Never Forgotten

I once read an article written by a woman after her husband died. During the time he was dying they had talked about what her future would look like after he was gone. The woman asked her husband how she would be able to survive after he died.  Her husband’s answer was that the first year would be terrible and the second one would also be hard, but by the third year she would begin coming out of the darkness. She would once again be able to see the possibility of a future for herself.

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The thought of being able to surface from the darkness seemed like an impossibility to me at the time and yet here I am, seeing cracks of light in my future when I look hard enough.

By some miracle I have survived 730 days without Ben, and I find myself standing on the precipice of year three.

In my wildest dreams I never imagined that this would be my life. The death of your spouse is not something that is remotely fathomable until it is suddenly your most unwanted reality. This is not the life I asked for, but since I haven’t woken up from it yet I have to believe that it is apparently not a dream, but is in fact the actual hand of life that I was dealt.  What matters now is what I do with the rest of it.  I know that.

I miss Ben. I want to hold tightly to every moment and every memory I ever had with him, but the truth is that I can feel my past life moving a bit further behind. With each passing day I can feel my grip loosen slightly on the memories our 22 years together.

For those of you who haven’t experienced loss, let me tell you … discovering that any memories of your past life with your spouse (good or bad) are fading away is terrifying.  When I forget a detail (who was that red haired guy we were in training with?  What was the name of that kid who lived across the street from us in Sechelt? Who was at the hospital when Zak was born? … ) there is no longer anyone in the world who remembers and can fill in the gaps accurately.  That is rather frightening unless, of course, I want to re write the story of my life. (Remember the time in 1994 when I was crowned Miss Sunshine Coast?  Remember when I ran that marathon?  Remember when I saved that infant from a burning fire?) There is no one around to argue with my “recollection.” That part could be fun.  Maybe.

Loosening my grip on the memories of nine months of suffering is probably a good thing for my sanity, and I am finding more room for the happy memories as the painful ones fade.  But overall I find it terrifying that I’m starting to forget any part of our life together, as though a grip loosened on the past may mean that it never actually happened.  I am conflicted between feeling scared that forgotten pain means Ben’s memory is being left behind, and feelings of relief over not being able to feel that stabbing ache as intensely as I once did.  It’s hard to breathe when you’re holding onto all that pain and suffering.

I can’t release my grip on the pain until I ease my grip on the past.  There’s a lot of confliction going on for me right now.

 

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The two years that have passed since Ben died have held a lot of heartbreak. Some relationships have been irreparably broken and some have just mysteriously faded away. (I hear that is common.  Who knows why.) But at the same time, some of my relationships have strengthened intensely and I have formed new ones that I value deeply. I have made more changes over the last two years than I have made over the entire duration of my life. I have discovered that I am able to cope and survive and sometimes even thrive. I owe a lot of that to Ben.

At times I desperately want to cling to the past but more often than not I now find myself looking to the future. I am starting to feel hopeful more often than I feel hopeless. Maybe there is something to the whole “year-three-will-bring-more-light” theory.

Today marks the start of year three without Ben.

I would not have chosen to go through life without him, but I wasn’t offered a choice. All I can do is the best I can with the time I’m given, and if there is one thing I have learned is that every single person needs to really live each day, not just merely exist.

Through the wonders of modern technology I can tell when strangers from various places around the world have found my blog. Last night I was sent five new alerts. Five new people found my blog, and it hurts my heart because the search terms they used to find it suggest they are probably suffering through much of the same that I went through. Or that I’m going through. If any of them come back to read again, I hope they read this:

It hurts so much, I know. Whether you are losing or whether you have lost, it hurts so fucking much.  And I know that right now it seems as though you will never feel peace again. The truth is, it will be quite some time before you do. But there is hope waiting for you when you’re ready, and in the meantime there is a tiny bit of peace that comes with knowing you do not suffer alone.  Reach out.  It helps.

To Ben The Titan … I miss you. I love you. I think about you every day and I am grateful for every moment we shared. You helped shape my life, and you are not forgotten. Never forgotten. Thank you, Ben. Xo

To my family and friends who have walked this path with me every moment and held me up when I could not hold myself … thank you.

To my kids … thank God for you.  I wouldn’t have made it one minute without you.  I hope I have held you up, too.

To the new people in my life … I’m sorry you never got to meet Ben, but thank you for being part of my future and recognizing that he existed.

How Long Will I Love Him?

Where did December come from? We are more than halfway through the month and I feel as though I’m on a fast moving train that is careening out of control towards 2018. I was looking forward to / expecting an easier December than last year, so I was caught surprisingly off guard by how hard it hit me. It is definitely not easier. Turns out, it’s even harder and far more lonely.

As the end of November rolled around I started to notice how angry I was getting, for no good reason at all. I don’t like feeling angry. It’s wasted energy that I don’t want to put out into the Universe. But after a few days of leaving bursts of angry words hanging out there in space it occurred to me that my whole body was awakening to the fact that December was approaching. It seems that without consciously thinking about it, my whole being instinctively knew that Christmas was coming – a time we traditionally enjoyed as a family and looked forward to, and now we face yet another without Ben. December now brings with it reminders of how much pain Ben was in by this time in 2015. It brings reminders of his utter disbelief that he could be dying, and that no one was going to step in and save his life. December brings reminders of our Last Christmas. The end of December brings about January, and January brought death.

Cancer stole peace from the month of December. Death stole possibility and wonder from every New Year.

Within the first few days of December I found myself exhausted from just living life, worn out with the realization that I have not seen My Love for almost two years. And for those who have created a vague, romantic idea of life after loss, let me tell you how it really goes. People move on. People who are not personally immersed in grief cannot spend their days allowing themselves to be sucked dry of all happiness, even if they love you. I think that is one part self preservation, one part boredom over constantly hearing the same stories of despair, and one part basic human nature to forget what is not technically yours. (ie: grief).

As for me, I am grateful for the fact that I am able to think rationally about situations and don’t allow myself to get sucked into the “nobody loves me or gives a shit” type of mentality that some others seem to unable to avoid. Logically, I know I am loved, I know Ben was loved, and I know that he is still missed. But I would venture to say that I am the only person in existence who has not gone one single day out of the last six hundred and ninety-ish days without thinking of him and physically aching over his loss.

For me, six hundred and ninety days have done nothing to diminish the surprise I feel that he is not walking through the door. The shock that he’s gone. The despair, the aching, the longing for him. And so, because I live with those feelings every single moment of every single day, it hurts me to watch life pass by without him and to watch everyone else do exactly what they are supposed to do with their lives … live them. The head and the heart don’t marry up sometimes, I suppose.

As I watched Raegan play soccer earlier in the month I was listening to the other parents talk and cheer, and despite the smile on my face I found myself angry over the fact that they could continue to enjoy soccer without Ben’s quiet presence on the sidelines. How dare they get to enjoy one of the things Ben loved most! When I was discussing the 2018 European vacation with my friends I lost my breath for a moment when I realized that Ben doesn’t get to come. How dare we all make these plans without him! Irrational? Yes. But that is what happens in my head every moment of every day and I cannot stop that train. Even in the car I look at every store, every turn in the road, every park around town and think “I remember when I was there with Ben.” I don’t think I will ever be able to escape that and so I am often only listening to people with half an ear as my mind wanders to “that one time Ben walked into that store, or pulled into that parking lot, or dropped me off at that front door, or walked down that street with me.”

This month brought about a long awaited surgery that I needed in a town we rarely went to, but as I entered the 10 block radius of the hospital for my pre surgery appointment I found my heart starting to beat a little faster and that old “frienemy” Anxiety began making an appearance. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling that way until I pulled up to the front of what I had thought was a completely unfamiliar hospital, and I saw Ben standing there. Right here:

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I could see him clear as day, standing at the side of my car. I watched myself folding up his walker to put in the trunk. He was weak and he had trouble walking, and he suddenly burst into tears of frustration, pain and despair. And it was in that moment that I remembered that it was at that hospital where Ben had received his Nivolumab. That was the hospital Ben thought would save his life. It did not.

As I walked through the hallways I saw Ben everywhere, and memories I had previously banished to the recesses of my mind came back full force. I wanted to lay down on the floor and cry. How dare this hospital continue to function after failing to save Ben’s life? How dare all the staff continue on with their work and fail to recognize that they had failed my Ben?

In 2015 this was My Ben, The Titan, in the hallway of this very hospital.  He was trying to get to his chemo but he was too tired to keep walking:

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On the day I was there for my own surgery the space where he once sat in front of the window to catch his breath was empty.  But I saw him.

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The young widow of a man who died in 2013 wrote this a few years back: “Those of us who have lost a spouse endure a particularly gutting kind of stress that eats away at our protective barriers. In 1949, two psychiatrists at the University of Washington set out to study stressful life events and the ways they contribute to illness. For 15 years, the duo studied 5,000 patients. At the end of the study period, death of a spouse topped their list of cataclysmic life events. The authors assigned it a value of 100. Far behind in second place, with 73 points, was divorce. Nearly 50 years have passed since they published that study, and the results still stand. The stress of losing a spouse permeates every part of one’s body, affecting each cell and manifesting tremendous physiological changes. Cortisol levels rise, and sleep is disrupted. Heart rate and blood pressure increases. Your neutrophils – a white blood cell that fights infection – become less effective, particularly in the elderly. Your cells begin to falter in their responsibilities, your immune system weakens, and you fall prey to countless illnesses that, under normal circumstances, would be held at bay.”

There is no escape from the side effects of losing Ben. My brain has not caught up and it plays nasty tricks on me about where Ben may be and when he is coming home. I still want to talk to him all the time, and I am saving things up to tell him when I see him. I want to ask him how he felt when he died. I want to know if he knew he was loved. I want to know if he knew we were all there, and if he heard the music we played, and if he felt peace or irritation over the fact that we wouldn’t shut up. I want to text him a play by play of Raegan’s soccer game on the days he can’t make it and I want to hear him ask me “What do you want for dinner?”  I want to hear him complain about me turning on the Christmas lights too early.

Life is complicated now, where it was once so simple. I am no longer very rational and my mood can change on a dime.  I waffle between four main feelings …. the agony of missing Ben, the understanding that life is for the living, an overwhelming sense of completely irrational anger when I observe others living life, and guilt on the days where I find glimpses of happiness or future potential.

How Long Will I Love Him?  In the words of Ellie Goulding … “As long as stars are above you.  And longer if I may.” Listen here.

 

 

Can’t Buy THAT Online

Back in my real world, when Ben existed, he managed all the money and did so with quite a bit of success.  He was very good at investing and made some smart moves when it came to stock picks (although it was I who insisted on purchasing Lululemon shares and I who insisted on purchasing FB shares).  When he was alive I didn’t think he was that great at sticking within a budget, but now that I have to do it I understand that it is not quite as easy as it sounds.

I have also discovered that my main vice / coping mechanism since Ben died is to try to buy myself happy.  In my mind I can hear an advertising voice asking the questions:

(Insert deep, rhythmic announcers voice here)

Are you sad because Ben isn’t here to help pull out the Christmas tree?  Well why not buy yourself some new shoes that will sit in the closet to help ease that pain? 

Are you climbing into bed alone for the six hundred and seventieth night in a row, wondering how you will cope when your practically adult children all fly the coop?  A little online shopping before falling asleep will probably make you feel better.  

Do  you find yourself less than inclined to cook because it was your husband’s job and he did it so well?   You should just go to a restaurant and buy your dinner. 

Are you worried sick about your upcoming surgery and the fact that Christmas is coming but you will be laid up with little time for shopping?  Why not just run out and spend copious amounts of money on the kids without thinking about it or looking for a good deal?

Sigh.

I wonder how many people develop addictions when their spouse dies?  When they find themselves staring at the empty chair, or wondering who in the world besides themselves  still thinks about their spouse,  how many turn to booze or drugs to ease that pain?  Or shopping.  It’s all the same, I suppose.

Christmas is coming.  Again.  I remember just before The Last Christmas I said to Ben, “What if this is our last Christmas?” and he cut me off before I finished speaking the last word and cried out “It won’t be.  It won’t be.”

But it was.

Another year has come and gone, and on countless occasions I have turned to him to tell him something and found empty air.  Empty air.  Another 365 days have passed in which he doesn’t know what is happening with the kids.  Another 365 days where I haven’t had anyone to turn to when they’ve made stupid life choices that could have serious repercussions in the future.  Another 365 days without a shoulder to lean on.

And so I have shopped.  As it turns out, it doesn’t help, but it sure does leave me broke.

I have met people who lost everything when their spouse died.  I lost my heart when Ben died, because Ben was my heart, but I didn’t lose our house, or the ability to provide life’s necessities to my kids,  send them to school, pay for their sports, or even lay hardwood floors in my home.  I lost everything that meant something to my heart, but I did not lose everything.  I know people who lost their homes, were forced to move, downsize, wonder how they would find the money to repair their vehicle or if they could even afford to keep one at all.  EVERYTHING.  So I fully understand how obnoxious it would sound to one of those people to hear me complaining about a need to control my spending when it comes to shoes, eating out and decorating my house.  I get it, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make.

I am scared.  I’m scared of the fact that I can’t seem to figure out how to fill the empty air around me.  I suppose I should be somewhat relieved that I’m not filling that empty air with booze or drugs (although Justin Trudeau says it will be legal in 8 short months), but I do need to fill it with something more than shopping. I’m not talking about filling my time … I fill my time just fine.  I mean the air.  The space.  There’s a difference.

I need an adult to talk to.  I need hugs.  I need a shoulder to lean on.  I need my person. Apparently they don’t sell that online, but I sure keep looking.

Don’t Take The Boy

Last Monday was just an average day. I had some running around to do and appointments to attend. A pre Vegas hair colour, a dentist appointment… that sort of thing. Nothing too crazy or anxiety inducing, and the panic I tend to experience on the daily remained at a reasonable low for the most part.

I ended the day by attending a relaxing yoga class with a friend of mine. It was exactly what I needed to wind down and I was well on my way to feeling the zen when, for no reason at all, a most unwelcome memory popped into my mind.

The memory was one I have written about before, of a text Ben sent me from the hospital shortly before he died. Death was inevitable and it coming fast, and every moment felt like we were staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I had spent the entire day with him and had gone home in the middle of the night to be with the kids and make sure they were safe. I crawled into bed, texted Ben “I love you” and he texted back saying “I don’t want to die.  I have so much to live for.”

At that moment I felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and thrown across the room. I texted back and told him that I didn’t want him to die, but i did not say “You aren’t going to die.” To deny his pending death seemed wrong to me. It just seemed so dismissive to say “oh, don’t be silly…you aren’t going to die.” He was indeed going to die.  So many people had spent the nine months after his diagnosis in denial, and that had angered me to no end. There was nothing helpful about denying what was to come, because denial has not been proven to be an effective method of curing cancer. So instead I told him that he was leaving a legacy in his three kids. And he responded that “legacy or not” he still didn’t want to die, he wanted to fight. He didn’t want to die.

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Ben died eight days later, and my mind still cannot fathom how we could be texting on January 5th and yet he was dead on the 13th.

And oh my God, that moment in time is one of the most agonizing memories I have. It will never leave me. It is burned into my memory permanently and will remain there until the day I die. Maybe longer. It is nothing short of torturous to remember that My Ben lay in the hospital not wanting to die and when he told me, I couldn’t help him. I look back on that text now and think “what the fuck was I thinking?” Why didn’t I go back? Why didn’t I crawl into that hospital bed with him, wrap my arms around him and tell him I didn’t want him to die? Beg him to please not leave me?

I know why. The inevitability of his death had become my norm. I was exhausted. Achingly exhausted. It was 4:43 am and I had been with him all day and half the night. I had kids at home that needed to be cared for, and my body cried out for sleep. I was so fucking tired. But none of that matters. It doesn’t matter how tired I was, or how much I was needed at home. All that matters is that I did not go back to him in that moment. I offered to but he said “no” and so I didn’t. How could I not go back? How could I leave him all alone with those thoughts? I would NEVER want to be alone with those thoughts, that fear, that pain. All alone in the hospital.

I hate myself when I recall that night, and those are the types of thoughts and memories that invade my mind space at the most inconvenient of times. For anyone who believes that “time heals all wounds,” you should know that is far from the truth. As long as you have the ability to remember, not even time can heal a pain so great. I don’t go seeking those particularly painful memories, but they come and find me at the most inopportune moments and they take my breath away. They make me cry. They make me feel like it is happening all over again. They make me feel like a terrible wife, and a less than adequate human. They make me want a do over. I want a do over.

When we left yoga on Monday night we pulled out of the parking lot and a song that Ben and I used to listen to almost 25 years ago came on the radio. “Don’t Take The Girl” by Tim McGraw. 1994. (click here to listen.) I remember listening to it with him 100 times, and then we stopped listening to country music and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard it since. And there it was, suddenly playing on the radio in 2017 and I was transported right back to 1994. Back to when Ben was a boy, and I was a girl, and our lives stretched out endlessly before us.

Now it’s 2017 and the girl wasn’t taken but the boy was. I miss that boy, and the memories hurt me and haunt me. His pain ended, but mine did not.

I am finishing this blog post on a flight home from Vegas, and I feel that familiar panic coming over me. It is taking every ounce of my strength to not scream out loud that Ben Saint-Onge once existed and that he didn’t want to die. I want to feel Ben’s calming presence and I want to hear his voice talk me down from this ledge, but instead I am alone on this plane beside a stranger taking up too much of my breathing room, trying to calm myself.

I didn’t want that boy to be taken. I want him back.

 

 

I Shouldn’t Have Come Alone

I wrote this last week, at the time it happened.  Just making that clear, lest anyone read this and think I’m not OK.  I’m ok.  Ok? 🙂

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As I write this I have just pulled into the parking lot at the office of my urologist, Dr A. I have parked in stall number 61 and I find myself frozen in the drivers seat of my car as unwanted memories come flooding back into my brain. I remember the day I pulled into this parking lot with Ben. I don’t recall what stall number we parked in that day, but I do recall repeating the number out loud and saying “that’s our good luck number today.”

On that particular day in April 2015, two and half years ago but feels, smells and tastes like yesterday, we thought we were coming to find out how Dr A was going to help save Ben.  How he was going to operate on Ben’s kidney in conjunction with another (as yet unknown but definitely brilliant) surgeon who would simultaneously remove the tumour on Ben’s sacrum. ON, being the operative word.

Sadly, that’s not how that day turned out.

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This is a picture of Ben that day, waiting to be called into Dr A’s office.

On that day particular day, any good luck we may have had ran out about 5 minutes later as we found out for certain that Ben’s cancer was IN his bones. IN. A far cry from ON. Up until that moment we had sort of envisioned a tumour that was resting gently on his tailbone waiting to be plucked off by a skilled surgeon. We would hear “All done, thank you very much for coming out and have a happy life.” It was not to be.

(If you want to read about that shitty day as written by me at the time in 2015, you can get all the gory details by clicking right here.  Forgive the language.  I was not exactly grace under pressure that day.)

When we left Dr. A’s office on that day we hopped back into our car somewhere around stall 61 and Ben burst into tears. He cried and shook, and I felt like a child who doesn’t know what to do when they see their mom or dad cry. Ben doesn’t (didn’t) cry. Ever. Period. But on that day he cried, and if I hadn’t known before then I certainly  knew then that we were in for an ugly ride with no happy ending.

In 2016 I had to come back to this office, and I remember being hit hard with the same emotions and memories. As it turns out, those reactions don’t lessen with time, and I realize now that I shouldn’t have come here alone. Apparently I do not learn my lesson the first time.  I feel like I’m walking back into the war zone as I gather up the strength to get out of my car and go in there.

***

Well, here I am.  I have just stepped off the elevator I am struck by the empty chairs in the hallway.

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Those chairs are the same chairs we sat in on that day. That day when Ben existed and all our hope hadn’t been stolen from us. As I stand here I want to scream out loud …  “My Ben sat there when he existed!!” But I won’t. Instead I will walk inside and quietly take a seat, and wait to see Dr A.

My visit today is to review the results of my recent kidney CT. My kidney has been aching and I generally haven’t been feeling well, or at least I hadn’t been feeling well at the time this appointment was made. Dr A didn’t want to mess around and so I went for a CT. Today I will get the results.

I’m not freaking out. The truth is that I already know the results and this visit is just a formality. I know the ct was clear. I know this because I was losing my mind with anxiety and so my GP checked for me over a week ago. He said all was fine.  Still, it’s funny … even though I know that I’m ok I am still a bit nervous.

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I’ve just been moved into Dr A’s inner office and I expect to see him any minute.

Even though I know, there is still some crazy, far off corner of my mind that is whispering, “what if…”  I can’t help but always be acutely aware that one day Ben went trotting into the doctor to find out whether he needed surgery or a cortisone shot for his injured back, and he left the office knowing he had cancer. And he was all alone when he found out. I remember the exact day…the exact moment… because I hounded him via text for the results until he finally responded “no surgery.” I said “yay” and went back to work, without a care in the world. I now know he was on the phone to Jeff, telling him the news that would irrevocably alter and destroy so many peoples lives, and none of them even knew it. I didn’t know it.

I’m oddly grateful that I had two extra days of blissful ignorance, and at the same time I am horrified that Ben had to carry that alone for 48 hours.

I can hear Dr A now. He’s obviously done with the previous patient and is on his way in. My God, I shouldn’t have come alone. Here we go …

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As expected, that was uneventful.  The CT was clear and the pain I feel around my kidney is likely muscular.  I’m sad that Ben didn’t get that relief.

I have just walked out of the inner office and again I am struck by what I see:

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There’s the chair Ben sat in on that day.  Ben sat there.  Ben once existed, and he sat there.  I think there should be a gold plaque hanging on the wall above:  Ben The Titan Once Sat Here.  Those Who Sit Here Should Feel Privileged.
I really shouldn’t have come alone.

Missing Those Hugs

I wrote this post a few days ago when all of this took place, but debated until now whether or not to actually publish it.  I don’t want people getting all freaked out and thinking I’m not coping.  I am coping.  Writing helps.  So please remember that I generally write as a means to get through something that is happening at the moment, and by the time you read it the problem has passed.  Which is exactly what happened in this case.  I. Am. Fine.

Here’s the post I wrote in the middle of the night:

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I think I must be the only person in the world to experience anxiety attacks while I am actually asleep. Seriously. It can be 4 am and I can be in the middle of what I would hope to be a solid 8 hours, when suddenly I find myself awake and gasping for air. Gasping. No joke.

Such was the case this early morning around 4 am. I woke up suddenly with a tight chest and a disconcerting inability to take in air no matter how hard I tried to inhale deeply through my nose AND mouth. Technically I was able to get the air in, but it just didn’t feel like it was enough and that sent me into panic mode.  By 5am I was trying to sleep sitting up in the hopes that it would help me breathe. By 6:20 am (the current time right now as I write this) I am in two Ativan deep and soaking in a tub while trying to talk myself down from the proverbial ledge.

I have no idea why this happens to me.

Someone reading this post right now is probably shaking their head and saying “Seriously? You watched your husband fade from the strongest man in the world … a TITAN … to a mere shell of his former self in nine short months. You seriously don’t know why you have panic attacks?” All that is true, for sure, but I don’t really think that’s the whole reason.

After many months of soul searching I think it’s a combination of three things … the nightmares I continue to have about work that unfortunately did not fade with retirement, the constant memories of the real life nightmare I lived through while Ben was sick, and the fact that there is actually something wrong with my nose (medically) that inhibits my breathing at times. I’m having the nose issue surgically corrected soon (leading to a whole different set of anxiety issues) but the other two reasons, well, they are a bit trickier to deal with.  If anyone out there has any answers, do send them my way.

I’ve done everything that is reasonably possible for someone to do and still this anxiety wakes me up and keeps me up. I hate it. In an attempt to cope over the years I have spent time in a yoga studio, I’ve exercised, I’ve seen a psychologist, I’ve tried golf (I heard that it was a relaxing sport and might calm my mind while I focussed) and I’ve also tried shopping (that is the most enjoyable solution), drinking copious amounts of wine and downing Ativan when necessary.  (I don’t combine the Ativan with wine, so no worries there).  And of course, sometimes I write.  And when all of those things fail I go on a full frenzy around the house – cleaning, reorganizing, moving furniture.

Such was the case last evening as I felt the anxiety coming on and I decided that it was urgently important to start moving furniture right at that moment. And I don’t mean “move furniture” in the way you probably imagine I that mean it. I’m not talking about sliding a chair and a couch around to see which looks better in the limited spaces I have. I mean I MOVED furniture. I physically moved a love seat and two chairs straight out of the house and into the garage. (My car has lost it’s home). I moved one full sized chair from the basement (where my son had struggled to place it a mere few hours earlier) all the way back upstairs, and I lugged it’s mate back in from the garage to sit beside it. I moved a coffee table and a rug out into the garage and I carried a very heavy trunk all the way to the basement from the top floor. I hung pictures, I moved pictures, and I hung more pictures. It was exhausting and I was dripping in sweat, not to mention having to endure the death stares of daughter #2 because her friend Liam was the “lucky” person who happened to be here at the time this urge struck and he “volunteered” to help me. (You didn’t think I did all that alone, did you? Not possible). Yes, they were right in the middle of watching a movie and enjoying their own down time when he “volunteered”, but when Anxiety comes a knockin’ one has to do what one has to do to keep it at bay. And this mama needed to move herself some furniture.

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Unfortunately the moving plan was a partial fail.  I say partial because the living room now looks lovely, but it didn’t send Anxiety packing. I was left dripping in sweat and exhausted yet apparently unable to sleep, so that part was clearly a fail. Liam is likely at home right now wondering why he ever thought it was a good idea to try to spend a quiet evening at the Saint-Onge’s.

Having been awoken at this ungodly hour, my final idea of the night was threefold. It involved the aforementioned ativan, this trip to the tub and the writing of this blog post while I soak. That combination may have had some effect … my eyes are currently getting droopy and if I leave the tub now I may actually be able to catch a few quick zzzzz’s. And quick it will be, since it is now 7:06 am and I am due to be up shortly. (Insert tired sigh here.)

You know what would have worked for me right from the very start? A hug from Ben. It didn’t even need to be a good one … it could have just been one of those “I’m tolerating your crazy and I want to sleep so I will hug you if it helps” kind of hugs. But it would have helped. Because as long as Ben was there it all would have been OK.

But now he’s not here and I am reduced to a person who now gets woken by anxiety.

That’s not ok.

However, knowing that there is always a bright side to every situation, here is a picture of the bright side:

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The living room now looks much nicer.  So there’s that.

Warrior on, people.  I will if you will.

Live Life

Live life.

Good advice, right?  I have always liked to pass that piece of advice onto my kids whenever I had the opportunity.  “Take time off before University.  Go see the world.  Live your life while you can.”  That’s what we used to say to them. We had all sorts of tidbits of advice which included, “Happiness is a choice, so choose it.”  “Be a good person.” “Work hard.” “Be kind” and “Live Your Life.  We only get one of them.”

But then Ben died, and everything changed.  I became torn between wanting my kids to live their lives and wanting them home with me every second.  I became obsessed with controlling everything they did, even when I knew I was being ridiculous.  Even when a little voice inside my head told me to lay off or they would say “Sayonara Mama” and move right out of this house so that they no longer had me breathing down their necks.  Even when I caused my son immense frustration (sorry Zak).  Even when I made my daughter cry.

It seems that after Ben died I no longer wanted them to live the life they wanted … I wanted them to live the life that I wanted.  And I wanted them home, safe, and with me every minute.

I got a bit of a wake up call last April.  It was Jaime’s 18th birthday.  Her second birthday without her Dad, even though he’d barely been gone a year. We found out he was dying just a few days before her 16th birthday, and he died right before her 17th birthday.  (And here’s an odd little fact, if I may digress for a moment. We had to actually look at a calendar to pick the right day to tell the kids that their Dad was dying. Strange, huh?  It reminded me of choosing a date for a birthday party.  “No, we can’t do it on that Saturday because there’s a soccer game.”  “The next one won’t work either because we have that work thing.”  “OK, lets do it mid week, after school, but before my evening meeting.”  We didn’t want to tell the kids before Zak could take his cake to celebrate his one year of sobriety, and we didn’t want to ruin Jaime’s 16th birthday, so we found a date right in the middle.  It was odd to sit back and pick a day to ruin everyone’s lives, but now, two years later,  nobody needs to think about how their special day was ruined by the shittiest news ever.  So that’s good, I suppose.)

Anyway, back to my point.  Last April Jaime celebrated her 18th birthday.  She had clearly had a couple of super shitty years filled with sickness and death, followed by intense grieving and everything that was the opposite of living.  And on her 18th birthday, she and her boyfriend decided that she should live life, so he bought her the future opportunity to go sky diving.  WHAT???!!!

I lost my shit.  Lost it.  The mother who had always wanted her kids to lead full and exciting lives completely lost her shit over the possibility of her daughter living an exciting life.  I screamed and yelled and complained about how terrible it was that her boyfriend was causing me to suffer more stress and anxiety.  Hadn’t I already suffered enough??  I actually said that.  Yelled it, really.  I told Jaime that it was selfish and inconsiderate to cause me further distress. I ranted and raved and I may have even cried.  I know for sure that I made Jaime cry.

If I hadn’t already lost my Mother Of The Year award, and I probably had, I certainly lost it that day.

I recall spending the next few days thinking about how Ben would have reacted.  I was tempted to believe that he wouldn’t have wanted his precious little peanut to risk her life and he would have emphatically said “NO.” (Followed by laying a beating on the boyfriend for purchasing this gift.)  I really tried to convince myself that is how it would have gone down.  Eventually I gave up, because I knew it wasn’t true.  That’s not what Ben would have said at all.

He would have said, “Live your life.”  Well, actually he first would have turned to me and said (insert tone and sarcasm here), “In 25 years of Emergency Service, how many people do you know of that fell out of the sky when their parachute didn’t open?”  I would have then taken him by surprise by answering, “One” (because it’s true.  There actually was one), but he would have said “Well, that’s still pretty good odds it’s not going to happen to Jaime.”  Then he would have told Jaime, “Live your life.”

After all, this was the Dad who raised his daughters to not only believe, but to know without a doubt that there was nothing they couldn’t do in this life.  Ben was not the Dad who coddled and babied his little girls.  In fact, when they occasionally tried to bat their eyelashes to get something out of him it would actually piss him off.  He did not dig manipulation and he made that quite clear.  If one of the girls wanted to be sure of being told “NO” from their Dad, batting eyelashes and twirling hair was a sure way to make it happen.  Ben raised his girls to be strong.  To be independent.  To be straight forward.  To be the kind of woman that said, “I would like to try sky diving.”

We worked hard to raise strong girls with an enthusiasm for all that life could offer.  Was it really reasonable for me to be surprised that Jaime listened and actually learned from that?  Was it so hard to believe, that after two years of death, sadness, and grieving, that she might want to feel alive again?  And wasn’t that probably a good thing?

I was scared shitless for her to follow through with this idea of skydiving.  I imagined the impossibility of having to suffer through another unimaginable loss.  And then I wondered if it would really make me happy for Jaime to live in a bubble and never take any risks, just so that I wouldn’t have to suffer again.  And I realized that to ask her to live like that was to ask her to sacrifice her life and her happiness.  For me.  That is not something the mother in me wants for my kids.

Meet Jaime.  This is what she did last week.  Look at her smile.

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She lives her life.

I will try to remember to live mine, too.