Happy Anniversary to Us

Dear Ben,

Happy Anniversary.  Twenty three years.

In hindsight we probably should have invested some money in a proper videographer.

That day was definitely not the wedding we had planned, was it?  It was hot, we were sweaty, the limo broke down on the side of the road, my hair wasn’t looking it’s best and the DJ at the reception (aka: our limo driver) used records instead of cd’s.  Records, Ben. It was like we were back in the late 80’s again!  Do you remember what you said?  You said, “It can only get better from here.”  You were right.

We had a lot of change between September 24, 1994 and September 24, 1995, didn’t we?  That may have been the most change crammed into one year that we ever experienced over the twenty to follow.  Do you remember how we planned and built our first home together?  How we stayed up late and drew it out on graph paper so we could plan out where to put the furniture we couldn’t afford.  I remember you made little couches out of graph paper so we could move them around.  Do you remember how we carved our initials in the sidewalk when it was finally finished?

Do you remember how, shortly after our house was built and we moved in, that we discovered we were having a baby?  In fact we found out the day before our first anniversary.  We had a secret as you went off to work that afternoon.

The 20 years between that video and this picture were quite the ride, weren’t they?

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That was us on the plane in 2015, on September 23rd, on our way to LA to spend our 21st anniversary watching Doyle Bramhall jam on his guitar.  Your dream.  I am so fucking glad you got to experience that.  I am so fucking glad we had that time.  And I’m sorry for using the word “fucking” so emphatically, but it’s appropriate, don’t you think?  I also miss you so fucking badly.

Here you are, on our 21st anniversary:

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Here you are, on our 22nd anniversary:

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I am tempted to dig that up so I can refill your bottle of Kracken.  I feel like you need a fresh bottle so you can raise a glass with me, but then again, I suspect you probably have full access to all the Kracken you want up there in Heaven.  Or at least all the wine you want, for sure.

Here’s the link (click here) to some of the video from our anniversary last year, in case you want to revisit how we all finished off that bottle in your honour.  Even Dad, who was sick.

Ben, I miss you terribly.  I think you know that though.  I feel you around a lot, so I think you must know.  I wouldn’t trade a minute of our lives together.  None of it.  We didn’t really have the easiest twenty one years, but the challenges we faced certainly made us a stronger couple and I’m really grateful to have known that kind of love.  The honest kind.  The kind where we could admit that there were times we couldn’t stand each other but we pushed through and came out the other side stronger and happier.  I think we set a good example for the kids, with our marriage.  I didn’t always think that, but now I do.  They have now been taught what real love looks like in real life, not on Face Book.  And they have seen the most honest, true and profound love they ever could as they watched us navigate the last months of your life here on earth.

Thanks for being my partner.  I wish I had thirty more anniversaries with you here together, but I am grateful for the twenty one we had.  I know that’s more than most.

I know that anniversary gifts weren’t really our thing, but if you’re feeling extra generous this year then there is one thing I would really love and it won’t cost you a dime.  I want to see you in my dreams tonight.  Please.  I want to talk to you again for five minutes.  I want to see you when I tell you I love you, and I want to hear you say, “And ‘oo”.  Please.  Please.  

Happy anniversary Ben, as they say.  I will search for you today.

With everlasting, eternal love and gratitude for the time I had with you,

Your bride.

 

 

And So Completes The Circle

Yesterday was our anniversary.  Sept 24th.  We would have been married for 22 years.

On our wedding day in 1994 the weather was sunny and hot, and our limo broke down on the side of the Mary Hill Bypass in Port Coquitlam.  As we stood on the side of the road with sweat running down our faces I recall saying that things could only go up from there. I was right, and in the end we had 21 years, 3 months and 20 days together.  Far too short, but I’m grateful for every moment of it.

Twenty one years ago we celebrated our first anniversary.  We gave each other Ironman watches that we couldn’t really afford but needed for work. Ben still has his.  Well, I suppose I have it now.

Every year afterwards for several anniversaries we would spend the day wandering Granville Island together.  We continued the tradition even after we had kids – we would drop them at Mom and Dad’s and head down there for the day.  One year we saw David Hasselhoff wearing sparkly gold pants.  I’m not sure when we abandoned that tradition – likely when the kids started playing soccer – but we started a new tradition and went out for dinner every year, usually trying some type of new cuisine.  I remember once we went to a pub which was very unusual for us.  I can recall what I was wearing and how Ben took picture of me and kept it as the home page on his phone for a long time.

For our 20th anniversary Ben surprised me by letting me know that he had been secretly saving money and had saved enough for us to go to New York.  Unfortunately, Ben was also really suffering with back pain and we had just decided to get him a hot tub.  We got the hot tub for free but had to spend the anniversary money installing a patio slab that would support it.  (Surprise!  No trip to New York!) I can still see Ben looking at me and saying, “It’s the thought that counts, right?”  Yes Ben, it is most certainly the thought that counts.

For our 21st anniversary we flew to LA to watch Doyle Bramhall II in concert.  A dream come true for Ben, especially when we ended up meeting him and also running into Bryan Callen too.  I knew at the time that it was to be our last anniversary together.

For our 22nd anniversary, I buried Ben in the little cemetery near our house.

We stood at Ben’s grave site and released the Kracken until the bottle was empty, while we listened to a song that would have made Ben laugh and say “Hell yeah!” Take a listen and imagine Ben downing a shot every time Lukas Graham says “everyone better be wasted.”

 

Zak also played a song that is near to his heart.  Take a moment to listen.

When the bottle was empty we placed it inside the grave alongside Ben’s shot glass.  I hope he’s drinking himself silly in Heaven.

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We took turns shoveling.

Who could have ever imagined as I walked into the church to meet my best friend that it would all be over 22 years later to the exact day?

 

Our wedding day has now become the day I buried my husband.  And so completes the circle.

Just for fun, I’ll show you how my sister and niece ended the day.  Make sure you have your speakers on:

 

 

Grab Life By The Tallywhackers

You know how Facebook will show you on any given day what you were doing on this day any number of years ago?  Well today I woke up to two things.  The first was a reminder that two years ago Ben and I celebrated our 20th anniversary a few days early by going out to dinner at the golf course where Jaime worked at the time.  It was a lovely evening – especially because Jaime was our server which was particularly enjoyable.

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There she is, age 15 at the time, setting up our table.  Ahhh … if only that happened at home.  I recall talking to Ben about how we should require our kids to wear uniforms at home and maybe they would behave better.  Haha.

The second thing that popped up on my Facebook feed was the last blog post of a young woman who was dying.  She had asked her husband to publish it after she passed away, and he did.  If you want to read the post, click here.

If you don’t want to read the post, let me just share the jist of it with you.  Charlotte Kitley was 36 years old with a husband and two young children when she died on September 16, 2014.  She knew she was dying.  She knew she was to be denied the opportunities that she had hoped to live to see.  But this was the part that caught my attention last year:

But, they are not to be denied of you. So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth.

Embrace your loved one and if they cannot embrace you back, find someone who will. Everyone deserves to love and be loved in return. Don’t settle for less. Find a job you enjoy, but don’t become a slave to it. You will not have ‘I wish I’d worked more’ on your headstone. Dance, laugh and eat with your friends. True, honest, strong friendships are an utter blessing and a choice we get to make, rather than have to share a loyalty with because there happens to be link through blood. Choose wisely then treasure them with all the love you can muster. Surround yourself with beautiful things. Life has a lot of grey and sadness – look for that rainbow and frame it. There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see it.

I believe that everyone grieves in their own time, and if they are forced to do it in a way that doesn’t work for them I am certain they will suffer much longer than they would have otherwise.  I am very pleased with myself, quite frankly, for refusing to allow others to dictate a time frame for me.  I am a people pleaser by nature but this time I have (mostly) stood my ground.  I have taken the time I needed.  I have done it my way.  I will continue to do it my way.  And in doing so, I am starting to find myself healing a little bit.

I miss Ben desperately and I don’t think anyone could read this blog and not realize that. Half my soul was ripped from my body the day he died.  It wasn’t only because he died, either. It was also from having had to live through the most torturous nine months.  It was watching him die over those months.  It was watching our children watch him die.  It was watching others who loved him watch him die.  Between April 10th 2015 and, well, pretty much today, I have felt like I have been running through a mine field trying to save a child. No one reading this can really understand what that was like for us, and thank God for that.

But lately I have found my heart beat slowing a bit.  I feel as though it might just be possible to allow myself to live in a state of happiness without betraying Ben’s memory.  I know, without a doubt, that Ben would want me to take pleasure in life, and so maybe it is time to try.  Maybe the real betrayal lies not in my own continued living and my own happiness, but rather in not enjoying my life?  The one I am so lucky to have, despite the fact that Ben’s ended far too early.  And since I know Ben would have wanted me to be happy and to live in a state of happiness, then possibly I am not in fact doing him any favours by living in a constant state of mourning.

Maybe the best thing I could do to honour him is to grab life by the tallywhackers.  Food for thought, anyways.

Today I went to the gym for 7am.  After working out for an hour my trainer was helping me stretch when she started laughing and said, “You have your pants on inside out.”  Ben would have cracked up over that.  I’m still laughing about it.  So is our new puppy.

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Sometimes I Wake Up Sad

I wrote the title of this blog post and then stared at my computer for 10 minutes without touching a key.  Sometimes I Wake Up Sad.  Its true.  Sometimes I do.

Today it was because I sat up and found myself staring into the open eyes of my Beloved.  When I asked why he was awake, he said it was because he had tried to adjust his sleeping position and found himself in pain which woke him.  What does one say to that, when the person they love most hurts?  It wasn’t that horrible, intense pain, but it is a constant reminder of the reality of the situation and yet another opportunity for cancer to break my heart.

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I came downstairs to chat with my beautiful girls before I drove them to school, and Raegan did a quick double take and asked me if I was ok.  I smiled and shook my head and said “Of course I’m fine.  My eyes are watery today.  No idea why.  Must be allergies.”  She looked skeptical.  In moments like that I think of Beth saying to me, “When my Dad passed away we always looked to my Mom.  If Mom was ok, then we were ok.”  I try to be ok.

Tomorrow we leave for a 40 hour trip to LA to celebrate our TWENTY FIRST wedding anniversary ….

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…. and to enjoy an up close and personal concert with none other then (then? than?) Doyle Bramhall II!

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I wonder if he’ll let me touch his hair?!  Maybe that’s too weird and a bit stalker-ish.  If not, maybe Barb can work her magic and get him to dump Renee Zellweger for her.  He could end up as Ben’s (and my) new brother in law.  Barb … make sure you wear something hot to the show. Do not waste this opportunity you have been handed to provide Ben with a life time of jamming with Doyle, and me with a lifetime of being around that hair!

**Side note** Incase my life is ever made into a movie and Doyle Bramhall II or Renee Zellweger read this blog, I should make it clear that I’m not REALLY sending my sister in to try to break up their romance.  That was just a joke.  But I do want to touch his hair.

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This would be a full Griswold Insley Family Vacation if only Lisa hadn’t chosen to be a teacher, thereby preventing her from skipping town in the middle of a work week to head to LA.  Having said that, since she is happily married to the Love of Her Life, she would be useless to me anyway.  On another positive note, travelling with Mom and Dad may give us access to senior discounts.

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In addition to our quick but awesome celebration this week, today we will have running boards put onto our Ben’s truck. Wahoo!  I will finally be able to climb up into the truck like a civilized person without having to grab on with both hands and draw on past childhood gymnastics abilities to swing up into it.  This is a picture of us on our way to order the running boards yesterday:

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So on that note, I will bid you all adieu and go attend to My Love who has just come downstairs and is suffering with nerve pain that is worse now that he is up and about.  Lets hope that the nerve block is not wearing off before our trip.  That would just be too f**king cruel for words.

Watching him in pain right now and helpless to do anything …. that is why I sometimes wake up sad.

***UPDATE** Just got off the phone with the Pain Clinic who have called in some new RX’s and messed with his meds a bit.  Fingers crossed