I was scrolling through my personal blog recently, because I like reading what I wrote while Ben was still alive. Re-reading my words allows me to remember certain days with clarity. For a moment I can close my eyes and feel myself back in my real life when Ben was alive. And even though those days were terrible for him (pain, chemo, radiation, more pain), the saddest day with Ben in my life was still better than any one day could ever be without him.
Towards the end of summer in 2015 I was getting desperate. I knew that it was only a matter of time before Ben died, but he made it clear that type of thinking / talking was off limits. That meant we didn't get to discuss anything about what life would look like without him. I didn't get to tell him that we would remember him, and honour him, and talk about him. I didn't get to tell him that he would always be my number 1, and that I would miss him every single second for the rest of my life. I didn't get to tell him that my heart would break and would never fully heal, that scars would remain that would remind me constantly of a life I would no longer have.
So I wrote him this love letter, in a way that we would normally banter back and forth. In a way I hoped wouldn't scare him. In a way I hoped would let him know the depth of my love and how deeply I would miss his presence when he was gone.
My Dear Ben … you know I have loved you almost from the moment I met you.
There are plenty of people out there in this world who love you deeply, but none as deeply as I. This is a truth that I know without a shred of doubt. Here’s how I know:
I am the only person who is constantly exposed to your flaws. I am the only person who, for two and half decades, has seen you at your worst, your angriest, and your saddest. I am the only person who has seen it all every single day of your entire adult life. I am the only one who truly knows the real you. And still I love you.
When I think about the fact that I am the one person chosen to be your other half, I feel so blessed. How lucky am I?
The rest of the world merely gets to see you at your best, which is a great way to see you, but its easy to love people when they are minding their manners. Every day for 23 years I have been blessed to be the one to bear witness to the good, the bad and the ugly. I have been blessed to have been the only person you trusted enough with your real self. I love you more deeply then I could adequately describe.
For any single moment in our life together that I may have failed to recognize how lucky I was, I am truly sorry. I mean that.
When I was 22, I did not fully understand the trust you were placing in me by choosing me above all others. I’m not sure I fully understood that until recently. I think it may take others a full lifetime to begin to grasp that idea. Some may never get there, and instead they will just casually walk away when the going gets tough. If there is one thing I am grateful for in this entire, shitty situation, it is the fact that I have been able to suddenly understand / see / feel what others often never do. A deep, profound, honest understanding of what love really is. I feel lucky to know that.
I think most people grasp the idea that love is not really about the biggest ring, the nicest house, the newest cars and the best vacations. Many settle comfortably into that area of love where they feel lucky if they have someone to laugh with, who is happy to see them when they come home at the end of the day, and who rubs their back when they have the flu and are vomiting endlessly. And they should feel lucky, because many don’t even have that after a few years together.
But you and I, we have all that and so much more. We are definitely not perfect, but boy do we have more than that. And if I was asked for ten reasons why I really, really love you, I would not say things like “he brings me flowers” or “he rubs my feet” (partly because you do not. haha.) I would say this:
a) At 23 years old I mentioned that I may not wish to change my last name when when we got married. You said, “OK.” I said that I wanted us to both have the same last name, and why shouldn’t it be my maiden name? You said, “OK.” (I call liar on that one, but I loved you for your response, anyway.) You suggested we randomly change our last name to Aachmed because it sounds funny and is always at the beginning of the alphabet, and you meant it. (I am glad I was the one who held fast to common sense that time.) You made me laugh.
b) At 23 years old we found out I had cancer, and you never showed any fear. You very matter of factly came to my appointments and my surgery. Later on you lied to my parents about the recurrence when I asked you to. (Then you caved and told the truth when Mom pushed you, but it was a good try. Thank you) You brought me Smarties and People Magazines after every general anesthetic for the next year.
c) For the next decade I was consumed with fear over my health. At times the fear was debilitating and it deprived us of many moments of happiness when I couldn’t see past it. You stuck with me. You took over the care of the kids when I couldn’t do it, you rubbed my back to help me fall asleep, and you listened to my ramblings. You constantly tried your best to teach me about the power of positivity, and you never quit on me. You were always my source of strength when I had none.
d) At 24 years old I saw the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life, running across the floor of our home. I trapped it but was too scared to do anything else. You are also petrified of spiders, and you were at work at the time. When I called you, you came home. On duty. In uniform. You helped me trap the spider in a tupperware container and then, being too scared to kill it, we drove it into town and pepper sprayed it. (Interesting fact…. pepper spray doesn’t affect spiders). We still laugh about that.
e) At 27 years old you fell off a roof when arresting a bad guy and broke your tailbone. Shortly thereafter I went into labor with Zak, and you stayed by my side even when you physically couldn’t stand up due to pain and had to lay down on the dirty hospital floor. But you stayed to welcome your son into the world. And you glowed when you held him. And lets face it … its not a secret that Zak was not a cute baby. Still, you glowed with pride. (For anyone reading this who doesn’t know Zak … rest assured he was extremely cute by the time he was 3 months old. He remains exceptionally handsome to this day. He looks like his Dad)
f) At 31 years old you had a boss who worked so much overtime that he nearly doubled his yearly salary, and he bragged to you that he worked so much that he had never managed to make it to one of his kids’ birthday parties. You, on the other hand, never missed even one of our kids birthday parties. Ever. To this day. How I love you for that.
g) At 32 years old you stayed entirely calm when we thought my appendix was bursting. You were reassuring and solid, and the only reason I knew you were scared was because of the speed with which you drove me to the hospital. You have always been my rock.
h) At 38 years old I had a major knee surgery and was stuck on the couch in a full leg cast and in unbelievable pain. In the evening you tucked me in on the couch, brought me everything I needed, left the phone by my side so I could call you upstairs if I needed anything, and then went off to bed. When I became violently ill, you flew downstairs in your underwear and cared for me for me under what is best described as ‘utterly disgusting circumstances’. And then, when I was too sick and too scared for you to leave my side, you curled up all 6’2″ of yourself on our tiny loveseat next to the couch, with only a baby blanket to cover you, and stayed there all night while I slept. Just so I would feel secure.
i) At 44 years old you discovered our beloved baby had an addiction problem and was headed rapidly towards death. You were there for him instantly. You supported him with words and with actions. While others criticized us, passed judgement, or simply ignored our circumstances, your emotional support for our child never waivered. In addition, you did not hesitate for one moment to spend thousands and thousands of dollars that we did not have to ensure he received the best chance possible. You are part of the reason we have been given back our most amazing son. You are part of the reason that the world now gets to experience the wonder that is our boy.
(and let me point out here again that you did not hesitate one second to find money we didn’t have to pay for our son’s return to health. So when I beg you to return to the naturopath and let them work in conjunction with the oncologist, and you refuse to go simply because of the expense, it kind of makes me want to slap you. I am not asking you to choose between saving your own life or saving our child’s life. I am asking you to put the same importance on saving your own life. Our son is alive and thriving. Its your turn to allow yourself to be cared for. I would sell anything and everything if it will help you. Given the choice, that is what each of our kids would choose too. “Things” do not matter, my love. You matter.)
j) At 46 years old you were diagnosed with cancer. Horrible, horrible cancer. And you kept that most horrifying news to yourself until all the tests were complete, so that you wouldn’t needlessly scare me. You remained my rock, even when it was you who needed a rock to lean on. You still thought of us first.
k) At 46 years old you have battled and kicked and punched this awful disease on a daily basis. And while sometimes you can still be a bit of an ass, more often then not you do everything with a smile on your face. I know you do that so we will not be scared. You stay positive, not only for yourself but for us too. You continue to do everything you can around the house. You continue to support the kids, to be there for them, to talk to them. Whenever possible you still fight through the pain to spend time with them. Because of your strength, they barely notice that you are sick. They understand, but your strength allows them to pretend you are well. I don’t think there is a better gift you could give them. Some day they will understand what you have done for them. Each of them would name you as their hero.
I guess that was eleven reasons, and I could still go on. I find new reasons every day to love you just a little bit more. And even though cancer has not eradicated your occasional ability to still be an ass, I find lately that the list of “Reasons Why Ben Can Be An Ass” gets shorter and shorter. None of that really seems so important anymore. I’m grateful for that.
A few weeks ago I looked at you and told you how much the kids and I need you. That you must win this fight. That you cannot quit. You looked back at me, and through your tears you said, “I know.”
I have felt horrible about that moment ever since, and I have been riddled with guilt for putting such an overwhelming sense of responsibility on your shoulders.
So, here’s what I really want you to know ….
I do need you. We need you. Given the choice, I do not want to live a moment without you by my side. We were made for each other. I know this to be true because I have low tolerance for many others (lol) and yet I am still here with you. There is no one else I want to grow old with, nor could there ever be. That is a fact.
The kids and I anticipate that the end result is that you will kick the shit out of this disease. We believe that you, our hero, will kick the shit out of this disease. But we know this is the hardest fight of your life, and I want you to be able to focus on what you need to do for yourself, and not worry about us. So I do not want you to bear the pressure of feeling that you have to fight for us. I just want you to focus on you. And I want you to know that we will all be ok. Whatever may come, we will be ok. We will be ok because we have learned from watching you. You have taught us well. You have been the best example of resilience, perseverance, and positivity. Not just in the face of this wretched disease, but through your entire life. You are a truly amazing man who has overcome obstacles that most are not aware of. I am endlessly and forever able to provide examples of your awesomeness to our kids.
You will never hear me say that I am grateful for cancer. I am in no way grateful for cancer at all. I hate that effin disease and I cannot wait until it is eradicated. But I am grateful for the opportunity we have been given to think about how lucky we are as a family – to have each other, to love each other, to appreciate each other. Every moment is special to me now. As I watch you, I see you feel the same, because you have been loving us softer.
I do not have the talent to express in writing exactly what I am feeling, but I hope this gives you a bit of an idea. You have given us everything. You do not owe us anything. We love you every minute. We always have. We always will. We want all your focus to remain on yourself and your own health. Thats all. But you must drink the green juice I make you every day. I insist.
I remain forever grateful for my life with you. You are an Honourable Man. You are a Solid Husband. You are a Marvellous Father. You are my Best Friend. You are Less Of An Ass Lately. You are my Only One. Also, I know all your secrets so you are stuck with me. You Frustrate and Challenge Me.
With appreciation, gratitude and love,
Your Bride xox