This is a tough day for me. Last year on this day I wrote this post: Weeks?
Last year on this day, the Saint-Onge Five and the ever present Barb sat in a room together while we were told that the miracle drug did not appear to be working, and that if it wasn’t working then Ben had three weeks to live. Three weeks. Ever think about what you would do if you were told you had three weeks to live?
We did this, because what else was there to do?
He held my hand. The kids sat in the back and if memory serves, none of us spoke. What is there to say when you are given news like that? Turns out, as I’ve mentioned, that no matter how much you say, you will never say enough.
So today I find myself angry. A few things of late have set me off as Christmas approaches, aside from the fact that I have to stare at Ben’s ashes instead of his face. Writing about specifics won’t make me feel better. (Chalk one up for Ben who used to tell me that vomiting angry feelings wrapped up in the word “venting” does not make things better. He would say “Venting does not serve any purpose except to make you feel angrier.” He was right.)
So instead I will simply say this … if you need to fix some wrongs or mend some past problems surrounding Ben and by extension his beloved wife and kids, then fix them. Reach out and fix them. Address that God damn elephant in the room. Have you learned nothing from Ben’s death? Fixing things will actually entail you taking both responsibility and some tangible action. If you don’t, it’s all on you. If you feel this advice was not meant for you, it probably wasn’t. If you feel it was meant for you, you are right.
Today I will confess that on this day last year, when Dr. H told Ben he had about three weeks to live (she pretty much nailed it, as we later found out), I already knew about the three weeks before going into that meeting. At that time I had spent just over 8 months trying to find the balance between hope for Ben and a need to ease the kids into what was inevitably going to happen. (Let me tell you, that is a terribly shitty place to be stuck. Terrible.) But the evening before we got this worst of the worse news, as we cruised the streets of Surrey in a limo looking out at the Christmas lights, my cell phone rang. It was Dr H, and I knew what she was calling for because she had told me she would call when the time came. And it was around 9pm when she called, so it couldn’t be good news.
In a falsely cheery voice I said, “Oh, hey, yeah, so we’re just out for a limo ride with the kids right now!” and she quietly said, “Please call me on my personal phone when you get home.”
I phoned her when I got home. She told me it wasn’t good. I asked her “how long” and she said “Three weeks.” And I told her that it was time for her to tell Ben and the kids this news herself. I told her that he deserved to know incase he needed time to take care of anything unfinished. I told her that I had enough burden to carry and I could not forever be that person. That my job was to be his wife and to love him as hard as I could for as long as I could, and her job was to do these crap jobs like telling the most wonderful man in the world he did not have long to live. She agreed, and told me to bring everyone down tomorrow and she would fit us in.
That was really good of her, but the problem is that a specialist doesn’t just “fit you in.” Nor do they tell you to bring your kids. So now I had a problem. How did I tell Ben what she wanted without scaring him and making it impossible to allow him just one more night of peace? How did I convince the kids to come without alarming them too? And I was angry to have to carry that burden, and I am angry now remembering it.
When I went downstairs and told Ben about the next day appointment, Ben pushed it a bit. I wasn’t easily able to blow him off but I was vague. “She wanted to talk about the MRI that had been done that morning and yes, there was a bit of bad news about how it spread BUT we still have a Nivolumab treatment on Dec 24th so that’s great! Oh, and, um, she thought it would be good for all of us to come down and see her.”
Ben was not a stupid man, and of all times, this was the one where he started pressing for detail. “Why do the kids need to come? They are busy.” “No, they’re not, and they WANT to come, Ben. Its Christmas holidays. They like to be with you.” (And off I went to try to gently explain to the kids why it was so important they come and be with their Dad the next day, and why they could not for one second make him think they had anything else to do or he would jump all over it. I don’t remember what I told them.) “It can’t be good when she wants the kids to come.” “Well honey, I think she just knows we’re all off on holidays together and she’d like to get them up to speed. Let’s just wait until tomorrow and we’ll have a drive down there. Maybe some lunch.” Sigh. I went upstairs and cried. And I frantically told Barb that she must find a fake way to meet us there, because if he knew she was coming to this “casual” appointment he would know, and that would rob him of any tiny bit of peace he still had before that appointment. I think she came up with “a meeting” in the area and a well timed break where she wanted to bring us coffee, if memory serves. Good one, Barb.
So, at noon on December 17, 2015, The Saint-Onge Five and Barb squished into a room where Dr H went over the results of the MRI. And then, as gently as she could, she told us that Ben would likely die in three weeks. And to be honest, I don’t really remember anything after that.
At about this moment last year I was clinging to Ben’s hand.
This would be one of those random grief waves that tend to hit.
“And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief”