Certain days of the year are harder for me than others. Some of those days are obvious. March 13th is Ben’s birthday. January 13th is Ben’s death day. September 24th is our anniversary. March 1st is the day we met. Obviously those are difficult days, and every year until the end of my time I will not need a calendar to know they approach. I will feel them deep in my heart and soul before my mind catches up.
The month of April also brings with it two other days that will forever make my soul ache.
April 8th. The day that Ben went to the doctor to receive the results of his MRI. The day he was supposed to be told whether he needed surgery or a simple cortisone shot to fix all his back pain. The day he was given the most shocking and final news that in fact his life was actually ending, and the lives of all those around him would be forever changed.
It was the day he had to process that he would never walk his daughters down the aisle, or hold his own son’s child, or know what amazing things his children would do with their lives. It was the day that his heart shattered and there was no one there to hold his hand as he cried. No one to offer comfort to him in his agony at that moment. No one to offer hope, and no one to save him. It was also the day I came home from work and became annoyed that the dishes weren’t done. A trivial detail, normally, but in this case one that hurts my heart and brings me pain when I remember.
April 10th. The day that I could feel that something was wrong but didn’t know what it was. The day I pushed that fleeting thought aside and decided not to go to work so I could instead take a “Wendy Day” to hang out with a friend and enjoy life. It was the day Ben went to the hospital alone to determine, essentially, how quickly he would die.
It was the day I drove down to the U.S. by myself while Ben took on the evening taxi duties for soccer practice. It was the day I sat at the stop light on 168th Street talking to Ben on the phone. It was the day I heard something wrong in his voice that I couldn’t quite pinpoint, but it told me that some shit was about to go down.
It was the day I arrived home and heard my doctor’s voice on our answering machine asking Ben to call him. It was the day I called Ben at the soccer field and raised my voice and insisted he tell me what was going on. Why was our doctor calling? It was the day I heard unbreakable Ben, break. It was the day I heard him say, “I have cancer. It’s in my kidney and my bones.” It was the day I broke and it was the day that Ben stayed calm and talked me through, on the phone, and forced me to pull it together and listen to his instructions. It was the last time he behaved like The Titan, giving me clear, concise instructions about who to call and what arrangements to make for our kids so that they wouldn’t see me break and so they wouldn’t be scared. There was time enough for that to come, and that wasn’t that time. April 10th was also the day that I broke my parents. Simple as that. I broke them.
Today is April 11th, three years later. This morning I woke up very aware of how I felt on this day three years ago. Terrified. I promptly opened my phone and saw a message from one of my many “Rocks” (as I privately refer to all the people who have held me up over the last three years). I don’t know if she realizes she’s one of my rocks, but from the very beginning this woman has had the freakishly unique ability to send the most random of messages at the exact time I need them, even if I don’t know I need them. She is a prominent piece in the puzzle of my life that continually presents itself in front of me in the moments where I am blind and cannot find what I’m looking for. I turn around and there she is.
Today this rock arrived in the form of a Facebook Message. She sent a copy of a speech given by the pastor of the Humboldt Broncos entitled “Where Was God?”
(For anyone who may be reading this blog post wondering “Who are the Humboldt Broncos?” I encourage you to take a moment and google the team name. In a nutshell you only need to know this: April 6th. Hockey Team. Young people. Transport Truck. Intersection. Fifteen people dead. Countless people’s lives changed forever. Endless fallout that will ripple out amongst family, friends, relatives, the hockey community, the emergency services community (who own a piece of my heart and I desperately hope they don’t get forgotten in all of this or written off as “it’s their job”) and every human being in the country who cares that the lives of so many were snuffed out in one tragic instant.)
I read the words of Pastor Sean Brandow and I felt his pain, but there was one thing he said that stood out for me as though the paragraph had been highlighted for me to read. He said this:
“I told my church this, this morning. I’ve never felt so empty in my life. I needed to be reminded of Jesus, I needed to hear from God in this darkness. I didn’t have anything to give because I wasn’t full of hope myself. As the verse ends, you know, may God fill you with that. God can fill you up so that you can be a blessing to somebody else, but if you don’t have hope, you can’t be a blessing to anyone else.”
If you don’t have hope, you can’t be a blessing to anyone else.
That one paragraph, that one sentence, made me reflect.
Three years after my life changed so tragically in the month of April, so now have the lives of countless others. They too will never pass another April 6th without thinking “this was the day my son got on that bus and never came back home.” Or “this was the day my wife / husband / parent / friend received such tragic news that they have been unable to lift themselves out of the darkness.” Today these people are currently without hope, in the same way that I was on this day three years ago.
But today, three years later, I now have hope. Maybe not every day, but some days.
As tragic as some days are for me, I know I am not alone. And in fact, the way I have travelled through my own experiences may provide some hope to others. There are days when I feel empty and I suspect there always will be, but there are also days now when I have hope. Until now, I thought that was enough. I thought it was enough to allow myself to have hope some days and to bask in that hope for as long as it may last. But now I realize that keeping my hope to myself is not enough. I need to be an example of hope. I need to pass my hope forward. I need to show my hope to others who may not have any. I need to let them know that even in the darkest of times, when hope is nothing but lifeless letters in a word that exists only between the pages of a dictionary, that the meaning of the word can still be seen alive and well in others who also once had no hope. I, and others who now have hope, can share ours as an example to those without it, until they can find their own again.
Anyone who has read my blog in the past knows that I don’t believe in comparing pain. I think there are differences in pain, but one cannot compare whether it is a greater loss to lose your spouse or your child, to lose your loved one to disease or a sudden tragedy, to lose someone to violence or to nature. Pain is pain.
The differences, perhaps, lays in the time that has passed since the tragedy occurred. The difference is that (in my case) I have had time to learn to breathe again and to hope again, while hundreds of people are, at this very moment, completely without breath. Completely without hope. And if there is any way I can turn the tragedy in my life into something more than just a raw, gaping hole, it may just be within my own power to show to others that on some days, I have learned to breathe and hope. Then maybe they will know that someday they will be able to do the same. Maybe I can give them hope. Maybe I can be a blessing to someone else.
This woman is my blessing today. Thanks, Christine, for being a freakishly unique Rock.