To the Warrior Women

It is possible that I may have been sitting around feeling sorry for myself today.  I was tidying up the office and rehanging some pictures of Ben and just generally feeling ripped off.  When the kids were very young it was always Ben who helped them plan for Mother’s Day.  I clearly remember my very first Mother’s Day when Ben wrote a card to me.  He tried to make his printing look like a child’s (not hard for him … ever see his handwriting?) and signed it from Zak.  Every year after he would arrange for the kids to do something special for me, usually involving money and a trip to the nursery to start picking flowers for the upcoming gardening season.

Ben thought my job as a Mother was the most important job there could be.

So I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself and thinking about my own loss when it occurred to me that my Mom doesn’t have her mom here anymore.  Neither does my Dad.

Late last year when I attended a grief group I came out of it with an understanding that it doesn’t matter how old someone is when they lose their spouse, the pain is just as intense.  My pain was no greater than the woman in her eighties who had lost her spouse of over fifty years.  So it stands to reason that on the eve of this Mother’s Day, my mom and dad must miss their own mothers terribly.  I don’t know if I ever really thought about that before.

Both my Grandmothers were amazing women.  I’m so lucky I got to know them and spend time with them until I was well into adulthood.  When they died they weren’t old, but they weren’t young either.  I guess I thought on some level that it was natural and therefore must be less painful to my parents.  I now know I was wrong.

I am sorry that I don’t have Ben here with me this Mother’s Day, but I am sorrier for my parents that they don’t have their own Mothers with them.  I still have my Mom, thank God.  I cannot imagine a day without my own Mom (you too, Dad), and I doubt it matters how old one is on Mothers Day when they can’t give their own mom a kiss.  It must hurt, and I am grateful that I don’t know that pain myself.

So, on this eve of Mother’s Day 2017 I will put away my own sadness to remember how lucky I am.  I still have my Mom.  Not only do I still have her but I also live close to her and I get to see her and spend time with her whenever I want.  She is an amazing woman.  She is a strong woman.  She is a dependable woman.  She is a devoted Mom. The best.  I should tell her more often.

mom

I am also extremely grateful that I get to be a Mom this Mother’s Day.  That all three of my children are happy and thriving and alive.  That they love me enough to not only change their schedules tomorrow to be around for me, but to want to also take me out alone the next evening for some Saint-Onge Mom and Young Adults Time.  Just us.  Not everyone gets that.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there.  To the ones who grieve the loss of their own moms.  To the ones who grieve the loss of those who used to call them Mom.  To all the Women Warriors who fought a battle to hear someone call them Mom.  Happy Mothers Day.  You are all awesome.

Mostly, Happy Mother’s Day to My Mom, Maureen.  A beautiful, kind and loving Mother. The greatest Woman Warrior I know.

mama

How lucky am I?!

 

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.

religious-clipart-free-graphics-images-and-pictures-of-nativity-wbdAxV-clipart

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.

flowers

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.)

imgres

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.

squirrel

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.

floss

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.

 

nice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Honest Love Letter … Saint-Onge Style

This is my first attempt at reblogging. Not even quite sure what will happen when I hit “reblogging post.”  I originally wrote this post on September 8, 2015 and I re-read it this morning.  It reminded me that I told Ben that we would be OK. I said “Whatever may come, we will be Ok.” So I need to be Ok.

Mom is a widow

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.

guilty-man-face2

(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%.

url

My Dear Ben … you know I have loved you almost from…

View original post 2,365 more words

One Lucky Mother

I think I may be the luckiest mother in the world, a lot of which has to do with Ben’s years of dedication to our kids and what he taught them as he led by example.  Resilience is the word of the day, and we all learned it from him.

I had a very easy childhood.  Ben did not.  But Ben learned resilience and I never needed to until I became an adult and, well, adult things happened.  Thank God I had Ben to learn from.  I draw on his lessons constantly now, and often think “What would Ben do?”  I usually know the answer.

On Mother’s Day last year I was deeply suffering.  You can read about it here.  I am still suffering, but on this Mother’s Day there was some laughter and a lot of love.

Last year around this time the girls were in the Volleyball Provincials, and neither they nor I (nor Ben) were able to enjoy it.  This year, however, I spent the day today watching Raegan play in the finals, and I was able to focus and actually see her and finally, after sitting silently on the sidelines for a year, I was able to actually cheer.  Out loud.  Her team took first place in their tier.

From there we went over to Mom and Dad’s and had the traditional Insley Family Bar-b-que.  And we smiled.  And laughed.

You may notice there are people missing from the pictures.  Jaime was working, although I did manage to get 5 minutes with her before she ran off to bed …

IMG_6144

… and Lisa, Brett and the kids couldn’t make it over.  Dad bought an ice cream cake (with gluten.  Sorry, Ben, but I have a feeling you are pigging out on gluten in Heaven anyway) and had it decorated like this…

IMG_6119

… but since Lisa failed to make it to the party, I redecorated it …

IMG_6120

Tough luck, sister.  That’s what you get!  (Not that it matters … I was always the favourite child anyway.)

The kids wrote me a beautiful card …

IMG_6146

… and bought me some flowers and hand cream I had been wanting for about a month.  I love it.  Everyone else thinks it smells horrible.  Oh well.

One final note about the weekend … I woke up with a migraine on Saturday.  As in, I opened my eyes and two seconds later I realized a migraine was coming on strong.  I’m probably the only person in the world who can get a migraine before her day even begins. In any case, I am sick of the migraines and the medications, none of which work.  So I took a spontaneous step and drove myself to the local tattoo and piercing parlour where they stabbed me by hand (it hurt something fierce) through the part of the ear that is said to be an acupuncture point to prevent migraines.  So here is my new teenager-looking ear:

IMG_6137

The top piercing I did actually get as a teenager.  The middle one is the one to prevent migraines.  I’m not so sure how well that will go over at work, but if it stops the migraines then everyone should be grateful.  And if you’re wondering what is on my head, that is a turbie towel.  I just got out of the shower.  Funny side note – I told Jaime that one of the coolest things about her Dad was that he never, ever tried to voice his opinion on anything I did regarding piercings or tattoos, even though it wasn’t until the very end of his life that he became “ok” with tattoos and got his own.  When I got my first tattoo he drove me to the parlour.  When I pierced my nose, he just smiled.  When I came home from Vegas with my second tattoo he said he liked it.  So I know he’s just nodding and smiling right now and saying “It’s your body Wendy.  You get to decide.”  How I loved that about him.

All in all it was a decent weekend.  Another “first” without Ben.  I talked to him a lot this weekend, and I’m so glad that bluetooth is a “thing” now because the other people driving by me likely assume I’m on the phone.  I’m not.  I just like to talk to Ben while I drive.  For some reason talking to him in my head just doesn’t do it for me.  I need to speak the words out loud.

I miss you very much tonight, Ben.  We all do.  Thank you for teaching us resilience by example.  We really wish you were here, but we are managing.  And we are keeping your memory alive.  xo

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.  And to the best one – my own.

Thinking Out Loud – Part Deux

Some days it’s just hard to get out and find ways to fill up all the empty space in order to crowd out the loneliness.  It is still a rare occurance for me to have a day that is not filled up with all sorts of “must do’s”, but today happened to be one of those rare, empty days.

I erringly assumed that without a slew of appointments scheduled I would be able to stay calm and relaxed and enjoy some quiet time.  I went for a mani / pedi, but surprisingly that did not fill the void.  There was a time in the not so distant past when a good mani / pedi had me on a high for a solid three days.  Four, if I followed it up with a glass of wine, and five if I went with a good friend.  Sadly, not so anymore.

I wonder if I will be searching forever for ways to fill the void?

I came home and did some half hearted puttering in the garden, but that didn’t do it either.  I went for a haircut but spent most of the appointment trying to stifle a panic attack so that I didn’t look like a complete crazy woman in front of a hairdresser I have never met before.

Truth be told, part way through the appointment I was eyeing up the clippers and contemplating pulling a Britney Spears, circa 2007.

IMG_5957

I came home from the hairdresser and found my office floor finished, minus the baseboards …

IMG_5958

… but even the new floors didn’t make it better.

I poured a bath so that I could hide and spend some alone time with my anxiety without scaring Raegan, who seems to have taken over the mothering roll in this house.  (I’m guessing my shrink would not think that was cool.)  I thought that perhaps a good cry in the tub might solve the problem, but the tears, much like my sanity, were also not to be found. WTF.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up and remember that 365 days earlier I woke up on a sunny April 26th and wrote Thinking Out Loud – Part One.  I distinctly remember thinking that Ben was going to die. And soon. That I was never going to see seventy years old with him.  But at that particular moment I still had him.  Blink.  He’s gone.  I’m jealous of me from one year ago.

I have to work in the morning, and I do not want to go.  How do I possibly explain that it is the anniversary of the day I woke up with Ben’s arm stretched out towards me, and how it is the anniversary of the day I snuggled right in?

I do not want to get out of bed tomorrow.  Maybe not the next day either.

I’m sick of “life goes on.”  Because Ben’s does not, does it?

The Happy “This Time Last Year” Memories are Officially Over

Its happened.  At 5:20 pm tonight I crossed that dreaded line where all my happy memories of “this time last year” now officially involve cancer.  With a small “c”.

cross-the-line

At 5:20 pm on April 10th, 2015, Ben told me he had cancer.  One year ago today.  365 days. I can still hear his voice as he spoke the words.  It haunts me.  I can hear the fear in his voice as though I’m hearing it again right now while I type these words.  “Where?”  I asked.  “In my kidney and in my bones.” He cried, and I knew right then that there was to be no happy ending.

Yes, over the next few weeks we briefly had a slight reprieve where we were told the cancer was on the bone instead of in it, and I allowed myself to think that it might be possible to at least buy him some years of treatment.  Maybe in that time a cure might be found.  But in short order we learned that the bone scan was wrong and the cancer was in fact in the bone.  And everywhere else.  And spreading rapidly.

How we cried the day we heard that.  I have to actually shut that memory down because it hurts too much to handle right now.

Just when we thought things could not get any worse, July 14th rolled around and that day we discovered that Ben did not have kidney cancer, per se.  He had collecting duct carcinoma.  A rare and incurable cancer without even the teeniest, weeniest chance of survival. Nada. Nothing.  Not a damn hope.  No one knows why it happens.  “Just bad luck” we were told. There is literally no rhyme or reason for it and there is no known effective treatment. It is so rare, that if there is one thing you do not have to worry about in life it would be getting this type of cancer.  You have a better chance of winning the lottery.

When we first heard the words “collecting duct carcinoma,” Ben left the room to be sick and I asked “How long?”  The resident oncologist looked at me and said, “One month? Three months?”  I never could write that in this blog before now because I never told Ben about that conversation.  But thats what happened.  One to three months.  That oncologist did not know The Titan very well, because Ben went on to fight for another six months minus one day.  And every single moment of every single day I lived in fear.  To amuse myself and take my mind off the horror I often thought, “this day last year we were …. (insert happy memory here).”

Anyway, now I have crossed the line where every memory of the past year is now surrounded by cancer crap.  I have dreaded this day for months and here it is.  Bam.

I miss you so much Ben.  I want to see you and talk to you again.  I texted your number the other day, just to see what would happen.  You didn’t respond.