A Parable For Mothers

I was cleaning out some things last night, and being as nostalgic as I am right now I started opening old letters and cards.  What I found brought a smile to my face.

The first thing I found was “A Parable For Mothers.”  I had made a note on it to remind myself that Ben had sent it to me at work around Mothers Day, 1998.  (It was particularly funny that I noted that “Ben forwarded this to my computer at work.”  Computers were new to us and I’m sure I thought they wouldn’t be around long and I might wonder how it was that Ben had sent it to me.  Lol.)

This is what he sent:

A PARABLE FOR MOTHERS

The young mother set her foot on the path of Life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her Guide said: “Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end of it. But the end will be better than the beginning.”

But the young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years. So she played with her children, and gathered flowers for them along the way, and bathed with them in the streams, and the sun shone on them, and life was good, and the young mother cried: “Nothing will ever be lovelier than this”.

Then night came, and storm, and the path was dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle and the children said: “Oh, Mother, we are not afraid for you are near, and no harm can come.” And the mother said: “This is better than the brightest of days, for I have taught my children courage.”

And the morning came and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary, but at all times she said to the children: “A little patience and we are there.” So the children climbed, and when they reached the top, they said: “We could not have done it without you, Mother.” And the mother, when she lay down that night, looked up at the stars and said: “This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of difficulty. Yesterday I gave them courage, Today I have given them strength.”

And the next day came strange clouds which darkened the earth – clouds of war and hate and evil, and the children groped and stumbled, and the mother said: “Look up! Lift your eyes to the light.” And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory, and it guided them beyond the darkness. And that night the mother said: “This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children God.”

And the days went on, and the months and the years, and the mother grew old, and she was small and bent. But her children were strong and tall and walked with courage. And when the way was hard, they helped their mother; and when the way was rough they lifted her, for she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill, and beyond the hill they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And the mother said: “I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know that the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone, and their children after them.”

And the children said: “You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates.”

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates closed after her. And they said: “We cannot see her, but she is with us. A mother like ours is more than a memory. She is a living presence.”

— Temple Bailey — 

Ah … sweet Ben.  He really, truly believed that my job as a Mother was the most important job in the world.  Not in a sexist way, but in the way that he wanted our kids to feel a sense of security, love, and safety that he believed was so important.  He believed that everyone had a specific role in other people’s lives, and that a mother has it within her power to provide her children with a sense of nurture that no one else truly can.  He didn’t think that responsibility should be taken lightly.  More important, he really believed that I was up to the task.

Then I found this … a note written by Jaime to Ben 10 years ago, in the way that kids used to write “Will you go out with me?  Check this box if ‘yes’ and this box if ‘no’.”  I love the way she left room for his answers, and I love how he answered her, especially where he said “yes yes” when she asked him if he thought it would be fun…

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The responses Ben gave sum up exactly how he was as a father.  Involved.  Present. Enthusiastic. Always making time for his kids.

And then I found this.  The first card he ever gave me.  It was for my 23rd birthday, and we were both still in Regina at the Training Academy but he had been posted to Gibsons and was about to head west.  I don’t remember what he bought me for my birthday, but I do remember the card.  I’m so glad I saved it all these years.

Here’s the front:

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Here’s the inside:

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And this is what my sweetheart and best friend wrote to me.  When I read the words he wrote to me back in 1993, I’m reminded of why we worked so well for so long … because we were best friends.  We understood each other.  We were friends first, and that friendship sustained us through so many trials over the years.

We found each other when Ben was just coming out of a dark time in his life, and he felt very alone.  We made each other laugh.  We were great, great friends and we made a fantastic team that sustained through Ben’s life and would have sustained through many, many more years.  Our time was too short, but man, was it ever good.

Here’s what he wrote, all those years ago:

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Thank God I was also posted on the Sunshine Coast a few months later, where our friendship picked right up where it left off, and never quit.  Destiny.

I hope all three of my kids are so lucky to meet a steadfast, true and honourable life partner just like their Dad.

How we all miss him.

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“We cannot see him, but he is with us. A husband / father like ours is more than a memory. He is a living presence.”

The Official Obituary

That is an odd title for a blog post.  There was a time when I could not have ever imagined writing something like that.  Unfortunately, these last 9 months have not been that time. So here goes:

Ben “The Titan” Saint-Onge 

March 13, 1969 – January 13, 2016

Ben Saint-Onge, our strong, steadfast, unbreakable “Titan”, took his last breath peacefully at home on January 13, 2016, surrounded by his beloved wife and children. Ben leaves behind Wendy, his one true love.  He also unwillingly leaves behind his main man Zak (son), and beautiful daughters Jaime and Raegan. All four brought immense light and joy into his life.

Ben grew up in Eastern Canada and joined the RCMP in 1992. This where he met a “smoking” young Wendy while at the Police Academy in Regina, SK. Ben’s first posting was to Gibsons, BC in 1993. It was here that he proposed to his sweetheart, and on September 24, 1994 they married and began their life journey together. Ben and Wendy joyfully added Zak to their family in 1996, followed by Jaime in 1999. Raegan’s arrival in 2001 completed their family.

Many civilian friends will be unaware of Ben’s truly exceptional career as a police officer with the RCMP. On the Sunshine Coast he was known as “Gentle Ben” – tough, but kind and fair. In 1997 he transferred to Langley Detachment, where he served as a uniformed member before developing a specialty in drug investigations. Ben spent the last fourteen years of his career in various specialized sections (during which time he was deservingly promoted), continuing to serve and protect in ways that the general public couldn’t understand but should gratefully appreciate. He was a gifted police officer, sought out for his skills as both an investigator and a teacher. As well, Ben received special recognition over the course of his 23 year career from both the RCMP and other police forces and families of victims.

Ben did not take lightly his time away from home and family; however, he knew that his efforts truly saved lives, brought justice, and positively impacted the communities in which he worked. Ben loved his job and his colleagues and was devastated when his illness made it impossible for him to continue. The people he worked with were not just his friends; they were his brothers and his sisters.

Forever missing Ben are his parents: father Ben Sr. (Diana), mother Myrna (Doug), and Robin and Maureen Insley, who loved Ben as surely, deeply, and truly as any parents ever could.

Ben will be desperately missed by his sisters: Michelle (Cameron, Kelsey, Harper, Darcy), Lisa (Brett, Brendan, Jenna), and Barbara (Makeda).

Finally, Ben leaves behind his “family by choice”: Jeff Scott, Nancy Birbeck , Beth Leatherdale, Mario Bourdages, Connie and Kirby Smith, and Dennis Ripley. There are countless others whom he loved, who loved him through years of joy and sorrow, and who never wavered in their support.

Our family is forever indebted to some very special people who helped care for Ben during his knock-down, drag-out, body-slamming fight with cancer (with a small “c”). Dr. Pippa Hawley and Dr. Christian Kollmannsberger patiently fielded our endless questions with professionalism and respect. They understood what needed to be said and when to say it.

It is very important to us to draw specific attention to Dr. Andre Bredenkamp. Our gratitude towards our “Dr B” knows no bounds. You came alongside us in our struggle and let us lean on you. We deeply appreciate the personal sacrifices you made to care for Ben and our entire family. It comforts us to know that Ben was in the best possible hands and received the best possible care.

For their gentleness, wisdom and kindness, their infinite patience and intimate understanding during Ben’s care, we are so grateful to Julie Bourdages, Leanne Upton, Marlene Upton, and Whitney Traversy. For their reliability and helpfulness throughout this entire ordeal, we deeply thank Sharon Woodburn and Paula McCaffrey, who never failed us when it came to obtaining medications and equipment. You will never know how deeply we appreciate all of you.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider a donation to The Last Door recovery center (www.lastdoor.org/donate), a registered charity that was extremely personal and important to Ben. Alternately, donations may also be made in Ben’s name to bccancerfoundation.com. Donations in Ben’s name will be directed to the Personalized Onco-Genomonics (POG) clinical trials program.

Ben felt that Bruce Lee said it best:  “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Farewell my sweet man, until we meet again. I will honour your memory always, and I promise you I will take care of our children with the same love, kindness and patience as you always did. (ok, technically I may not be as patient as you, but I promise I will try.) Thank you for choosing me. Rock out with Jimmy Hendrix, my love.

 A Celebration of a Life Well-Lived for “The Titan” will be held at 1:00 p.m. on January 22, 2016, at Victory Memorial Park, 14831 28th Avenue in South Surrey. Reception to follow immediately afterwards.

Messages of condolence and favourite memories of Ben may be left at www.victoryfuneralcentre.ca where they will be compiled into a book for the family.

An Honest Love Letter … Saint-Onge Style

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 the moment I met you.

There are plenty of people out there in this world who love you deeply, but none as deeply as I.  This is a truth that I know without a shred of doubt.  Here’s how I know:

I am the only person who is constantly exposed to your flaws.  I am the only person who, for two and half decades, has seen you at your worst, your angriest, and your saddest.  I am the only person who has seen it all every single day of your entire adult life.  I am the only one who truly knows the real you.  And still I love you.

When I think about the fact that I am the one person chosen to be your other half, I feel so blessed.  How lucky am I?

The rest of the world merely gets to see you at your best, which is a great way to see you, but its easy to love people when they are minding their manners.  Every day for 23 years I have been blessed to be the one to bear witness to the good, the bad and the ugly.  I have been blessed to have been the only person you trusted enough with your real self.  I love you more deeply then I could adequately describe.

For any single moment in our life together that I may have failed to recognize how lucky I was, I am truly sorry.  I mean that.

When I was 22, I did not fully understand the trust you were placing in me by choosing me above all others.  I’m not sure I fully understood that until recently.  I think it may take others a full lifetime to begin to grasp that idea.  Some may never get there, and instead they will just casually walk away when the going gets tough.  If there is one thing I am grateful for in this entire, shitty situation, it is the fact that I have been able to suddenly understand / see / feel what others often never do.  A deep, profound, honest understanding of what love really is.  I feel lucky to know that.

I think most people grasp the idea that love is not really about the biggest ring, the nicest house, the newest cars and the best vacations.  Many settle comfortably into that area of love where they feel lucky if they have someone to laugh with, who is happy to see them when they come home at the end of the day, and who rubs their back when they have the flu and are vomiting endlessly.  And they should feel lucky, because many don’t even have that after a few years together.

But you and I, we have all that and so much more.  We are definitely not perfect, but boy do we have more than that. And if I was asked for ten reasons why I really, really love you, I would not say things like “he brings me flowers” or “he rubs my feet” (partly because you do not.  haha.) I would say this:

a)  At 23 years old I mentioned that I may not wish to change my last name when when we got married.  You said, “OK.”  I said that I wanted us to both have the same last name, and why shouldn’t it be Insley?  You said, “OK.”  (I call liar on that one, but I loved you for your response, anyway.)  You suggested we randomly change our last name to Aachmed because it sounds funny and is always at the beginning of the alphabet, and you meant it.  (I am glad I was the one who held fast to common sense that time.)  You made me laugh.

b)  At 23 years old we found out I had cancer, and you never showed any fear.  You very matter of factly came to my appointments and my surgery.  Later on you lied to my parents about the recurrence when I asked you to.  (Then you caved and told the truth when Mom pushed you, but it was a good try.  Thank you)  You brought me Smarties and People Magazines after every general anesthetic for the next year.

c)  For the next decade I was consumed with fear over my health.  At times the fear was debilitating and it deprived us of many moments of happiness when I couldn’t see past it.  You stuck with me.  You took over the care of the kids when I couldn’t do it, you rubbed my back to help me fall asleep, and you listened to my ramblings.  You constantly tried your best to teach me about the power of positivity, and you never quit on me.  You were always my source of strength when I had none.

d)  At 24 years old I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life, running across the floor of our home.  I trapped it but was too scared to do anything else.  You are also petrified of spiders, and you were at work at the time.  When I called you, you came home.  On duty.  In uniform.  You helped me trap the spider in a tupperware container and then, being too scared to kill it, we drove it into town and pepper sprayed it. (Interesting fact…. pepper spray doesn’t affect spiders).  We still laugh about that.

e)  At 27 years old you fell off a roof when arresting a bad guy and broke your tailbone.  Shortly thereafter I went into labor with Zak, and you stayed by my side even when you physically couldn’t stand up due to pain and had to lay down on the dirty hospital floor. But you stayed to welcome your son into the world.  And you glowed when you held him.  And lets face it … its not a secret that Zak was not a cute baby.  🙂  Still, you glowed with pride.  (For anyone reading this who doesn’t know Zak … rest assured he was extremely cute by the time he was 3 months old.  He remains exceptionally handsome to this day.  He looks like his Dad)

f)  At 31 years old you had a boss who worked so much overtime that he nearly doubled his yearly salary, and he bragged to you that he worked so much that he had never managed to make it to one of his kids’ birthday parties.  You, on the other hand, never missed even one of our kids birthday parties.  Ever.  To this day.  How I love you for that.

g)  At 32 years old you stayed entirely calm when we thought my appendix was bursting.  You were reassuring and solid, and the only reason I knew you were scared was because of the speed with which you drove me to the hospital.  You have always been my rock.

h)  At 38 years old I had a major knee surgery and was stuck on the couch in a full leg cast and in unbelievable pain.  In the evening you tucked me in on the couch, brought me everything I needed, left the phone by my side so I could call you upstairs if I needed anything, and then went off to bed.  When I became violently ill, you flew downstairs in your underwear and cared for me for me under what is best described as ‘utterly disgusting circumstances’.  And then, when I was too sick and too scared for you leave my side, you curled up all 6’2″ of yourself on our tiny loveseat next to the couch, with only a baby blanket to cover you, and stayed there all night while I slept.  Just so I would feel secure.

i)  At 44 years old you discovered our beloved baby had an addiction problem and was headed rapidly towards death.  You were there for him instantly.  You supported him with words and with actions.  While others criticized us, passed judgement, or simply ignored our circumstances, your emotional support for our child never waivered.  In addition, you did not hesitate for one moment to spend thousands and thousands of dollars that we did not have to ensure he received the best chance possible.  You are part of the reason we have been given back our most amazing son.  You are part of the reason that the world now gets to experience the wonder that is our boy.

(and let me point out here again that you did not hesitate one second to find money we didn’t have to pay for our son’s return to health.  So when I beg you to return to the naturopath and let them work in conjunction with the oncologist, and you refuse to go simply because of the expense, it kind of makes me want to slap you.  I am not asking you to choose between saving your own life or saving our child’s life.  I am asking you to put the same importance on saving your own life.  Our son is alive and thriving.  Its your turn to allow yourself to be cared for.  I would sell anything and everything if it will help you.  Given the choice, that is what each of our kids would choose too.  “Things” do not matter, my love.  You matter.)

j) At 46 years old you were diagnosed with cancer.  Horrible, horrible cancer.  And you kept that most horrifying news to yourself until all the tests were complete, so that you wouldn’t needlessly scare me.  You remained my rock, even when it was you who needed a rock to lean on.  You still thought of us first.

k) At 46 years old you have battled and kicked and punched this awful disease on a daily basis.  And while sometimes you can still be a bit of an ass, more often then not you do everything with a smile on your face.  I know you do that so we will not be scared.  You stay positive, not only for yourself but for us too.  You continue to do everything you can around the house.  You continue to support the kids, to be there for them, to talk to them.  Whenever possible you still fight through the pain to spend time with them.  Because of your strength, they barely notice that you are sick.  They understand, but your strength allows them to pretend you are well.  I don’t think there is a better gift you could give them.  Some day they will understand what you have done for them.  Each of them would name you as their hero.

I guess that was eleven reasons, and I could still go on.  I find new reasons every day to love you just a little bit more.  And even though cancer has not eradicated your occasional ability to still be an ass,  🙂 I find lately that the list of “Reasons Why Ben Can Be An Ass” gets shorter and shorter.  None of that really seems so important anymore.  I’m grateful for that.

A few weeks ago I looked at you and told you how much the kids and I need you.  That you must win this fight.  That you cannot quit.  You looked back at me, and through your tears you said, “I know.”

I have felt horrible about that moment ever since, and I have been riddled with guilt for putting such an overwhelming sense of responsibility on your shoulders.

So, here’s what I really want you to know ….

I do need you.  We need you.  Given the choice, I do not want to live a moment without you by my side.  We were made for each other.  I know this to be true because I have low tolerance for many others (lol) and yet I am still here with you.  🙂 There is no one else I want to grow old with, nor could there ever be.  That is a fact.

The kids and I anticipate that the end result is that you will kick the shit out of this disease.  We believe that you, our hero, will kick the shit out of this disease.  But we know this is the hardest fight of your life, and I want you to be able to focus on what you need to do for yourself, and not worry about us.  So I do not want you to bear the pressure of feeling that you have to fight for us.  I just want you to focus on you.  And I want you to know that we will all be ok.  Whatever may come, we will be ok.  We will be ok because we have learned from watching you.  You have taught us well.  You have been the best example of resilience, perseverance, and positivity.  Not just in the face of this wretched disease, but through your entire life.  You are a truly amazing man who has overcome obstacles that most are not aware of.  I am endlessly and forever able to provide examples of your awesomeness to our kids.

You will never hear me say that I am grateful for cancer.  I am in no way grateful for cancer at all.  I hate that effin disease and I cannot wait until it is eradicated.  But I am grateful for the opportunity we have been given to think about how lucky we are as a family – to have each other, to love each other, to appreciate each other.  Every moment is special to me now.  As I watch you, I see you feel the same, because you have been loving us softer.

I do not have the talent to express in writing exactly what I am feeling, but I hope this gives you a bit of an idea.  You have given us everything.  You do not owe us anything.  We love you every minute.  We always have.  We always will.  We want all your focus to remain on yourself and your own health.  Thats all.  But you must drink the green juice I make you every day.  I insist.

I remain forever grateful for my life with you.  You are an Honourable Man.  You are a Solid Husband. You are a Marvellous Father.  You are my Best Friend.  You are Less Of An Ass Lately.  You are my Only One.  Also, I know all your secrets so you are stuck with me.  You Frustrate and Challenge Me.

With appreciation, gratitude and love,

Your Bride xox