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Honouring Memories On Your Special Day

10 Apr


Dear Ben,

It’s your birthday again. You would have been 46 today. Since I have known you, April 10th has always been a very special day to me, and I am honouring this day again. The last birthday you celebrated on this Earth was your 41st, and while the time may be swiftly passing, year after year, it is with due consideration that I stop to acknowledge your life and take stock of the Earth-bound years we shared together, and the many before that that I knew much about from all your stories. You cherished the memories of your past, both the good and the bad, and it was important for you to share them.

You were born in 1969. You grew up as a teenager in the 80s, developed as a young man in the 90s, and then a decade after that we finally met when you spent the final chapter of your life with me. Between all those years, you led a packed life of adventure, achievement, love, sorrow, struggle, pain, introspection, enlightenment, and many fun times as well, filled with laughter and good humour. I have to say that you also experienced all those sensations even in the short four-and-a-half years that we were together. Those years were nothing if not crazy active and emotionally provocative. It was a roller coaster ride – many ups and downs.

You almost made it until you were 42, and since then I still try to hold on to the memories that we shared. My memory of details in the past is bad, though, but fortunately I have many photographs that document our journey together to bring those memories back to life in my mind, as well as here, in words. And perhaps it is a good thing as well that all of those photographs depict the positive experiences we shared!


River tubing in Dominica.

When I think of your birthday, for example, April 10th, 2009 comes to mind. That was the year we went on a cruise for your 40th birthday. I knew we would be on the island of Dominica in the Southern Caribbean on April 10th, so I gifted you with an adventure I knew you would love: tubing down the river rapids, like you used to do down the Cowichan River. That was a fun time.

What was not fun, though, I remember, was your feet getting so badly burned as you didn’t put sunscreen on them. You always did crazy things like refusing to wear sunscreen or taking other safety precautions in life, because you thought you were invincible. And judging by the many close calls you had in life, at the time, I was pretty much in agreement with that perception! Those burns on your feet made a permanent imprint that never went away, and perhaps that can pose as a metaphor for the memories I would also like to have imprinted in my mind forever.

Boquita and Ben.

Boquita and Ben.

On that trip, you also showed your innate love and care of animals to me, particularly dogs. I knew that a deep compassion for all beings dwelled inside of you, and that’s a large part of what drew me to you. We met a street dog named Boquita, sitting outside a Walgreen’s with her heroin-addicted guardian, and you fell in love with this sweet creature. You sat with her and petted her, and bought her food and water, wishing you could do more.

It was not easy to communicate with her guardian as he mostly only spoke Spanish, but the next year when we returned, we asked around for “la perra Boquita” and we found her! You gave her love again, and I recall you even helping her guardian as well by bringing him painkillers to help him with his drug withdrawal. You were a kind, deep-hearted soul and it was always within you to do good for others. This, in my opinion, was what defined you as a citizen of this Earth.

I like to think that you’re still experiencing “life” here with me in some way. I sometimes will do things or see things, for example, that I know you would love. A movie, a fast car, a Border Collie. I have often remarked to my sister “Ben would love to see this”, regretting that you’re not there to share this experience with me. But her response is always “he probably is”, and I hope she is right, acknowledging the possibility that you’re everywhere now, and you have the ability to do anything now, with no barriers to overcome.

In writing this today, I just welcome our memories to permeate through my soul and to acknowledge your life here on Earth, in a place where your presence may only be seen now perhaps in the rustling of the trees or the whistling of the wind. Today I honour you, Ben: the experiences you lived, the joy and pain you felt, and the person you were. Happy Birthday, my soul mate. xoxo


Birthday celebration in the Caribbean ocean.

Birthday celebration in the Caribbean ocean.

“The guy who passed away….”

10 Feb


Hello my Soul Mate,

It’s that day again. February 10th. A day that is just another ordinary day for many, but not for me. This February 10th, the four year anniversary of your death, I am particularly conflicted by difficult emotions that seem to be uncontrollably arising above my usual moderated surface. I went to bed early last night, feeling unusually drained and emotionally stifled, hoping it would be better in the morning. It’s taking me longer than normal to form the feelings into words this year, but I have to do it, and so here we are.

I had a dream about you several nights ago. I don’t remember now what it entailed, but I know it wasn’t one of the typical “Ben” dreams I have about you where, in my wildest depths of imagination, I discover that, via some form of a miracle – or gross soap opera-like misunderstanding –, you didn’t die after all, and that you are really alive!! It’s always the most joyous feeling for me, to know that this has all been a big mistake and that you’re really here and that you’ve come back to me, after living in absentia for these past years, only to make the reunion even that more meaningful and special. Two soul mates reunited, and then everything is better. It’s the best feeling in the world, and I just want it to last forever. But then I wake up and realize it was just a dream.

Yes, you’re definitely an abstraction in my subconsciousness, taking up residence always in the back of my mind. You surface in my dreams, but also, I imagine, elsewhere during my days. When I randomly talk to you, or say “I love you”, I can only envisage that what prompted my inner mind to speak to you was the fact that you must be there with me, watching me, alongside me. And you’re absolutely welcome to be here with me whenever you desire.

Yesterday you were referred to as “the guy who passed away”, by a friend of mine who never knew you. I don’t want you to be only known as an entity who was here before and is no longer. You were a vibrant, living being, and I want you to be recognized for your existence, your meaning, your life, your purpose, your impact in this world and your achievements, aspirations, thoughts and dreams.

People enter and leave this world on a daily basis, and four years ago, it was your turn to leave, but you left me here and your imprint on me is still marked strongly. What you left here with me was an impression of a vibrant soul and being that can never be extinguished from my soul. Your memories dwell inside of me, because you were too dynamic of a being for them not to. Your imprint is always there.

Nine years ago we found each other, and it was meant to be. I don’t think that’s something that just happens every day. Certainly once in a lifetime, for me. I found you when I was 30; now I’m 39. The world still slowly cranks by me, day by day, as you go on to live in another dimension that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I believe you’re happy, and that’s what matters to me. Go on, wherever you are, and I’ll catch up to you one day.

Ben's 39th birthday celebration - eating cake!

Ben’s 39th birthday celebration – eating cake!

Happy 45th

10 Apr


Dear Ben,

Happy Birthday!! You would have been 45 today. Hard to believe! I remember you couldn’t believe it that you had even reached your forties, as the thought of “getting old” was paradoxical to you. You always defied your age with your youthful looks and demeanor and will be now forever young until eternity.

Not just today, but often I think about the person you were throughout your rich and varied life, and the many different experiences that you encountered in just over two decades – more than some people have in a long lifetime. So many stories you told me from the years before I knew you, and the weaving of all those varied experiences together formed you into the person you were when I met you, with still room to grow.

I think about how unfailing cute you were when you were a little boy. This is when you began to carve out your independence that served as the building blocks for the capable man you were to become. Camping out for days at a time in the forest alone with only your dog Mandy as company, and driving your dad’s car (usually supervised) when you were only 8 years old! Yes, your hamster Champ used to have little seizures that would knock him out comatose, and once when this happened, you took it upon yourself, at 8 years old, to take the car and drive it on your own for the 20 minutes into town to rush him to the vet. Then again, guessing from the speed that you liked to drive, maybe it took you a lot less time to get there!

You were so cute, and I admire your childhood photos gleaming with energy from your smiling face and long-lashed eyes. You were full of fire and a sense of adventure that followed you into your teenaged and adult years to come.

When you were a teenager, you joined the regular forces of the Canadian Air Force, with the goal of becoming a doctor. I’m not sure if this is where your love for airplanes was born, but that ardent passion certainly followed you into adulthood when you would watch in awe at anything with a motor that flew. Had you not blown out your eardrum while diving for golf balls in a lake when you were a child, you would have become a pilot. Your next option in the military was considered, to become an MP (military police), but you instead heeded your father’s advice at that time to not take on the role of an instigator, and instead strove to help people in a more compassionate way.

You loved your time in the military and I know this could have been a life long career for you had you not been discharged because of your ensuing illness. The order, discipline, sense of pride and productivity drove your passion to excel. Lieutenant Bateman, I know you could have been Doctor Colonel Bateman if you had continued on that path! You had all the aptitude necessary to make it there. And on a side note, thank you for always polishing my army boots when I asked. I miss having my pristine boots that I can see my reflection in. You were always the example to follow amongst your comrades, and I deciphered this knowledge from the many stories that you shared with me about this meaningful and memorable part of your life.

Despite your illness forcing you on a different path at that time, your life took you in further fulfilling directions. So many I could write about, but maybe I’ll get to more of them next year. I feel that so many experiences and accomplishments were packed into the first 30 years of your life because God knew that those years were the only opportunity to get it all in. It is this example that continues to feed my own life mantra: to live life to the fullest, while you can. You did that for many years, despite believing you were invincible. The irony is that you weren’t, and it at least somewhat fulfills me to know that you experienced many rewarding moments in your life. And when I knew you, it was my utmost goal to keep you “living” and continuing to try to live life to the fullest.

We had many good times, amongst the pain. Many laughs, adventures, revelations, and sharing deep thoughts, aspirations, and an impenetrable bond. These memories are frozen in time, and you will remain forever young.

Another February 10th On Which To Reflect

10 Feb


Dear Ben,

Three years ago today, I was planning to go visit you at the hospice. But then I got called into work, so I did that instead. This was the day my soul mate died, and I never got to say goodbye.

The passing of time is all relative, I know. One year can seem like an eternity. Three years can seem like an eternity. For me, the past 1095 days have flown by – as time usually does for me –, and this is an interesting thing to ponder. Every February 10th, I reflect on what has happened for me in this time, and who I have morphed into as a person now, due to your death – an extremely significant event in my life.

I’ve been told that people – such as you – come into our lives with a specific purpose, and then leave when they do – such as you did – because that’s what was meant to be. So the short four-and-a-half years that we spent together were because that was all that was meant to be. This is a thought that is difficult for me to grasp, because I don’t want your existence here to have only have been “meant to be” for a mere 41 years. I don’t want to reduce a person’s life to one little conclusion that is set in a box and sealed up, and then put aside. You were much more than that.

But who am I to judge what plans were in place for the next realm of your being? Maybe you are having a much better time doing whatever it is you are doing these days, and I actually wouldn’t doubt it, because I can believe that where ever you are and what ever you are doing, at least it is all without pain.

It’s extremely disconcerting for me to consider and remember how much pain you were in before when I knew you (and for two decades before that no less). I only experienced a short amount of time with you during it, compared to the many, many years prior that you suffered before our paths crossed. I only wish that I had known you long before so that I could have been there with you to help make it better. But I could always only do so much, anyway, and now I guess it’s no longer relevant at all, as all of those turbulent times in your life (and mine) are over now – by three years, and more, fading fast. When it’s happening, it seems like infinity; when it’s over, the time flies by fast.

In the past three years, I’ve been really trying to piece my life back together, because I feel it was really a mess when you left. It has taken this long for me to finally get to a point where I feel I am starting to have a balanced and organized life again. I crave simplicity these days, to counter the craziness of what my life was before. And with every day comes another day following, providing even further opportunity for improvement. So I look at each day with anticipation, knowing that if I try, I have myself, and only myself, to make my world and my existence even better. Your death certainly taught me that we only have so many days here on this Earth to make our lives what we want from them, and there is really no time to waste in the process!

I’ve always been interested in the mystery of the “afterlife”, and even have some books on this subject, which I have not read yet. Once, years ago, you – a very selective reader – took it upon yourself to pick a book off my shelf entitled “What Happens When We Die”, and commence reading it. I hope you found the answers you were looking for, as you knew it was something that would be relevant to yourself much sooner than later. You always said, anyways, that you weren’t afraid of dying, and neither am I. Because I don’t think of it so much as “dying” rather than just passing over to a different place – a place where I will see my Benjamin again. That won’t be a bad thing.

Today, a quote from one of your favorite singers comes to mind: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….” Thanks for making me stronger, Ben. That is the primary consideration that I will take away from this anniversary of ours this year.

Fun in the sun.

Fun in the sun.

Another cycle around the sun – Happy Birthday, Ben.

10 Apr

A small slice of your life.

A small slice of your life.

Dear Benjamin,

It’s your birthday today!

April 10th will always be a very special day for me, for it marks the date that a very special person came into this world: you. You would have been 44 years old today, an age that is considered “middle” aged by most peoples’ standards, but not by your own life experience. I will always believe that your time here on earth was too short, that you were taken away far too early, and while that is not something that I wish to celebrate, what I do want to celebrate is the fact that you did exist here on this earth, and that you did make a mark on this planet in your nearly 42 years here. People appreciated you and loved you, and I know you made a difference in many peoples’ lives. I know that now because since you’ve been gone, so many of your old friends have reached out to me to convey to me the special place that you held in their life – and for that, I am grateful.

What I know is that you would want that. You would want to know that your existence made a difference. You always wanted to be acknowledged for your achievements, and I can understand that if you didn’t have at least that, now that you’re gone, that you would have no “legacy” to leave behind. We all wish to know that we’ve made an imprint on this world, and a positive one at that.

You did accomplish so much in your short life, even though you were sick during half of it, so do be proud of that. I know you continually judged your worth by the occupations that you had, and there were definitely many of those! Of the top of my head, I can say that at certain times in your life, you were: a ski patroller, a paramedic, a butcher, an Air Force officer, a military doctor’s assistant, a medic, a police officer, an autopsy assistant, a hospital lab tech, a security guard, and a security consultant. There could be more! (but that’s all I can think of for now)

During the time I knew you, you felt defeated because you could no longer push on at these “jobs” that made you feel important and useful in life. But I always tried to tell you that who you are as a person is not defined by the work that you get paid to do for a living. Who you are is defined by your character and your values, and what you stand for in life. I always saw so much potential in you to live out your true self to the fullest. It saddens me that there always seemed to be so many obstacles getting in the way for you. I tried to help you get past them, but it was just so overwhelming for one sick person and one healthy person to overcome. I do believe, though, that I did help at least somewhat.

For the past 2 years, I often think back to your life experiences, as I shared them with you. I would rather concentrate on the good than the bad, and this is why I tried to make many good memories for us in spite of all the hardships. It is more fruitful for one’s psyche to contemplate on the positive, but I didn’t do it just for myself. I was always thinking of the “memories” that you would be left with once you left from this earth, and I don’t know how that works at all, but I think that you must have some kind of memory now of what your Earth-bound life was like, and I truly hope that you are at peace with this. I want you to be happy, as always. I still think of your well-being, even though I know I can no longer carry responsibility for it.

You are so special and you will live on in me forever. Today is a day to be happy that you were born. You were born for a reason; you made an impact on me, and many others. I honestly can’t imagine a life in which I never knew you. Happy Birthday, Ben!


February 10

10 Feb

Well, this is really difficult for me: putting words to paper that express the thoughts and feelings that I am having on this special day. Special not in a good way, but special in a tragic way, because this day, February 10th, commemorates 2 years now that the love of my life, my soul mate and best friend, was taken away from me – and from the rest of us in this world.

A lot has happened in this past year, and in the year before that. Time flies by quickly – at least in my life, it does. And I guess that is a good thing, because this means that I haven’t stopped living, that I still have purpose for living, even though the once one most important thing (person) in my life is no longer here. Although I think about him every day, this yearly anniversary is a befitting time to evaluate my life as a whole, and to reminisce and contemplate the way my world and feelings are now, 730 days after my world once fell apart.

A lot happens to you on an internal level when you’re suddenly permanently separated from the one you used to share every day and every aspect of your life with. I can understand how, in both the human animal and non-human animal worlds, the half of the couple that is left behind can often wither away and die as well shortly after the partner is no longer there to ever, EVER share their life with them again.

Losing a partner to death is a lot worse than losing a partner for any other reason (ie. a break-up). The difference is that not only is it permanent, as in FOREVER, but you know that there is NO way that you can ever communicate with them on this plane we call Earth again, no matter how much you want to or how much you try. (unless you’re a gifted psychic person, which I am not)

Because I knew for most of our relationship that this day would eventually come, I took it upon myself to cherish, as much as possible, the time that we did have to spend together on Earth. No matter how difficult things got, I really tried to step back and appreciate the larger picture, which was: you’re here now, you’re with me now. You may not be in a year (or two) from now. So I need to value the time that we have together, right now, at this moment, because I know that it won’t always be like this. Life is too short to not make the best of it, however you can. That’s really true, and I wish everyone else knew it as well.

If there’s any knowledge that I can impart to people, from my experiences, I would say these things:

  • Live your life to the fullest extent that you can – you only have a finite amount of time here on this Earth, which could end at any time, so don’t wait too long to do the things that you truly want to do. Try not to let obstacles hold you back.
  • Live your life with purpose. Act now as the person who you want to be. Don’t wait. If you were to die tomorrow, would you be happy dying as the person you now exemplify yourself to be?
  • Try not to be petty in your relationships. When things aren’t going perfectly, be the bigger person and let them go. Be wholeheartedly grateful that they are alive. If you truly love this person, you will realize that you’d rather be happy with him or her now in this moment, rather than to not have him or her here at all.
  • Make positive memories with your loved ones now, while you can. In the future, there will no longer be an opportunity to make memories that you can reflect upon once they are gone.

Death is a permanent thing. What I hate the most is that I know that I can never experience any new minutes in life again with Ben. I can only reminisce about the ones in the past. So I am grateful that there were many, many good times that we had together that not only do I think about, but that I hope he is thinking about as well, where ever he may be. I prefer to focus on the positive; the negative is too depressing.

Last year, February 10th didn’t happen for me. I was on a plane to India on the 9th, and when we arrived on the ground, it was the 11th. So I never had the opportunity to mark the one year anniversary date, which is weird to me. It’s also strange to me to think that 2 whole years have gone by now. Two years is so much time that we could have had together! So much to do, so much to experience. His life experiences stopped, while mine continue on.

Thinking of you always, Ben.

Happy times.

Happy times.