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:

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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.)

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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:

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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 …

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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”)

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Greys Anatomy – A Trainwreck For My Soul

I watch Greys Anatomy every Thursday night with four friends and a glass of wine.  We have done this for several seasons now, and I look forward to it every week.  But lately … lately I find that watching Greys Anatomy feels similar to watching a train wreck.  It hurts my soul but I can’t look away.  Every single week the show seems to focus on cancer diagnosis’ or cancer deaths.  It’s like a drum pounding in my head over and over.  I walk into the evening excited for the chatter and wine, and within about five minutes of the show starting all I can think is, “Again?”

And so for the last few days I have asked myself this question … are these weekly dates with my girls feeding my soul, or are they robbing me of any semblance of peace?

The most recent episode involved a pregnant woman who was dying of … wait for it …. cancer.   (Surprise!) She refused treatment in order to save her baby.  How noble of her. Blah blah blah. Before she went into surgery she secretly told the doctors she wanted to sign her own DNR.  She did not want them to take extraordinary measures to keep her alive if something went wrong.  Well, something went wrong as it usually does, and I’m sure you can figure out what happened in the end.

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As I was watching that episode it made me think about this … I signed the DNR.  I signed that DNR.  I signed it while I sat right beside Ben in the hospital.  A doctor finally had the kahunas to broach the subject with Ben, and Ben promptly shut him down hard and fast.  “Talk to Wendy about that” he said. “She’ll know.”  I remember that he used tone with the doctor.  Angry tone.

“She’ll know.”

Well apparently, in fact, I did know.  Or at least I thought I knew at the time, because I signed it.  Ben apparently did not know so I made that decision for him.  That shitty, crappy, assholish decision that I never imagined I would actually have to make in my lifetime.   I signed that DNR, tucked it into the green plastic envelope they give you with a magnet on the back and slapped it onto our fridge for all to see. (That’s what you do with it, you know.  I’m told that EHS attendants always look on the fridge for that green envelope.  A quarter century in emergency services and I never knew that DNRs are kept in green envelopes on the fridge.  Now you know too.)  I signed that DNR.  I stuck it on the fridge and it sat there right through the Christmas holidays while everyone from both families were here “celebrating” the season, and I think I was the only one who knew it was there.  (It’s possible I could be wrong about that … there is a lot I don’t remember so maybe my sisters did know.)  But what I do indeed remember is that I signed the fucking DNR.  It was the right thing to do, and it kind of haunts me.

Not only did I sign the DNR and stick it on the fridge, but I also chose a funeral hall and signed some forms about body removal at a time when Ben was still chatting people up and taking visitors.  Everyone around him was planning for Ben’s death except Ben.  He wanted to live.  He trusted me with his life and death decisions.

I signed the DNR.  It somehow seems so businesslike … so wrong, so completely casual in hindsight.  “Sign this receipt, please.”  “Sign for the package, please.”  “Sign your husband’s DNR, please.”  Funny how it didn’t seem so wrong at the time.  At the time it seemed important to plan, to prepare, and to save Ben from the agony of possibly being brought back to life only to surely die soon after.  Now it just seems surreal, and even though it was the right thing to do, I don’t really know how I managed to do it.

I had a landscaping complication this week with the neighbour, and when I brought her flowers the next day to try to calm her ruffled feathers she went on and on and on about how she had had a bad day.  That was her reason for her bad behaviour … everything had gone wrong for her.  And I smiled and handed her the flowers and mumbled, “Oh, I’m sorry your day was so tough” while I thought about how I wanted to tell her that I wish that I could have her bad days.  I also wanted to beat her a little bit but I refrained.

(On a side note, I tend to have regular Ally McBeal moments where I envision doing exactly what I want to do when people say things that I consider absolute wastes of time and breath.  It makes me feel better to fantasize.  I try to put smile therapy into practice.)

I spent some time with Ben these last few days and I was surprised to find that someone else had been visiting him too.  They left flowers. I love that.

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The bottom bunch is from someone else who must have loved him.  Can’t say as I blame them.  He was easy to love.

I asked the question earlier about whether these weekly Greys Anatomy dates are feeding my soul (the friendships) or sucking it dry (the storyline of the show).  The truth is that I could probably do without the constant cancer reminders, but then again those reminders are everywhere, every day.  I don’t need Greys Anatomy to remind me that Ben died.

On the plus side I also get at least an hour of chat before the show and I’m always guaranteed a laugh as we recount what we read on the local community Facebook page throughout the week.  (Those of you who live in this area will understand what I mean.) Those hours are worth more to me.  I couldn’t have gotten part way through this mess of Ben’s life and death without them.

Anyway, who am I kidding?  I couldn’t stop watching the 37th season of Greys Anatomy even if I was kicked out of the club.  (I don’t think they can kick me out.  I’m the original founder.)

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Bettering Myself

Humour me for a moment while you read the next two paragraphs, and trust that this post is not all gloom and doom.

Two years ago today, Ben’s world came crashing down around him.  He went to see Dr B for the results of his MRI which was supposed to determine whether or not he would need back surgery or a cortisone injection.  Instead, he received his death sentence.

He didn’t tell me about it for two days, so I lived in blissful oblivion and whistled my way through the next 48 hours doing and saying exactly what I wanted.  My most prominent memory is coming home from work on April 8th and saying “Why didn’t you empty the dishwasher while I was at work??!!”  Yes, Ben had just been given a death sentence and I was worried about the dishes. Not my proudest moment.  Granted, I still had no idea that our lives had just come to a screeching halt, but my annoyance over the dishes remains one of the things I remember and sure wish I could take back.  (Let that be a lesson to anyone reading this … shut up and stop complaining about trivial things.  Take a moment right now to stop and throw some love out to your other half.  No matter what happens, the two of you will not be together until the end of time.  One of you is going to have to live like I am currently living … without my Love and carrying regret over the fact that I bitched about the dishes.)  If you’re interested, I wrote about that day in this post.

Moving forward, I recently came across a blog post written by a fellow named Benjamin P. Hardy, titled “50 Ways (that) Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms.”  (For the record, the word “that” was not in the title, but I thought it should be.)  His post struck a chord with me because I happen to agree with many of the 50 points on his list for living my best life, although I currently do not adhere to them.

That is about to change.

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So, on this most significant day that my brain currently recognizes as “The Day Ben Found Out He Was Dying,” I have decided to begin something that he would be most proud of. Something he would have done himself, because he was a man who spent every day of his adult life trying to become a better person than he was the day before.  And although some of his self improvement schemes were annoying, like his continual preaching “Everyone must go gluten free! You will die if you don’t go gluten free!”  (I assume you can see the irony in that one), most of his efforts could only be admired as he regularly searched for ways to expand his mind, improve his overall health and fitness, and to be a great Dad and partner.

 

With Ben as my inspiration, I have decided to use Mr. Hardy’s list to improve myself.  I’m going to challenge myself to act on one of his suggestions per week until I work my way through most of them.  I look forward to seeing how I come out the other side, and I may be able to change the name of this day to “The Day I Changed My Life In Honour Of Ben.” Or at least combine the two titles.  That’ll be a mouthful.

*Note that I said I was going to act on “most” of Mr. Hardy’s suggestions.  Not all of them. That’s because some of his suggestions are things I already do (see #5) and some are just crazy. (see #1)

Here’s the list, pared down without all the extra detail around why it is important to do each one and how it will positively effect you if you do.  If I’m moved to blog about each one I try then I will provide his detailed explanation at the top of each post.  (I say “if I’m moved” to blog about how I do because I don’t want to commit to do that and then not follow through.  Let me get some momentum going and see how I do.):

  1. Stop consuming caffeine (See?  Crazy.  Not doing it. Well, maybe.  But not right away)
  2. Pray or meditate morning, mid-day, and night
  3. Read 1 book per week
  4. Write in your journal 5 minutes per day
  5. Marry the person you love (Definitely already knocked this one out of the park)
  6. Make a bucket list and actively knock items off
  7. Stop consuming refined sugar (ouch)
  8. Fast from all food and caloric beverages 24 hours once per week
  9. Fast from the internet 24 hours once per week
  10. Stop consuming the news or reading the newspaper
  11. Do something everyday that terrifies you
  12. Do something kind for someone else daily
  13. Go to bed early and rise early
  14. Get 7+ hours of sleep each night
  15. Replace warm showers with cold ones
  16. Say “No” to people, obligations, requests, and opportunities you’re    not interested in from now on
  17. Say “Thank you” every time you’re served by someone
  18. Say “I love you” 3+ times a day to the most important people in your life
  19. Consume 30 grams of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up
  20. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts on 1.5 or 2x speed, your brain will change faster
  21. Decide where you’ll be in five years and get there in two
  22. Remove all non-essentials from your life (start with your closet)
  23. Consume a tablespoon of coconut oil once per day
  24. Buy a juicer and juice a few times per week
  25. Choose to have faith in something bigger than yourself, skepticism is easy
  26. Stop obsessing about the outcome
  27. Give at least one guilt-free hour to relaxation per day
  28. Genuinely apologize to people you’ve mistreated
  29. Make friends with five people who inspire you
  30. Save 10 percent or more of your income
  31. Tithe or give 10 percent of your income away
  32. Drink 64–100 ounces of water per day
  33. Buy a small place rather than rent (Done)
  34. Check your email and social media at least 60–90 minutes after you wake up
  35. Make a few radical changes to your life each year (Well, clearly I’m no slouch in this department.  Lose Ben.  Retire.  What more does he want?)
  36. Define what wealth and happiness mean to you
  37. Change the way you feel, think, and act about money”
  38. Invest only in industries you are informed about
  39. Create an automated income source that takes care of the fundamentals (Done.  But I’m going to think on this one anyway.)
  40. Have multiple income streams (the more the better)  (Again, done.  But again, I’m still going to think on this one and see what else I can do.  I don’t think my current income streams are what he had in mind.)
  41. Track at least one habit/behaviour you’re trying to improve
  42. Have no more than 3 items on your to-do list each day
  43. Make your bed first thing in the morning
  44. Make one audacious request per week (what do you have to lose?)
  45. Be spontaneously generous with a stranger at least once per month
  46. Write and place a short, thoughtful note for someone once per day
  47. Become good friends with your parents (Done.  Thank God.  I can’t imagine how I would have survived without them.  I think I will change this one to: Become good friends with your adult children.)
  48. Floss your teeth
  49. Eat at least one meal with your family per day
  50. Spend time reflecting on your blessings at least once per day

Well, there you have it.  The List.  I think I may add some of my own that aren’t included on here, like:

  1. Work out or get some type of strenuous exercise 5 times per week and
  2. Spend time outside in nature every day

Those ones would be numbers 51 and 52 but I can’t seem to make the numbering work. Perhaps I should add “learn how to use numbering in a blog.” Anyway, you get the picture.  Writing this blog post today fulfills #4.  I’m exhausted.  Haha.

Now that I’ve publicly declared my intent I will begin by choosing which one of the above points I will start with.  I’m not doing them in numerical order.  My plan is to practice each one regularly for a week and see what sticks. Hopefully a week of flossing and another week of drinking lots of water will turn into habits that I can continue throughout the following weeks into forever, as I attempt the rest of the points.

Number 48 is probably a wise place to begin.

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I think Sundays will be a good day to begin something new each week.  I guess that means I don’t have to floss until tomorrow.

Have a fantastic weekend and do something nice for your spouse.

 

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Shower Doors

Dear Ben,

Remember how annoyed you would get at all the water that constantly leaked out of the girls’ shower onto the bathroom floor?  Week after week, month after month, year after year you asked the girls to please be careful to not let the water drip on the floor while they showered.  Sometimes you yelled about it.  You finally went out and bought that little plastic thing that sat on the side of the tub in an effort to keep the water in.  But teens being teens they didn’t pay too much attention to your request, and now exactly what you said would happen has indeed happened. The bathroom floor is squishy and water logged and clearly in need of repair.  Except I can’t do that myself.

However, it just so happened that when Raegan discovered the squishy floor Lisa and Murray were in town, so I didn’t need to have another of the massive meltdowns that come so easily since you died.   Murray pulled back the floor, took off some baseboards and dried it all out.  Then he installed glass shower doors on the tub and took down the stupid shower curtain that never stayed in place.  We are now left with a shower that does not leak.  Thank God for Murray.

Do you know what I was thinking while Murray took on that not-so-small job for me?  I was thinking that it was my lucky day 24 years ago when I landed up in the same troop as him in Regina.  I was thinking how it was my lucky day not so long afterwards when I heard Lisa’s voice over the radio, dispatching me to calls in Sechelt.  I was thinking how strange life is that the two of them eventually met, and then years later how they met up again and started a life together.  I was thinking about how unpredictable life is.  I was thinking about the fact that 20 years ago you and I never could have possibly imagined that all these years later Lisa would be happily in love with my troopmate,  you would be dead, and they would be repairing our house.

Oh yes Ben, they did so much more then the glass doors.  Murray cleaned the gutters, they hung curtain rods, they patched the holes in the walls, they moved our fridge, and Lisa fixed both the gates so they actually close now, and even stay closed.  (Remember how many times I asked you to fix those gates?  I was pissed when you died without fixing them, but I forgive you now because I’m suspicious that you may have had a hand in directing Murray and Lisa to me at the right time.)

Do you want to know what else I thought about?  I thought about all the years you tried to stop water from leaking out of the bathtub, and how you will never get to see those glass shower doors that finally stopped the leak.  I thought about how you will never see the new fridge I had to get because the old one is half dead with broken seals that apparently cost close to $400 and must be ordered out of province.  You will never see the new dishwasher that replaced ours when the door of the old one kept breaking and you weren’t here to fix it.  You will never see the finished rec room.  You will never see your guitars on display in our bedroom.  You will never get to park your truck in the garage I cleaned out, or see the empty space where the tree used to be in the back yard.  (And speaking of trees, Murray says that damn tree in the front garden needs to come down because it’s too close to the house and all the leaves fall in the gutters and clog them up.  And by the way, Murray fixed the leak in the gutter too. The one you never quite got around to doing, but I’m over that now since it’s fixed.)

Today I had a coffee with Al Tranminh. I think I have only seen him twice since we were in training together.  The last time was right before you got sick.  I don’t know how or when he found out you were sick, or if he even knew anything about what was going on before reading the email announcement in January.  He was at your funeral though.  Today he sat with me for pretty close to an hour while I talked about you.  I told him how I missed you.  I told him how I couldn’t believe that five minutes ago we were all in training together and now you are dead.

D-E-A-D.  I try not to say “gone.”  When I say “gone” it tricks me into thinking you might come back.  So I say dead.  Dead.  Dead.  You would say “dead” too, because you always called a spade a spade.  Anyway, I have barely seen Al over the last quarter century but today he sat with me and listened, and I felt like no time at all had gone by.  He asked me questions.  And I cried again right in the cafeteria but I loved that he asked me about our last year.  He told me he remembered you as big and strong, and I told him you remained that way for so long.  I told him how badly you wanted to live, and how terrible I feel that you didn’t.

Today I also ran right into Mike Procyk at the elevator, and immediately thought about the last time you were able to make it into work and how the three of us had a conversation together beside Tim Horton’s.  Did you know he was at your funeral too?  I didn’t know that until I watched the video … or maybe I did at the time but I had forgotten.  And since today seemed to be the day for running into the oldest of our old friends, I also ran into Craig McKenzie.  Incase you didn’t know, he was at your funeral too, and I do remember him being there.  I love running into people who have known you for almost as long as me. People who remember The Titan in the early days, back when we were young.  Before kids, before life, before cancer with a small “c” and before death.

I am off now to take the dog you never met to puppy class.  Marley.  Named after Bob Marley, which you would love.  I actually wanted to call him “Ben” so that I could call “Beeeennnnn” and my call would be answered.  The kids vetoed that idea.  Marley was the next best name.

One more thing … I love you dearly but today was a rough one and so right now I am feeling pretty angry at you for dying.  You promised me you would not die until after me so I never, ever worried about your health.  Not until the day you cried “I have cancer” anyway.  Never before that day.  So I’m feeling a little let down.  Just saying.

Missing you.

Love,

Your Bride

I Wish

I wish I could go back.  I’m not even talking about going right back to better, pre cancer healthy times.  That would be lovely, but I feel as though I’d be wishing for too much if I wished for that.  I feel like that would be greedy.  I kind of feel as though I understand that it is not possible to go back too far, but maybe if I wish to just go back to last December, or even January, that might just be possible. I feel like that would not be asking for too much if I were just to ask for that because Ben was so sick by that time….how could it be asking for too much if I just want to go back to that?

I’m laying here in bed as I write this, looking at the framed picture of Ben and I hanging on the wall (it’s not even my favourite.  Why in the world did I choose that one to be blown up and framed for Ben’s service?) and thinking about how he lay right here in our bed at the very end.  

I remember the weekend right before he passed away.  A lot of people came to visit and say goodbye without really saying goodbye. Ben was still talking, albeit between bouts of falling asleep mid sentence. But he managed to have conversations with everyone and he waited for Jeff to arrive on Sunday night.  (The more time that passes, the more grateful I am to Jeff for getting on that plane to make it here for his best friend in the nick of time.  I believe Ben hung on to see him).  Ben smiled at Jeff and they exchanged a few words before Ben fell asleep, and those were essentially the last coherent words he spoke except for a weak “I love you” to the kids the next day.

I wish I could go back to just before those last moments. I wish I could tell him that in a few days I would lay beside him when he drew his last breath, and I would hold his hand, and I would comfort him.  I wish I had known before his mind went elsewhere that I had one last opportunity to have a conversation with him.  I wish I had asked him if he was scared.  I wish I had known that he would end up thinking he was drowning, and that he would panic and be desperate for some type of help that no one could give. If I had known that was going to happen I could have talked about it with him and prepared for it as we always did. I could have let him know that I would keep him safe, even though he wouldn’t feel safe. And then maybe on some level deep down, amidst the drug haze and the crazy things that bodies do when they are shutting down, he might have known on some level that he was safe.  If I had just known. If I had just talked about it.  I wish I had talked about it.

I feel so terrible for not addressing the elephant in the room with him directly. I should have addressed it.  I should have asked him.  I should have assured him I would be there with him.  That the kids would be there, and our family and friends.  I should have let him know, and if he said he was scared I should have told him I would be holding his hand. I should have told him that Jeff would be with him.  That we wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him. (You know what I mean).  That we would give him all the drugs he wanted to be comfortable and to not suffer.  He did not want to suffer.  That much I do know.

I recall how one evening last summer Ben looked at me and with shock he said, “You don’t think I’m going to die do you?”  And I couldn’t get any words out.  I couldn’t say “no”, and I couldn’t say “yes.”  I just sat on the floor at his feet and cried.  At the time I thought he was asking me if I was going to a dark place in my head that he didn’t want to go to.  But now I wonder if he was just simply asking me if he was going to die.  And if that’s what he was asking, then I let him down because I didn’t answer him.  He asked me a question and I did not answer.

I wish I could have a do-over.  One more chance to go on that limo ride where Ben was too weak to get out at each stop, but seemed so content to watch the rest of us get out and marvel at the lights.  I wonder if he was scared that night.  I wonder if he rode around in that limo thinking about how it was his last Christmas, his last limo ride, the last time he would look at the lights with the kids and I, the last time he would sit in the parking lot of a McDonalds restaurant.  All the boring, mundane, beautiful things in this life.   I wish I had forgone looking at the lights and just stayed in the limo with him and held his hand, and whispered that I would never leave him. That he need not be scared.  That he would forever be surrounded by beauty.  That we would be together again one day.

The next day the doctor told him he had 3 weeks.  She was just about bang on.

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Jaime took this picture of us on the way home that day.  She sent it to me the other day.  I don’t even recall any of us speaking on the way home, but I do recall us holding hands.

I was a bit of a coward, I think, and I wish I could go back and try again.  To tell him when he had a clear mind that I would be beside him until the very end.  That I wouldn’t let him down.  That I wouldn’t leave him.  And maybe if I had talked about that when he was clear headed he might have known it on some level when his mind wasn’t working properly anymore.  I wish I knew whether or not he knew that as he was panicking in the two days before he died.

I joined a grief group.  I started last Tuesday and I attend with my friend Lisa.  Her husband died suddenly last May. There are eight of us in this grief group, and all the other women are much older except one.  She has a six year old son, and she woke up one morning a few days after Ben died to find her own husband dead beside her in bed.  I feel so sad for her, but at the same time I’m a bit jealous over the fact that her husband didn’t have to suffer and she doesn’t have to wonder if she did enough to let him know she would stay by his side.

Anyway, we were there for two hours and we did a lot of listening to the counsellors. Most of the things the counsellors had to say are things I already know, because I had nine months before Ben died to research grief, and now I’ve had nine months since he died to do the same.  I’m very well read on the subject, actually, although that doesn’t seem to lessen the pain.  

I have read (and have now been told in person) that grief is like a pounding, relentless surf, kicking and clawing at your soul and knocking you down for TWO to FIVE years.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen … two to five years.  I have barely yet begun.  But I am also told that the pain eases and the pounding of the “mourning” waves slows between punches.  The knowledge that the pain will ease should bring me some peace but it does not, because I don’t actually want to live in a time when Ben is not foremost in my thoughts.  I don’t want him to be forgotten.  I am scared that one day I might wake up in the morning and actually not think of him first thing. I’m scared that I might wake up and think of him as a passing thought and a quick smile.  I feel like if that happens then he didn’t exist.  And what of all those years he put in standing in the pouring rain at soccer?  What of all the years he worked to support us?  What of all the years he spent cooking for us, taking us on vacation, laughing and loving us?  What was it all for if we just continue to live our lives without him foremost in our thoughts?

Anyway, apparently I don’t have to worry about that any time soon because the experts tell me I have anywhere between one year and three months to four years and three months before that happens.  So it appears I will continue to randomly burst into tears in my office on occasion, talk about Ben endlessly to anyone I come in contact with for hours on end until no one wants to be around me anymore, and I will continue to reach out for him when I wake up in the morning for awhile longer yet. I’m ok with that.

I’ll end with this …. Ben doesn’t have a headstone on his grave.  That is because I am scared to make that final decision on what it should say.  What few words can adequately describe the man he was?  I don’t want to make a mistake.  So I thought I’d put this question out there to the universe and the one or two people who may read this blog.  Whether you knew him and loved him in person, or whether you just got to know him by reading our words on this blog …. I would love to have your input / suggestions on what I could write on his headstone.  A word, a quote … anything really.  Just something that might help inspire me to find the right words.

I’ll leave you with Ben’s favourite quote from Bruce Lee …”Don’t pray for an easy life.  Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”  And boy did he endure.

The Proposal

Twenty two years ago tonight, My Beloved asked me to be his partner for life.

One year ago tonight I wrote about The Proposal right here. When I wrote that post, I knew it was the last time that I would actually be in the company of My Beloved on the day of “The Proposal.”

Today I woke up and looked to my left, and was reminded by the empty space in my king size bed that I am just left with memories.  It seems My Beloved is not coming back.

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I came home after work today to an empty house and a lot of memories from when our love story started…

… and what we made together ….

Last night I went to a parent’s meeting at The Last Door Recovery house, just to get back in touch.  The only time Ben ever missed a parent’s meeting was right around the time he had his shoulder surgery.  Every Wednesday, week after week for a year he faithfully attended those meetings.  A truly dedicated father.  Much more than a father … a Dad.

As Ben mentioned in this post that he wrote last year, it was the strength he gained from those meetings and from the people in treatment that gave him the resolve to fight cancer (with a small ‘c’) as hard as he did.

Anyway, I went to the meeting last night and I was saddened to immediately see the familiar face of someone I know outside of the world of addiction.  I had no idea that addiction had touched her life, and I immediately looked to my left to tell Ben that I know her.

He wasn’t there.

This was our wedding song.  Chosen by Ben.  Our theme was ‘friendship’ in 1994, and remained that way right through our lives together.

How I miss you Ben.  I don’t go a minute without thinking of you.  Thanks for all the good years.