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.

 

Stockings: To Hang Or Not To Hang

I reluctantly started pulling out Christmas decorations.  My nearest and dearest will be here Friday to help me set up Christmas, but I thought I’d get a head start because (knowing myself well) I will want to get rid of plenty of the old Christmas decor.  Why? (you ask).  I don’t really know, actually.  Partly because we have a lot of Christmas decorations and quite frankly I’m just not that into it anymore.  Partly because I have found that I like to change things just enough that it helps ward off the bad memories of 2015 but still allows me to retain the good ones.  I don’t know if that makes any sense to anyone reading this, but it does to me.

In any case, I pulled out most of the decorations and started separating them into two piles.  The I-don’t-want-to-see-this-anymore pile and the I-always-loved-this pile.  In doing so, I opened the box that holds our Christmas stockings.  I looked at them for about half an hour, switching my attention between the actual stockings and the mantle on which Ben installed five hooks to hang them.  And I cried.

Ben and I loved Christmas stockings.  Really for the last several years it was pretty much what we did for each other for Christmas.  Just the stockings.  Let me tell you, Ben was a great stocking stuffer.  He stuffed such a good stocking that I generally looked forward to it all year.  Truthfully, the reason he was so good at it was because he would tend to leave it until the last minute and then, out of desperation, he would spend far too much money on everything I had ever mentioned that I wanted throughout the year.  Gift cards, expensive underwear, sometimes new electronics, and all the latest and greatest gadgets.  I loved it. And Ben loved it too.

Every Christmas morning I would wait for the kids to open their stockings and for Ben to open his, just so that I could concentrate on what I knew would be a very exciting stocking. Those five minutes pretty much put me on a high through the next two months.  Sometimes three months if a new Iphone or Apple gadget had come out.

So when I pulled the stockings out this year I realized that on top of having to spend Christmas without My Love, I will never again get to experience his thoughtfulness in creating my yearly high.  Never.  Ever.  Again.  And so I cried.  Isn’t it enough that I lost one of the best parts of my life?  Isn’t it enough that I can’t hear his laugh anymore unless I filter through all my video clips and replay them over and over again?  Isn’t it enough that every morning I wake up and once again remember that he isn’t here?  Now I don’t get my stocking.  And while I would obviously give up every gift, every stocking for just five more minutes with him, I’m still sad that I won’t see that stocking again.  And I’m sad that I don’t get the opportunity to stuff his stocking either.

Which leaves me with the question …. how many stockings do I hang?  Where does Ben’s stocking go?  Where does my stocking go?  Is it sadder to hang them up and see them remain in the same spot on Christmas morning …. empty … or just to not hang them at all?

I don’t have an answer to that question yet.  I’m hoping it will come to me.

While I was filtering through the decorations I came upon this:

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This is the book in which I faithfully recorded every Christmas we had together from the early 90’s until 2014 when the book was finally full.  The irony is not lost on me that the last Christmas I was able to record was the last Christmas we were all together – happy and healthy.  I’m not so sure I would have wanted to record any memories from last Christmas.

I opened just the first few pages of the book, and every year I found one of these:

I sure will miss those cards.

I ordered a candle for Ben.  Specially made.  Inscribed.  It will remain lit every year. He deserves to be remembered.

On another note,  I have finally done what I promised to do last January.  I have managed to post the video clip of Zak honouring his Dad at Ben’s Celebration Of A Life Well Lived.  And so while I ponder the stocking question, here it is for your viewing pleasure.  This was actually one of the proudest moments of my life.

 

 

Four Short Months Ago …

Four short months ago I wrote a post entitled “Fear Be Damned.”  Check it out if you need to refresh your memory.  In that post I mentioned that Dr K had walked into the oncology appointment that week and commented on how awesome Ben looked. Sigh.  Ben did look awesome.  Hard to believe it was only four months ago.

That same week he took Zak to buy his first car, which looked like this:

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That was a good week.

Three short months later we found ourselves spending as much time together as we could in Ben’s last few days.  I turned on the video camera four days before Ben passed away, while he was listening to “our” song

I think I previously mentioned that a couple of weeks before Ben passed away, Zak was in a car accident and his car was written off.  It was bitter sweet recently to take this photo of him with his newly purchased truck. It was so great of my Dad to step in.  But every time I look at this picture I am struck by the fact that so recently it was Ben who stood by Zak.  That makes me very sad.

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Below is a link to a song by Pearl Jam that was played as we exited Ben’s service.  “Just Breathe.”  I listen to it every day.

I miss him so much.

Hug your families tight.  xo

 

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.

 

Foo Fighters!

I just got back from the Foo Fighters concert in Vancouver. Wow, what a great show and I got to see Gary Clark Jr. who opened for them. I had tickets to see a Gary Clark Jr. show a couple of years ago but I missed it because of work so it was a bonus to learn that Gary Clark Jr. would be opening for the Foo Fighters starting with the Vancouver show.

I wasn’t sure I would be going to the concert because of the amount of pain I was in but things leveled off today and I managed to get it somewhat under control with meds. So I made it, albeit hobbling, and had to have Zak throw up blocks behind me so people wouldn’t bump into me. It worked out just fine and we had a few laughs over it.

Gary Clark Jr. was pretty awesome. He ripped on his guitar, which was drenched in familiar fuzz. He sounded awesome.

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There were a couple of let downs though. First off, we had shitty seats for this concert. They would have been great seats if everyone had remained seated. But no one sits at a Foo Fighters concert. So I had an idiot across from me (and in my way) who was probably the Foo Fighters #1 fan. He stood the whole time, blocking my view of the stage and jumped around like a fucking moron all night – as if he was talking directly to Dave Grohl (lead singer) and that Grohl could actually hear him. Imagine one of those annoying #1 fans from a movie or TV show and it was that guy! I was ready to beat him down with a stick but instead I stood for certain songs and tried to see through this idiot’s flailing arms for others.

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Overall it worked out just fine. I stood for my favourite songs and didn’t really miss too much. The band played a lot of my favourites. Almost all of them. I had one minor embarrassing moment – I actually burst into tears (heavy flow) during one of their songs. Luckily, due to our positioning, Zak didn’t see me and everyone else was watching the concert. The song was “Walk” from the Wasting Light album. There is a passage in the song that struck home pretty hard. I knew it was coming and could feel the tears and emotions spike as it drew near. Grohl sang the passage with as much force as he did on the album. It was great. For those of you who are familiar with it or have the song, it starts at around the 2:45 mark. Love that song.

They played for almost 3 hours straight and peppered their performance with renditions of some famous Canadian songs like “Summer of 69”, “Cinnamon Girl” as well as “Under Pressure” by Queen and a partial Van Halen song or two. It was a typical Foo Fighters concert (from what I’ve read) and Grohl pre-warned everyone that the Foo Fighters did not do encores. He said “we are not going to pretend to leave the stage and wait until you clap loud enough to bring us back. Fuck that. We will just keep playing until they tell us to leave. How’s that!!” To which everyone responded with a roar and they broke into another song.

Zak and I had a great time and I picked up yet another t-shirt!

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