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.


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.


hold on

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:


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:


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.


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.



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? 🙂


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.


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.


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.


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 …


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:


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.

Memory Lane

This week Raegan and I caught the ferry over to The Sunshine Coast in southern BC and toured Gibsons and Sechelt. Gibsons was home to the filming of the television show “The Beachcombers” from 1972 to 1990.  It was also the first hometown to Wendy and Ben from 1993 to 1997.  It’s where we lived when we got married, it’s where we built our first home, and it’s where we had our first baby.

(L-R:  Rae at Molly’s Reach, the first house Ben lived in, the old Gibsons RCMP Det, the first house we rented together when we got married.)

Raegan and I played tourist and she humoured me while I drove around and told her a hundred stories that all started with “I remember one time, right in this very spot, Dad and I (insert memory here) …”  She was a good sport.  We ended up on the beach in Sechelt at the exact spot where Ben proposed to me.


I felt my heart stop beating for a moment while I closed my eyes and let myself transport back to the very moment that Ben asked me to marry him.  I remembered it as vividly as if it were happening right then. The moment felt so close it was as though I could reach out to grab it, but it remained just beyond my outstretched fingertips.

Every step we took was filled with memories of the early days with Ben.  I had a memory for every street, every restaurant, every single place in town as though I was watching our lives play out in a movie.  I remembered the most mundane of times together, like walking home carrying a Costco sized package of toilet paper that was on sale and we wanted to stock up for cheap.  I could see us buying our first Christmas tree together and watching our first house being built, and I could smell the sod we rolled out together in the front yard. Being back in the place where it all started made the memories come to life. Everything was so familiar that it seemed if I listened hard enough I would hear his voice and his laugh. Not the voice of the man suffering in pain, but the voice of the boy I fell in love with when life was uncomplicated.

I wouldn’t trade one minute of my time with Ben, and I would do it all over even if I knew the ending before I started.  I want to say I regret nothing, but the truth is that I regret is not taking more time to slow down and appreciate our lives together just a little more than I did.  My parents always told me to appreciate the moments because life passes by faster and faster the older we get, but even as we age and realize that it’s true, something always seems to get in the way and prevent us from stopping and savouring in the simple things.

Work.  Schedules.  Sports.  Bills.  Mortgages.  Sometimes over the years I could feel my soul yelling “Stop!!” but my body just kept on plugging away.  There was always more work to do, more house to clean, more money to make to pay more bills that kept coming in.

Heading back over to the coast reminded me of a time with Ben when life was slower paced.  There was less to do in that small town and for two years we didn’t have kids to occupy our time.  It was just us.  Wendy and Ben.  Hanging out together on our days off,  watching movies late into the night and sleeping late into the mornings.  Hosting friends when we wanted, video taping each other just for fun and cracking each other up with our jokes.  Trying to learn how to cook in a kitchen so small that you could stand in the middle and touch the walls on each side if you reached your arms out.

When we moved over to the big city the size of our kitchens grew and the pace of our lives sped up.  It always felt as though we had to swim faster.  We forgot how to take the time to slow down and instead we dreamed of having that time in the future.  We forgot to shut the world out and just be Wendy and Ben, without any outside distraction, until the day came when we had no choice but to stop.

We had nine months to grab ahold of every moment just to be Wendy and Ben. That time was filled with appointments and pain and tears, but it was time we savoured. We remembered how to just be together.  We remembered how to shut the world out. And despite all the shitty things that happened during those nine months, I cherish every second of it because we were the only two people in the world who mattered.

Thank God for those trips down Memory Lane.  Long Live Love.

They Loved You Loudly

It’s Father’s Day, and today I thank my lucky stars that I get to have dinner with this man:


That’s me in the middle. I’m very lucky, I know, and not just because I’m clearly the cutest.

This day brings me happiness because I am so blessed to have not only the most amazing Dad, but also because he lives nearby and I can see him whenever I choose.  (And sometimes even when I don’t choose, since he has most recently discovered Face Time. He prefers it over a simple text or even a phone call and often loves to surprise me at the most inopportune moments.)  I do not know the pain of a Father’s Day without my Dad, and for that I am most grateful.

This day also got me thinking about Ben (when do I not think of him?) and all he has been denied.  He has been denied Fatherhood, plain and simple. But perhaps even more significantly, this day highlights all that our kids have been denied by his death. They have been denied their father watching proudly as they receive their diplomas.  The girls have been denied their father walking them down the aisle and twirling them on the dance floor on their wedding day.  Zak has been denied the movies and concerts he so enjoyed with his Dad.  They have all been denied seeing their dad hold their own children someday. They have been denied that feeling of safety they had for such a brief portion of their lives.  That feeling we all take for granted.

All of that is terrible.  In fact, “terrible” is not a strong enough word.  It is nothing short of tragic.

However, as Ben said on April 24, 2015, “I remind myself that there are over 7 billion people in the world today and I guarantee, without any doubt, that there are a lot of people that have it worse than me.”

It is true that my kids have been denied many things that we often take for granted, but I think it is so important that they realize and remember they have been equally blessed. They have been taught valuable lessons by how Ben lived his life, and they received more love and commitment from him in 14, 16 and 19 years than many do in a lifetime. For however short of time they had him, they were blessed with a dedicated and loving father who set a positive example of how life should be lived without whining and complaining.  And while many others will have their Fathers for much longer, none of them will have been lucky enough to call Ben “Dad.”  Only my children have that privilege,  and not even death can take that away from them.

Today there will undoubtedly be some tears shed, but with each passing year it is my hope that the pain of loss and grief loosens it’s grip on the kids just enough to allow them to remember their Dad’sa smile, and to be grateful that they were blessed with the #1 Dad. Quality over quantity.  I hope they always remember that he was the kind of Dad who was willing to send pictures of himself in socks and sandals, farting and drinking beer, just so they could make a Father’s Day video for him a few years back to show their love…

And I hope they remember that he was the kind of father who inspired a 19 year old boy to give such a loving and heartfelt eulogy that many in attendance told me afterwards that it moved them to strive to be better fathers.

So here’s to my own Dad, this Father’s Day.  Thank you for all that you are.  Thank you for demonstrating for me what a Dad should be and for providing me with the example I sought to find (and did find) when choosing my own husband.  It’s not possible to adequately express my gratitude, but I do hope I have been the kind of daughter who has managed to let you know how much you are loved.  (Ages 14 to 18 aside.  Maybe you could try to forget those years.)


And here’s to Ben.

You were a great Dad.

You are remembered every day.

Your kids loved you loudly….

… and they will always remember you as the Dad who shamelessly tooted whenever he felt like it.

Happy Father’s Day, Ben.  Thank you for being the kind of Dad who’s children grieve for you now because they loved you so much. Thank you for being the kind of Dad who’s children strive to live their best lives because that’s what you taught them.

You are forever loved and missed.


A Tip For Sleeping Better

For anyone out there who may be looking for some advice on how to sleep alone and actually get some sleep, here’s my best tip…

Snuggle a T Shirt.


On the nights where I really need to feel Ben close I just open up that cabinet in the picture above where I store all his favourite T’s.  Unwashed.  And I inhale deeply.  And I can smell him again. It’s Heaven.  I don’t do it every night because I don’t want to lose that delicious smell, but I have done it a few times over the last two weeks and it was absolutely dreamy.


Smelling those unwashed shirts is pretty much what helped get me through the last couple of weeks.  I believe I mentioned in my last post … The Worst Blog Post Ever … that Jaime’s grad was right around the corner.  I was feeling rather down in the dumps because Ben had to miss it, but those t shirts helped keep him close.  Well, that and the fact that I had this brilliant idea…

Jamie's Grad Photoshoot-7

She got to have her dad there anyway!  Awesome idea, I know.  I patted myself on the back for that one.

Jaime had a good time at her grad and it was slightly easier than I had anticipated.  Lisa O and I reminisced about our own grad together twenty nine years ago (yikes) and how we had looked better then our kids did.  Here’s a picture of Jaime and Jack O:



It’s weird to see our kids graduating together.  That wasn’t something I saw coming all those years back when we were toilet papering our high school like the dangerous rebels we were.  Mind you, I never saw a lot of things coming.  Life likes to surprise us, it seems.

Here’s Jaime and I together.  Prom buddies …


I was way more fashion forward, with much better hair.  🙂  God I miss the 80’s.

Since it was such a momentous occasion I’m going to throw in a few more pics of my sweet girl who has shown more resilience in the last two years than adults twice her age. That will carry her far in life.  I’m very proud, incase you couldn’t tell.

And last but not least, the Saint-Onge quasi-adults posed together to take a big ol’ “Fuck You, cancer” picture.  (With a small “c”)

Jamie's Grad Photoshoot-10

Ben would be so proud.  Damn right.  I’m pretty proud of what we made together. Thanks for that, Ben.  I will have this picture framed because it just screams “We are Ben’s kids!”  I love it.

Grad was not the only momentous occasion that took place around here in the last couple of weeks.  One of those momentous occasions was the day I officially surpassed Ben in age.  I am now 47 and The Titan was a mere 46 years young when he died. Suddenly 46 seems so much younger than it did not long ago.  Now it seems that he was just a baby.  Now it really seems fitting that we chose the line “And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief” for his grave stone.  His life really was so brief.

I was digging through some memories and found the last card he ever gave me.  My 45th birthday card, not long after he found out he was dying.

FullSizeRender (4)

Ben, if you ever read this I just want you to know that I know how hard you worked at being there for me.  I know you would have stayed forever if you could have. Thank you for trying so hard. I read a quote the other day that said, “You were my greatest hello and my saddest goodbye.”  That pretty much sums up the beginning and the end, but it misses the middle part, which was the best part.  I’ll always be grateful for the middle and those memories will forever make me smile.

Anyway, the other momentous occasion that took place since The Worst Blog Post Ever was a happier one.  Our boy turned 21 years old.  Wow.


We did what we Saint-Onge’s do best.  We threw a BBQ.

And that’s the last couple of weeks in a nutshell.  Now here we are on June 8th, exactly two years after Ben’s surgery.  You can read about that scary day if you click here, but personally I think I will just skim past those memories, myself.  I don’t feel like going there right now.  Instead I will pack it in for the day, curl up with a t-shirt, and look forward to some sun (hopefully) and another celebration this weekend. (Yay Kirby!)

I love you too.