The Last Blog Post

Not my last blog post. Ben’s last blog post.

Once again I have come around to another one of those “one year” markers.  One year ago today, on December 5, 2015, Ben put pen to paper for the last time. Or fingers to keyboard, to be more exact.  He was scared.  In hindsight I now realize he was even stronger than I was aware of at the time.  Fear had to have been consuming his every thought and yet, with the exception of this post that he wrote, he never really let it show.  My God he was a brave man.  How he loved us to try to keep that fear to himself and not burden us further.

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So here we are one year later and I am remembering when Ben wrote his last post.  I didn’t actually know it was the last one he would ever writeat the time.  I guess if I had put any thought into it I probably should have known, since I certainly knew that it wouldn’t be long before he would be drawing his last breath.

It was around this time that several “lasts” happened.  Ben had recently watched his daughters play the last volleyball games he would ever see.  When he was at that game I knew it would be the last one he would see, so thank God he was greeted by this special scene, if you recall:

By this time last year Ben had seen some of his friends for the last time.  He had played his guitar(s) downstairs in his “man room” for the last time.

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Over the last 11 months I have often thought about all the “last times” we had, and I’ve tried to pinpoint when they happened.  Its not something you normally think about each day.  You don’t generally pick out a new lipstick or buy some oranges and wonder “will this be the last time I buy a new lipstick / oranges?”  But I think about it now and I try to remember those “lasts” even if I didn’t know they were “lasts” at the time.

The last time Ben enjoyed the hot tub that he loved. (I don’t remember.) The last time we went for a walk together.  (I do remember, and I knew it was the last time when it was happening.) The last time we went to the grocery store together.  (Don’t remember).  The last time he cooked a meal.  (I do remember.  New Years Eve.  Gluten free pizza. I actually think in fact it may have also been the last real meal he ever ate.) The last time we shared a Starbucks. (Don’t remember). The last time we saw certain people. (I do remember.  Cal Traversy, Kevin Rolston, Joel Hunt, Sharon Woodburn.  I’m pretty sure they knew it too.) The last time he drove his truck.  (I do remember, because I was scared shitless.)

The last time Ben drove his truck was on December 31st, 2015.  A mere thirteen days before he died. He drove it in the middle of the night when he should not have been driving at all, and I laid awake praying that he would be able to make it safely back home and that it wouldn’t be the last time I would see him alive.  I knew that was coming soon enough and I wasn’t ready.  Not yet.

By the time December had rolled around I knew Ben shouldn’t be driving anymore at all. He was in too much pain and taking way too many drugs and I tried to gently stop him, but he insisted he would “know” when it was time to stop.  (Just like he said he would know if the time ever came that he would need to teach me the banking or how to take care of the hot tub.  And just as I knew would inevitably happen, my stubborn Ben never acknowledged when any of those times came.)

Ben told me he would never risk anyone’s life by driving when he shouldn’t, and I know that in his heart he meant what he said but he was no longer in a position where his judgement could be trusted.  That was a terrible dilemma, let me tell you, and in the end my love for Ben and my desire to see him happy won out over safety.  I simply couldn’t bear for him to be upset with me if I took away his keys like a child, so instead I made sure that our kids didn’t get in the truck again when Ben was driving.

This past weekend a brand new 2016 “last” occurred.  I watched Jaime play volleyball for the last time.  She played in the Provincials and then hung up her court shoes.  Here’s a couple of highlights …

I will admit to being hyper aware of every moment of the last game, and wondering if Ben too had been thinking the same thing as he watched his last volleyball game.

Life is full of lasts, I suppose.  The last time your child wears a diaper, the last day of school, the last day they tolerate you walking them to school, the last day they live in the family home.

It’s also full of firsts.  The first time you meet the person with whom you intend to spend the rest of your life.

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The first time you watch your life partner hold your new baby.

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The first time you dance on the beach.

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The first time your daughter says “tooted”

The first time one of your kids graduate.

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I guess that’s just the way life goes.  One day it’s a “first”, the next day a “last”, and on and on it goes.  That’s what keeps life interesting.  We never know what’s coming right around the corner.  And while that’s probably a good thing, let this serve as a reminder for you to really savour those sweet moments in life.  You just don’t know when it’s a “last.”

Hug your families.

Know Your Audience and Rough Patches

I’m scared today. A lot has happened over the past 8 months that has scared me and continues to do so, but this is kind of different. I’ve been presented with realities like “you have cancer”, “you have a tumour”, “you have a blood clot that must come out”, etc etc etc… No brainers basically. This is what you have and this is what we have to do to intervene at this point. No major choices to make.

First of all, let me tell you that I had a shitty week. I spent Monday through Wednesday in the Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency ward because of shortness of breath. Some other stuff happened too, I think, but Wendy would remember that better. I felt shitty, to say the least. I may have been getting pneumonia, I’m not sure. They eventually drained almost a litre of fluid from the space between my right lung and rib cage. I felt better after that and was released. That was a long, boring and somewhat traumatic 3 days. It kind of wore me out for a number of reasons. I won’t get into them at this point. I’m tired of complaining about them. Lol.

On Friday I was given a choice to make that can and will affect the rest of my life, however long that may be. Based on the tone and comments made by Dr. H., he was suggesting that I don’t have much time left (that’s where knowing your audience comes into play). He even commented on Wendy’s enthusiasm with respect to my recovery and laughed. It didn’t really sink in until after the appointment. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in the past, but that’s a major peeve of mine when visiting specialists. They make me feel like death is right around the corner and they are here to help me get there in relative comfort. The problem is, I don’t want to die right now, and I was hoping they could help me get through this rough patch until the next one. Clearly we don’t see eye to eye.

Okay, wait a minute. I just got sidetracked. Here we go again…

On Friday I was offered a chordotomy, which involves severing a nerve in the cervical spine to eliminate pain on the right side of my body. It is a permanent procedure. There is no going back. I am apparently a good candidate for the procedure as I am in palliative care and my pain relief threshold through narcotics has been reached. Blah, blah, blah.

The reason I am scared is simple. I want to pull out of this death tailspin and get back to living, but every Doctor I see makes me feel like “this is it. The end of the ride is near and it’s time to get off.”

The chordotomy will remove the sensations for temperature and pain on the right side of my body, from the neck down. That means down my right arm as well. That means it may affect how I play the guitar. As I write this I see how stupid that sounds but it’s still really important to me. I don’t want to be in pain and I hope the procedure works, but it may mean that I won’t be able to feel guitar strings anymore. I’m not sure. The Doctor seems to think that I’ll be fine and should feel them but no one is 100% sure.

Another reason I am scared is because I can’t seem to pull out of this tailspin right now. The mental one and the physical one. I can usually pull out of the mental tailspin pretty fast. I would like to think I am mentally strong but this one is dragging on and on. I see my body melt away in the mirror and I watch the numbers on the scale go down everyday, and I have to admit I feel like my body is failing me. I get focused on that and then I can’t get back on the mental fast track. I’m finding it really hard this time around. Maybe that’s why this chordotomy thing is bugging me so much. I don’t know.

So if anyone out there has some spare mental strength they can throw my way, I would appreciate it. I’m having a really hard time right now. This has been the roughest patch so far.