Don't Take The Boy

Last Monday was just an average day. I had some running around to do and appointments to attend. A pre Vegas hair colour, a dentist appointment... that sort of thing. Nothing too crazy or anxiety inducing, and the panic I tend to experience on the daily remained at a reasonable low for the most part.

I ended the day by attending a relaxing yoga class with a friend of mine. It was exactly what I needed to wind down and I was well on my way to feeling the zen when, for no reason at all, a most unwelcome memory popped into my mind.

The memory was of a text Ben sent me from the hospital shortly before he died. Death was inevitable and it coming fast, and every moment felt like we were staring down the barrel of a shotgun. I had spent the entire day with him and had gone home in the middle of the night to be with the kids and make sure they were safe. I crawled into bed, texted Ben "I love you" and he texted back saying “I don’t want to die.  I have so much to live for.”

At that moment I felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and thrown across the room. I texted back and told him that I didn’t want him to die, but i did not say “You aren’t going to die.” To deny his pending death seemed wrong to me. It just seemed so dismissive to say “oh, don’t be aren’t going to die.” He was indeed going to die.  So many people had spent the nine months after his diagnosis in denial, and that had angered me to no end. There was nothing helpful about denying what was to come, because denial has not been proven to be an effective method of curing cancer. So instead I told him that he was leaving a legacy in his three kids. And he responded that “legacy or not” he still didn’t want to die, he wanted to fight. He didn’t want to die.


Ben died eight days later, and my mind still cannot fathom how we could be texting on January 5th and he was dead on the 13th.

And oh my God, that moment in time is one of the most agonizing memories I have. It will never leave me. It is burned into my memory permanently and will remain there until the day I die. Maybe longer. It is nothing short of torturous to remember that My Ben lay in the hospital not wanting to die and when he told me, I couldn’t help him. I look back on that text now and think “what the fuck was I thinking?” Why didn’t I go back? Why didn’t I crawl into that hospital bed with him, wrap my arms around him and tell him I didn’t want him to die? Beg him to please not leave me?

I know why. The inevitability of his death had become my norm. I was exhausted. Achingly exhausted. It was 4:43 am and I had been with him all day and half the night. I had kids at home that needed to be cared for, and my body cried out for sleep. I was so fucking tired. But none of that matters. It doesn’t matter how tired I was, or how much I was needed at home. All that matters is that I did not go back to him in that moment. I offered to but he said “no” and so I didn’t. How could I not go back? How could I leave him all alone with those thoughts? I would NEVER want to be alone with those thoughts, that fear, that pain. All alone in the hospital.

I hate myself when I recall that night, and those are the types of thoughts and memories that invade my mind space at the most inconvenient of times. For anyone who believes that “time heals all wounds,” you should know that is far from the truth. As long as you have the ability to remember, not even time can heal a pain so great. I don’t go seeking those particularly painful memories, but they come and find me at the most inopportune moments and they take my breath away. They make me cry. They make me feel like it is happening all over again. They make me feel like a terrible wife, and a less than adequate human. They make me want a do over. I want a do over.

When we left yoga on Monday night we pulled out of the parking lot and a song that Ben and I used to listen to almost 25 years ago came on the radio. “Don’t Take The Girl” by Tim McGraw. 1994. I remember listening to it with him 100 times, and then we stopped listening to country music and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard it since. And there it was, suddenly playing on the radio in 2017 and I was transported right back to 1994. Back to when Ben was a boy, and I was a girl, and our lives stretched out endlessly before us.

Now it’s 2017 and the girl wasn’t taken but the boy was. I miss that boy, and the memories hurt me and haunt me. His pain ended, but mine did not.

I am finishing this blog post on a flight home from Vegas, and I feel that familiar panic coming over me. It is taking every ounce of my strength to not scream out loud that Ben Saint-Onge once existed and that he didn’t want to die. I want to feel Ben’s calming presence and I want to hear his voice talk me down from this ledge, but instead I am alone on this plane beside a stranger taking up too much of my breathing room, trying to calm myself.

I didn’t want that boy to be taken. I want him back.

Showing 5 reactions

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  • commented 2017-11-12 19:05:10 -0800
    I will be approaching five years in January. The memories of my husband and who he was continue to haunt me everyday. I am now resigned to knowing that I cannot seem to go more than 48 hours without crying. Something I remember about him always triggers the tears.

    I cannot wrap my head around the fact he is dead. Dead. I don’t know what that is other than he is in a box sitting on my living room table. How is it possible he is gone? How is it I will never see him again? How am I supposed to pretend that this life means anything to me without him. It doesn’t.

    I hate it. I wonder what it would take to be able to end it. I certainly cant seem to use the means I have.

    I have spent the whole time trying to understand: why I am so devastated. Why nothing means anything to me anymore. Why I have such a hard time talking to people. Why I don’t want to live. Why cant I end it. Why is every decision a reminder of him and how hard it is to decide. And then hating the fact I have to do it all on my own. Most of all I don’t want to be here on my own. I want him back. I want to hold him in my arms again and know the comfort of his body against mine. I want for nothing else. I wonder how people who are single or never had the kind of love I had, how do they live life and find joy? Why cant I find any if they seem to?

    Essentially I wonder how long my brain and body will hold out under this kind of stress. When I drop into my meltdowns I just pray that it ends soon because the meltdowns are simply horrible now. Painful. Physically painful. I have to prop myself into a position and cry it out because if I don’t I am bound to erupt again in short order.

    This has been the worst time of my life. Of course we had fights. Of course he or I would get pissed at each other. But I have never felt so abandoned. So out of my element. So angry that I have been left behind. I don’t know what it takes to get to a point where you simply refuse to take anymore but after this long I can only hope nature gets me soon.
  • commented 2017-11-06 23:41:42 -0800
    Even though it’s been six and a half years your story takes me right back to my worst memories. We all share that singular moment in time when our world caved in. We did the best we knew to do at the time, but the guilt still hangs on. Hugs to you
  • commented 2017-11-06 23:03:12 -0800
    Wendy, I too can relate. My husband struggled with cancer for 5 years and I, as you did, had to watch my beloved face death. It was 5 years of feeling helpless amidst passing time. When he passed, the guilt was and is overwhelming. How could I let this happen?? I was his WIFE, for God sakes, the one that was supposed to make this all go away. I should have done more, given him more hope, held him just a little bit more every day. When I told someone these thoughts, they said, oh you think you’re God?? No, and yet, the guilt still comes. Because the love is so deep, and i would have done anything to keep him here. The only thought that eases the guilt that haunts me are all the times he told me that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I truly loved him beyond words. I look forward to the day when we are together again, I hold onto that. Wendy, I doubt anyone loses a spouse and doesn’t have guilt that haunts them, I think it’s a natural feeling when we love so deeply. One has to have been through it to understand.
  • commented 2017-11-06 19:45:21 -0800
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate. My husband, Paul died May 29th 2015. He was only 60. I struggle every single day with him being gone from my life. I too want him back. He was my whole life. Literally, he was. I realize that’s not healthy, but that’s the way it was. Sep 29th of 2016 I tried to end my life. I was so depressed, feeling helpless and hopeless. I gave up on life. I had always had hope, but I gave up. I have Bipolar disorder and I am always in a depressed, mixed or hypomanic-manic mood. It’s hard to have Bipolar disorder and have lasting relationships.
    Paul stood by me for 32 years. I don’t have a support system. It’s hard for me to let people into my life and know me. Most of the time I sabotage relationships before they even get started. It’s been a year since I was discharged from the hosp I spent three weeks in. I was hypomanic when I left the hosp, not knowing how to begin my life again. I was overwhelmed. Before long I became depressed again and have been that way till lately. I am presently in a mixed state. I’ve never lived alone and find it soooo difficult to do so. I am 60 years old.
  • commented 2017-11-06 16:05:59 -0800
    Be kind to yourself, Wendy. We all want a do over, but know that ain’t gonna happen. You did the best you could, no one can deny that. We all can understand your exhaustion, been there, done that. There isn’t a road map for any of us, we all have to figure it out as it comes at us. I’m 8 years in, still get hit by the music that was so much a part of our lives (we had a music store). “I want him back”…ditto. Peace to you.