Live Life

Live life.

Good advice, right?  I have always liked to pass that piece of advice onto my kids whenever I had the opportunity.  “Take time off before University.  Go see the world.  Live your life while you can.”  That’s what we used to say to them. We had all sorts of tidbits of advice which included, “Happiness is a choice, so choose it.”  “Be a good person.” “Work hard.” “Be kind” and “Live Your Life.  We only get one of them.”

But then Ben died, and everything changed.  I became torn between wanting my kids to live their lives and wanting them home with me every second.  I became obsessed with controlling everything they did, even when I knew I was being ridiculous.  Even when a little voice inside my head told me to lay off or they would say “Sayonara Mama” and move right out of this house so that they no longer had me breathing down their necks.  Even when I caused my son immense frustration (sorry Zak).  Even when I made my daughter cry.

It seems that after Ben died I no longer wanted them to live the life they wanted … I wanted them to live the life that I wanted.  And I wanted them home, safe, and with me every minute.

I got a bit of a wake up call last April.  It was Jaime’s 18th birthday.  Her second birthday without her Dad, even though he’d barely been gone a year. We found out he was dying just a few days before her 16th birthday, and he died right before her 17th birthday.  (And here’s an odd little fact, if I may digress for a moment. We had to actually look at a calendar to pick the right day to tell the kids that their Dad was dying. Strange, huh?  It reminded me of choosing a date for a birthday party.  “No, we can’t do it on that Saturday because there’s a soccer game.”  “The next one won’t work either because we have that work thing.”  “OK, lets do it mid week, after school, but before my evening meeting.”  We didn’t want to tell the kids before Zak could take his cake to celebrate his one year of sobriety, and we didn’t want to ruin Jaime’s 16th birthday, so we found a date right in the middle.  It was odd to sit back and pick a day to ruin everyone’s lives, but now, two years later,  nobody needs to think about how their special day was ruined by the shittiest news ever.  So that’s good, I suppose.)

Anyway, back to my point.  Last April Jaime celebrated her 18th birthday.  She had clearly had a couple of super shitty years filled with sickness and death, followed by intense grieving and everything that was the opposite of living.  And on her 18th birthday, she and her boyfriend decided that she should live life, so he bought her the future opportunity to go sky diving.  WHAT???!!!

I lost my shit.  Lost it.  The mother who had always wanted her kids to lead full and exciting lives completely lost her shit over the possibility of her daughter living an exciting life.  I screamed and yelled and complained about how terrible it was that her boyfriend was causing me to suffer more stress and anxiety.  Hadn’t I already suffered enough??  I actually said that.  Yelled it, really.  I told Jaime that it was selfish and inconsiderate to cause me further distress. I ranted and raved and I may have even cried.  I know for sure that I made Jaime cry.

If I hadn’t already lost my Mother Of The Year award, and I probably had, I certainly lost it that day.

I recall spending the next few days thinking about how Ben would have reacted.  I was tempted to believe that he wouldn’t have wanted his precious little peanut to risk her life and he would have emphatically said “NO.” (Followed by laying a beating on the boyfriend for purchasing this gift.)  I really tried to convince myself that is how it would have gone down.  Eventually I gave up, because I knew it wasn’t true.  That’s not what Ben would have said at all.

He would have said, “Live your life.”  Well, actually he first would have turned to me and said (insert tone and sarcasm here), “In 25 years of Emergency Service, how many people do you know of that fell out of the sky when their parachute didn’t open?”  I would have then taken him by surprise by answering, “One” (because it’s true.  There actually was one), but he would have said “Well, that’s still pretty good odds it’s not going to happen to Jaime.”  Then he would have told Jaime, “Live your life.”

After all, this was the Dad who raised his daughters to not only believe, but to know without a doubt that there was nothing they couldn’t do in this life.  Ben was not the Dad who coddled and babied his little girls.  In fact, when they occasionally tried to bat their eyelashes to get something out of him it would actually piss him off.  He did not dig manipulation and he made that quite clear.  If one of the girls wanted to be sure of being told “NO” from their Dad, batting eyelashes and twirling hair was a sure way to make it happen.  Ben raised his girls to be strong.  To be independent.  To be straight forward.  To be the kind of woman that said, “I would like to try sky diving.”

We worked hard to raise strong girls with an enthusiasm for all that life could offer.  Was it really reasonable for me to be surprised that Jaime listened and actually learned from that?  Was it so hard to believe, that after two years of death, sadness, and grieving, that she might want to feel alive again?  And wasn’t that probably a good thing?

I was scared shitless for her to follow through with this idea of skydiving.  I imagined the impossibility of having to suffer through another unimaginable loss.  And then I wondered if it would really make me happy for Jaime to live in a bubble and never take any risks, just so that I wouldn’t have to suffer again.  And I realized that to ask her to live like that was to ask her to sacrifice her life and her happiness.  For me.  That is not something the mother in me wants for my kids.

Meet Jaime.  This is what she did last week.  Look at her smile.

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She lives her life.

I will try to remember to live mine, too.

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.

 

Dear Daddy … Love, Zak, Jaime and Raegan

At Ben’s service, Zak stood up and gave the most heartfelt speech about his Dad.  He only brought a few written notes up to the front with him when he spoke – his tribute was entirely from the heart.

Eventually I will try to post a video clip of Zak’s speech onto this blog, because I don’t have a written copy.  Either way, just know that it was one of the most beautiful and loving tributes I have ever heard.  I was deeply moved by what Zak had to say about his Dad.  He was eloquent, funny, honest and loving.  It was so brave of him to speak, and my heart aches when I am reminded that Zak will no longer have his Dad by his side as he moves into adulthood.

A couple of months ago Ben helped Zak find and purchase his first vehicle.  It was a great Father / Son moment.

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Just before Ben passed away, Zak was rear ended by another driver and his car was written off (not Zak’s fault, and he was not seriously hurt).  Yesterday, Zak’s Grampa (my Dad) helped Zak find another one.  A truck.  Zak is thrilled, and I’m so grateful to my Dad for stepping up, but my heart broke because Ben wasn’t here to help him with it this time around.

Ben would have wanted to be there.

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The following words were written by Jaime and Raegan, Ben’s beloved daughters.  Their words were read on their behalf by Mario Bourdages.  Thank you, Mario.

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Dear Daddy,

Thank you for always being there for me. I could always count on you to make me feel better. You always knew the right thing to say. I love you so much and I want you to know that I always think of you. Not only were you a fantastic Dad, but you were an even better friend.

You made me laugh, and I honestly loved your jokes so much. You were the funniest person I know.

You were always proud of us, no matter what we did. When we didn’t make great decisions you talked us through it and continued to love us unconditionally. You pushed us to improve and do our best, and you always helped us to achieve whatever we desired.

I am so proud of you for fighting hard against cancer, and for being a warrior throughout the whole process. I am proud to call you my Dad. I will always love you so much.

Love, Raegan

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Dear Daddy,

Thank you so much for everything you did for me, and for always being there for me. You were an inspiration to me and I looked up to you in so many ways. You were so strong fighting these last few months, and I am so proud of you.

I wish you could still be here with us and continue to teach me things that no one else can. From the beginning you taught me so many things – from riding a bike, to driving a car, and so much in between.

I loved spending time with you and doing things like going to the movies, watching Vampire Diaries, going to Starbucks and taking driving lessons from you. Thanks for not yelling at me as much as Mom did while I was driving. You were so patient, and I really appreciate that.

Thank you for always coming out to support me while I played soccer and volleyball. You did so much for me and you always did your best to make me happy when I was upset.

I’m so grateful for the time I got to have you in my life. You will always mean the world to me.

Love, Jaime

The kids made this video for Ben a few years ago.  It still makes me smile.