture.”  He always saw the bright side, he despised complaining, he believed in hard work, he was kind.  His life set the example for others, and it didn’t take his pending death for him to get there. He was always there.

I will miss you too, Ben.  Always.

Bettering Myself

Humour me for a moment while you read the next two paragraphs, and trust that this post is not all gloom and doom.

Two years ago today, Ben’s world came crashing down around him.  He went to see Dr B for the results of his MRI which was supposed to determine whether or not he would need back surgery or a cortisone injection.  Instead, he received his death sentence.

He didn’t tell me about it for two days, so I lived in blissful oblivion and whistled my way through the next 48 hours doing and saying exactly what I wanted.  My most prominent memory is coming home from work on April 8th and saying “Why didn’t you empty the dishwasher while I was at work??!!”  Yes, Ben had just been given a death sentence and I was worried about the dishes. Not my proudest moment.  Granted, I still had no idea that our lives had just come to a screeching halt, but my annoyance over the dishes remains one of the things I remember and sure wish I could take back.  (Let that be a lesson to anyone reading this … shut up and stop complaining about trivial things.  Take a moment right now to stop and throw some love out to your other half.  No matter what happens, the two of you will not be together until the end of time.  One of you is going to have to live like I am currently living … without my Love and carrying regret over the fact that I bitched about the dishes.)  If you’re interested, I wrote about that day in this post.

Moving forward, I recently came across a blog post written by a fellow named Benjamin P. Hardy, titled “50 Ways (that) Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms.”  (For the record, the word “that” was not in the title, but I thought it should be.)  His post struck a chord with me because I happen to agree with many of the 50 points on his list for living my best life, although I currently do not adhere to them.

That is about to change.

squirrel

So, on this most significant day that my brain currently recognizes as “The Day Ben Found Out He Was Dying,” I have decided to begin something that he would be most proud of. Something he would have done himself, because he was a man who spent every day of his adult life trying to become a better person than he was the day before.  And although some of his self improvement schemes were annoying, like his continual preaching “Everyone must go gluten free! You will die if you don’t go gluten free!”  (I assume you can see the irony in that one), most of his efforts could only be admired as he regularly searched for ways to expand his mind, improve his overall health and fitness, and to be a great Dad and partner.

 

With Ben as my inspiration, I have decided to use Mr. Hardy’s list to improve myself.  I’m going to challenge myself to act on one of his suggestions per week until I work my way through most of them.  I look forward to seeing how I come out the other side, and I may be able to change the name of this day to “The Day I Changed My Life In Honour Of Ben.” Or at least combine the two titles.  That’ll be a mouthful.

*Note that I said I was going to act on “most” of Mr. Hardy’s suggestions.  Not all of them. That’s because some of his suggestions are things I already do (see #5) and some are just crazy. (see #1)

Here’s the list, pared down without all the extra detail around why it is important to do each one and how it will positively effect you if you do.  If I’m moved to blog about each one I try then I will provide his detailed explanation at the top of each post.  (I say “if I’m moved” to blog about how I do because I don’t want to commit to do that and then not follow through.  Let me get some momentum going and see how I do.):

  1. Stop consuming caffeine (See?  Crazy.  Not doing it. Well, maybe.  But not right away)
  2. Pray or meditate morning, mid-day, and night
  3. Read 1 book per week
  4. Write in your journal 5 minutes per day
  5. Marry the person you love (Definitely already knocked this one out of the park)
  6. Make a bucket list and actively knock items off
  7. Stop consuming refined sugar (ouch)
  8. Fast from all food and caloric beverages 24 hours once per week
  9. Fast from the internet 24 hours once per week
  10. Stop consuming the news or reading the newspaper
  11. Do something everyday that terrifies you
  12. Do something kind for someone else daily
  13. Go to bed early and rise early
  14. Get 7+ hours of sleep each night
  15. Replace warm showers with cold ones
  16. Say “No” to people, obligations, requests, and opportunities you’re    not interested in from now on
  17. Say “Thank you” every time you’re served by someone
  18. Say “I love you” 3+ times a day to the most important people in your life
  19. Consume 30 grams of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up
  20. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts on 1.5 or 2x speed, your brain will change faster
  21. Decide where you’ll be in five years and get there in two
  22. Remove all non-essentials from your life (start with your closet)
  23. Consume a tablespoon of coconut oil once per day
  24. Buy a juicer and juice a few times per week
  25. Choose to have faith in something bigger than yourself, skepticism is easy
  26. Stop obsessing about the outcome
  27. Give at least one guilt-free hour to relaxation per day
  28. Genuinely apologize to people you’ve mistreated
  29. Make friends with five people who inspire you
  30. Save 10 percent or more of your income
  31. Tithe or give 10 percent of your income away
  32. Drink 64–100 ounces of water per day
  33. Buy a small place rather than rent (Done)
  34. Check your email and social media at least 60–90 minutes after you wake up
  35. Make a few radical changes to your life each year (Well, clearly I’m no slouch in this department.  Lose Ben.  Retire.  What more does he want?)
  36. Define what wealth and happiness mean to you
  37. Change the way you feel, think, and act about money”
  38. Invest only in industries you are informed about
  39. Create an automated income source that takes care of the fundamentals (Done.  But I’m going to think on this one anyway.)
  40. Have multiple income streams (the more the better)  (Again, done.  But again, I’m still going to think on this one and see what else I can do.  I don’t think my current income streams are what he had in mind.)
  41. Track at least one habit/behaviour you’re trying to improve
  42. Have no more than 3 items on your to-do list each day
  43. Make your bed first thing in the morning
  44. Make one audacious request per week (what do you have to lose?)
  45. Be spontaneously generous with a stranger at least once per month
  46. Write and place a short, thoughtful note for someone once per day
  47. Become good friends with your parents (Done.  Thank God.  I can’t imagine how I would have survived without them.  I think I will change this one to: Become good friends with your adult children.)
  48. Floss your teeth
  49. Eat at least one meal with your family per day
  50. Spend time reflecting on your blessings at least once per day

Well, there you have it.  The List.  I think I may add some of my own that aren’t included on here, like:

  1. Work out or get some type of strenuous exercise 5 times per week and
  2. Spend time outside in nature every day

Those ones would be numbers 51 and 52 but I can’t seem to make the numbering work. Perhaps I should add “learn how to use numbering in a blog.” Anyway, you get the picture.  Writing this blog post today fulfills #4.  I’m exhausted.  Haha.

Now that I’ve publicly declared my intent I will begin by choosing which one of the above points I will start with.  I’m not doing them in numerical order.  My plan is to practice each one regularly for a week and see what sticks. Hopefully a week of flossing and another week of drinking lots of water will turn into habits that I can continue throughout the following weeks into forever, as I attempt the rest of the points.

Number 48 is probably a wise place to begin.

floss

I think Sundays will be a good day to begin something new each week.  I guess that means I don’t have to floss until tomorrow.

Have a fantastic weekend and do something nice for your spouse.

 

nice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Has Sprung

I’ve always thought of Spring as a new beginning, and this one is no different.  In fact, as I write these words I am counting down the last of (approximately) eleven hours to another new beginning.  At midnight tonight I will be officially retired from the RCMP.  A pensioner.  HA!  You have no idea how much that word makes me laugh.  If I close my eyes for 30 seconds I can literally see, hear and feel those early days where I privately thought of the “Over 40’s” in the RCMP as “Dinosaurs.” I “tolerated” them but thought it was time for them to move over and let the new blood in.  Good grief.

When I close my eyes I can see these Training days as if they happened moments ago:

… and the first post …

It’s true that the older you get, the faster time passes.  I am now acutely aware that every day is, in some way, a “last time.”  Today it is the “last day I am a police officer.”  I’m moving over and making room for this …

Hahahahaha!

Starting this new life without Ben is not something I ever thought I’d be doing, and yet here I am.  The other day I read this:

“You are living without the person you can’t possibly have lost. The loneliness can not be captured in any word, phrase or song. It’s palpable, breathtaking and seemingly void of all reality. It’s cold, cruel and takes your heart to a level of pain you didn’t even realize existed before death laid its cold hand on your barely beating heart.”

Those words capture the way I have felt since the moment Ben took his last breath, and it will remain the way I feel on some level until the day I die.  But I am also acutely aware of the fact that I am not dead.  Ben’s body is dead.  Mine is not.  Fair or unfair, that’s just the way it is.  Sometimes I have to say the words out loud to myself to both believe them and to remind myself that my life does, indeed, go on.  And Ben would want it to.

So, in the spirit of continuing to move forward, I whisked Raegan off to New York for a week of sightseeing … just the two of us.  Unfortunately, I was super sick the whole time we were there, but I loved every second of being with her one on one.  I love that we have New York all to ourselves.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the 911 Memorial Museum.  We were there for several hours and I could have stayed several more.  This art covers one of the walls, and I loved it so much I now have the saying on my key chain beside the guitar pick with “The Titan” on it.

IMG_8982

No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time.  Damn right.

Raegan and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and, as usual, left a little piece of Ben there until the end of time.  Or until the bridge is replaced, anyway.  This time it was Raegan who whipped out the marker before I had even thought of it …

While Raegan and I explored New York, and Zak attended classes at school (sorry Zak … that is the life of a student), Jaime explored Australia and New Zealand with her classmates.

 

IMG_9092

She had a great time, by all accounts, and now is prepping for the big day … GRADUATION!!  (Well, first her birthday … can’t believe she’s almost 18 … and then grad).

Despite the fact that Zak didn’t travel over Spring Break, what he has done is far more inspiring.  Today my boy celebrates three years of sobriety!  I am thrilled.  Ben is thrilled for sure.  You may recall how that first sobriety anniversary was bittersweet for us.  (You can read Ben’s post about it here. )  Zak hit his one year sober-versary a mere two days before Ben received his death sentence.  Talk about sobering (pun intended).  But as Ben wrote, Zak was a source of inspiration for him, and I love that both of them got to experience it. And since I’m in a bragging mood … here is my inspirational man-child with his equally inspirational girl friend.

IMG_8665

Ahhhhh …. my pride cup runneth over.

And so, despite the fact that my grief continues to haunt me every moment, it now does so at a lower volume.  Low enough between waves that I find I can enjoy some of what life has to offer again.

One last thing … while I was going through some photos I rediscovered these two.  The one of Ben was taken in Hollywood on our honeymoon in 1994.  The one of the girls was taken in the exact same spot just weeks shy of 22 years later.  Funny how life works.  I sometimes imagine it as this continual reel of film where you can see all the things that happen in one spot over the years.  Perhaps our grandchildren will visit this same spot one day.

Happy April 6th.  Happy Spring.  Happy birthday, Lelita.  Happy sober-versary, Zak. Happy retirement, me.

IMG_0523

Forever missing you Ben. #BenTheTitan