An Honest Love Letter … Saint-Onge Style

This is my first attempt at reblogging. Not even quite sure what will happen when I hit “reblogging post.”  I originally wrote this post on September 8, 2015 and I re-read it this morning.  It reminded me that I told Ben that we would be OK. I said “Whatever may come, we will be Ok.” So I need to be Ok.

Mom is a widow

To my Groom,

I am sorry that you are in so much pain.  It truly, physically hurts my heart to watch you suffer.  I wish I could take all that pain away.

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(I bet this is the face you are making right now as you read this)

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “LIAR!  You would not agree to taking all the pain!”  Fine.  You caught me. You’re right.  That was, in fact, a lie … you know me too well.  But I would definitely agree to take half of it.  I would totally take half. Or at least 35%.  But probably half.  Asking me to take it all on would be a little much, don’t you think?  That would just be mean, to want me to take it all.  But I would agree to a solid 50%.

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My Dear Ben … you know I have loved you almost from…

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The First Birthday. Da da DA!

The “Da da DA” was supposed to be the dramatic music played in the movies.

Today I am officially the same age as Ben.  He’s never going to get older but I am.  That is odd.  I always used to tell him that he could have one extra year on earth so that we could die at the same time.  He in turn always said he was going to live to be 100, but I said I’d be happy to make it anywhere into my 90’s so he’d be on his own after that.  I was always pretty sure he’d enjoy a couple of years of being able to just play guitar without being interrupted anyway.

I definitely missed our Saint-Onge Family Birthday BBQ of steak and caesar salad tonight, and I missed Ben as always, but in fact I had a happy day. The weather has been miserable lately but today the sun shone through.  A gift from Ben perhaps.

I spent the day enjoying a pedicure with Mom and Barb (how could a day ever go bad when it starts with a pedi?) …

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… followed by lunch with my family (sans Lisa and Brett unfortunately) and dinner with Connie and Kirby, Nancy and Jeremy, and Lisa and Darren.  AND, miracle of all miracles, I did not even cry once until right this moment when I received this text from Connie in response to my “thank you for the lovely evening” text.  I hope she won’t mind me posting it here.

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They miss Ben too.  That probably shouldn’t make me happy, but it does.  I like that I am not the only one that misses him.  He was worth missing.  Knowing that he had a positive impact on other people’s lives, and knowing that they will remember him too makes me happy.  I like knowing that my life is not the only one impacted by his loss.  Ben would like knowing that too.  I hope he does.

Anyway, today was evidence to me that joy can still be had in conjunction with the pain, and it allows me to imagine that more joy could possibly follow.  I think there may be a day when the joy will outweigh the pain, and perhaps the pain will fade into memories that mostly make me smile. Especially when I hear the memories that others have of Ben.  

The other day I was driving to an appointment when I noticed that the car in front of me had a sticker on it with a sweet saying followed by the name “Cassidy Briggs.”  I was immediately brought back to six years ago, when a little girl named Cassidy was in all the local papers because she was fighting cancer, and I remember when she passed away.  Ben and I talked about her a lot at the time.

I drove behind that car all the way to my appointment.  Every turn the driver made was the same turn I had to make, and eventually the car pulled into a parking stall exactly where I was going.  I stopped my car and waited until the driver got out, and before I could change my mind I walked up to the driver (who probably thought I was a crazy stalker) and asked her if she was Cassidy’s mother.  When she said “yes” I told her that I remembered her daughter, even though I had never met her.  I told her that our hearts broke all those years ago when we read their story in the news, and that I had never forgotten it.  I told her that I wanted her to know that her daughter’s life impacted people who had never met her, and that I had never forgotten her and I never would. And then I said goodbye and went on to my appointment.

I hope it made that mother happy to know that her daughter is not forgotten.

Missing you every minute of every day, Ben, but I hope you know that today I smiled and laughed. You are not forgotten.  Never forgotten.  xox

Saint-Onge family on Bens birthday Mar 13 2006

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Its Back To Work I Go

A couple of significant things happened today.  First of all, its Lelita’s birthday.  Hahaha. Lelita, your birthday gift is that you get top mention in my blog post!  🙂

Aside from that major event, I returned to work today.  361 days after my whole world collapsed in one moment that I will never forget.  It was a very challenging day, even though I clearly work for the best employer and with the best people who are extremely understanding and helpful.  And forgiving of my fried brain.

I found it weirdly interesting that I never cry at home and always feel like I have everything together.  Obviously I don’t have much choice since the kids are here and I promised them at Ben’s service that I would not break.  I intend to keep that promise.  So I pretty much expected that other than being slightly nervous it would be fairly status quo.

Not so.

I teared up every time I turned around.  It was like a tap turned on and I had a permanent leak.  I cried every time someone looked at me with a sympathetic smile, every time I saw one of Ben’s old colleagues, every time I saw one of my old colleagues, every time someone said “hi,” every time someone said “glad to have you back,” every time someone poked their head in my office …. pretty much every time anyone breathed in my general area.

It was embarrassing.  And exhausting.  And gave me a huge headache.  I don’t know how I will manage going back for the next shift.  Also, I seem to have a combination of “pregnancy brain” coupled with “chemo brain” coupled with “head injury,”  although none of those things technically apply to me.  I believe I have always been reasonably competent at work, but apparently not so anymore.  I don’t remember people’s names, I don’t remember my passwords, I don’t remember the computer programs, I don’t remember much of my job description … I didn’t even remember my phone number or how to sign onto the computer.  Not even joking.  I had better get it together, because I’m pretty sure the understanding will only last so long and I do have three kids to put through university.  Unless the Lottery Gods are on my side, I need my job.

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On another note, today is the two year anniversary of Zak’s sobriety.  To see how awesome my kid is, click on his name below:

Zak Saint-Onge

I don’t have adequate words to describe how happy I am about Zak being two years sober.  I don’t have adequate words to describe how heartbroken I am that Ben is not here to see it for himself. He deserved to celebrate alongside Zak.  His support helped save Zak’s life. Tomorrow night Zak takes his two year cake.  One year ago today Ben and I were utterly ecstatic. Two days later he found out he was going to die.  One year after that he has already been dead for almost three months.

I can’t touch on that topic any more right now.  I’ll save that for another time.  I need to go find the off switch for the leaky tap I have going.

I’ll leave you with the last great thing that happened today.  A little piece of Ben came home (for about 30 seconds, mind you, but something is better than nothing).

Your guess who is behind the mask:

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Sometimes I Smile

I was looking over some of the blog posts of late, and I realized that if one were to be reading or following my blog they may think that I am a big Debbie Downer.  Sarah Sadface.  Wendy Whiner.  You get the picture.  Honestly I’m not.  Not every day.  At least not every minute of every day.  And even when I do feel like a Depressed Darlene I try not to take the world down with me if I can help it.  Maybe just one person each time, and I try to spread it around.

But sometimes I smile.  Like when I see things like this:

                                                            Easter dinner at Mom and Dad’s.

I also smiled when my friends came over to help me put together yet another Ikea product before our weekly “Wine and Greys Anatomy” night.

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And when I watched Jaime play volleyball on Easter Sunday:

(They won the tournament, by the way.)

The kids make me smile:

                                                  (Zak came home for Easter, the Good Boy!)

I do admit that I am more often down than up, but cut me some slack – it’s only been (gulp) two and half months.  Every day that passes takes me one day further away from Ben. When I think too hard about time passing I can’t help but think about Raegan.  She is only fourteen, and in the blink of an eye another fourteen more years will have passed.  She won’t even be 30 years old and she will have been without her Sweet Dad longer than she was with him.  I am so afraid that she won’t remember him.  After all, what do you remember from that age?  I don’t remember very much, but then again, I didn’t lose my beloved Dad at fourteen, thank God.

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Anyway, the point of this post is to reassure people that I’m not a Gloomy Gus every minute of every day.  I still laugh.  I’m sad a lot, but I still laugh occasionally and I smile more then that.  It’s just that I write this blog for myself and I’m generally moved to write when I am feeling particularly down.  It makes me feel better and allows me to think about Ben while still keeping busy so I don’t totally stop breathing.  Because sometimes I think too much or I stumble across things like this, and I just can’t breathe…

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Boy, did he ever love his kids.  He was a GREAT dad.  The best.  Even when he annoyed the Hell out of me (and let’s face it, sometimes he did, and you are all liars if you deny that about your own spouse), he was still the best dad.  Ever.  Period.  And generally a damn fine husband too, for that matter.

Those texts were while he was in the hospital.  Eight days before he died.  He loved fiercely.  He fought hard.  I always feel his hand on my shoulder when I sit in his office chair and type on this blog.  I feel it now.

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When I feel particularly low, I look at things like this and I smile:

How could anyone look at that and not smile?

Hug your families.  XO

Dear Ben … Love, Beth

Words written and spoken by Beth Leatherdale at Ben’s service.  Ben adored her.

*****

When Wendy asked if I would speak at Ben’s service, I am going to confess that I immediately had two thoughts come to mind, and to be totally honest, I am not sure which one came first.   I thought. … of course! I would be honoured to speak of my memories of Ben, and at the same time I thought.. OH NO …this past year of enjoying good food and good wine has caught up with me. I needed either Jillian Michaels or a seamstress to work miracles in order to fit me into my Red Serge.

Thankfully I found a seamstress who made that miracle happen, allowing me to stand here today, to pay tribute, in the RCMP Uniform that Ben wore so proudly.

About a year ago, after about 15 years of talking about it, Wendy and I had planned a four day girls getaway to Palm Springs. A few weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Ben was diagnosed with cancer (with a small “c”). Although it was not immediately known how serious it was, Ben was very insistent that Wendy and I still go to Palm Springs on our getaway. However, Wendy realized that she just couldn’t, and didn’t want to leave Ben’s side.   So we decided that I would travel to BC and we would have our vacation in the Saint-Onge backyard. I was quite happy about this knowing that Ben was a fabulous cook, they have a hot tub, and did I mention that Ben was a fabulous cook? Most importantly, I would get some quality time with them and support them when they were just beginning the journey of Ben’s fight.

Our vacation in the backyard that week ended up being moved to Surrey Memorial Hospital where we spent several days in Emergency sitting with Ben while the doctors worked to manage his pain and get a treatment plan started. We laughed, we cried, and we shared war stories to see if we could outdo each other’s stupidest moments.

Although it wasn’t hot and sunny,   there was no where else I would rather have been then at Surrey Memorial with Wendy and Ben.

Looking back that week was just the beginning of the love, sacrifice and determination that I would see between Wendy and Ben over the next nine months. On whole new level I witnessed the deepest love and commitment that Wendy has, and has always had for Ben. If you all know Wendy like I do, you want Wendy in your corner when there is a battle to be fought. From day one, Wendy was determined to find a cure for Ben, and I believed if anyone could do it, it was Wendy.

Wendy…

Over the past nine months, through the endless appointments, surgeries and treatments, you were with Ben every possible minute to make sure he knew he was supported and loved more than anything. You protected and tried to shield from the often harsh and devastating news that each doctor you met with unfortunately had to share. Ben wanted it that way, because he wanted to remain positive in his mind and fight as hard as he possibly could. But mostly Wendy, because of you, Ben always had hope.  Because of you Ben ALWAYS had hope. You were the love of his life.

Zak, Jaimie and Raegan….your Mom and Dad have raised to you to be strong, independent, respectful and kind. When I look at each of you I see pieces of your Dad. He loved the three of you more than anything is this world.

Zak, your Dad is so proud of the challenges you have overcome, and the young man you have grown into. It gave him such pride that you continue to help others who are in need of your help. You have been such a source of strength for your family over these past nine months. You need to remember how proud your Dad was to speak of you and call you his son.

Jaime, I know your Dad pushed you, supported you and developed training programs for you to help you excel in your athletics. Your strong work ethic, and your determination as an athlete is something that will help you succeed in anything you do in your life. Your Dad will be with you as you hit that volleyball, kick the soccer ball or run a race. He will always be above smiling and cheering you on.

Rae, each time I look at you, you remind me so much of your Dad. You are strong but gentle, you are tough but empathic, and you are modest but confident. Those are qualities that you and your Dad shared. You should hold your head high, just as your dad did whenever he so proudly spoke of you, his baby girl.

Ben, you were a man of few words which is something I admired so greatly about you. You truly listened when someone spoke to you, and were thoughtful in your response. You were kind and respectful to people, even when you were in such pain that most of us could not ever tolerate. I will miss your big smile and huge hugs when I walk in the door of your house, I will miss our coffee talks on your big brown couch, I will miss you making fun of me about how horrible I am with Apple products. I will miss listening to you playing your guitar, or your random laugh at Wendy and I when we didn’t think you were listening. I am really going to miss that amazing, kick ass caeser salad that you made but refused to share the recipe.

But most of all, I am going to miss your quiet, calm, strong presence.

I texted Ben on the Monday before he passed to tell him what a great person, father, and husband I thought he was, and that everyday I prayed that he would get better. I keep looking at my phone waiting for a response from Ben, and I think of what his response may be. Now I know that if Ben could respond, he would say, “take care of my family, I am no longer in pain, and I am at Peace. “

Ben, we will take care of your family.

Be in peace, because no one deserves it more than you.

Love, Beth