• Joshua Bentley

The 10th & 11th Firsts - Son's Birthday and Mother's Day


Sometimes it’s tough to know what to say about these firsts. There are so many emotions that get stirred up, it takes awhile to sort through them all. Another two firsts happened on the same weekend. I knew it was coming and I tried to prepare ahead of time. With the help of my counselor I made a great list of 5 Needs for the weekend. It’s kind of an aside, but here’s the list:

  1. Don’t avoid/isolate

  2. Be mindful of needs & feelings and communicate them

  3. Allow myself to feel my feelings and not judge

  4. Sleep (good sleep)

  5. Give myself permission to take healthy breaks

They were helpful and I managed to be successful in a few of them. And it’s OK that I didn’t nail all of them.


Kylun’s Birthday

May 10th was our son’s 19th birthday. It was hard for me not to have my bestie there, just like it was with Ember’s birthday in January. I did manage to get a card and gifts on time. Belinda brought cheesecake for him (one of his absolute favorites) and we still lit candles and sang and everything. For those of you who don’t know, Joni had a beautiful voice. I always keyed off of her for the Birthday song. Now it fell to me to lead it. And while I don’t have a bad voice, my confidence was definitely challenged. In talking to Kylun later, he said it was a fine birthday. From my standards, it wasn’t the spectacular blowout I wish every birthday could be, but we got through it. I felt wistful at times, but tried to move that into laughter and pleasant memories of how Joni would be at birthdays.


Mother’s Day

This is one holiday I anticipated being difficult. It seems like when I anticipate a holiday being difficult, I prepare for it well and it doesn’t end up being that hard. We had planned to hold to our normal traditions for the sake of consistency and normalcy. This included church, lunch at one of Joni’s favorite restaurants, and going to Home Depot to buy flowers and plants for her garden. I knew it would be a mixed bag emotionally, but it ended up being harder than I expected. Interestingly enough, the emotions didn’t strike me until a couple of days later.


What made Mother’s Day so hard to start off with was that Ember (our youngest) came into my room in the middle of the night complaining of a stomach ache. She frequently startles awake (usually when she has to pee) and has some adrenaline running in her system which makes her stomach upset. As it turns out, this was the real thing: evacuation. From the attic and the basement. I’ll say no more. I tried giving her some of the anti-nausea meds we have (another thank you to my precious Joni), but that didn’t seem to help and by the time Mother’s Day morning rolled around, she was not doing any better and was showing signs of dehydration so I had to take her to the Children’s ER about 30 minutes from our house. (Not a big fan of the one closest to us.) So 1) it was another ER trip and 2) Ember went to the ER last Mother’s Day for other gastrointestinal issues. I hadn’t even remembered that, but Ember pointed it out then I joined her in feeling yucky in the pit of my stomach. Not because of a bug, but because Joni was alive at this time last year and willingly took Ember and spent all Mother’s Day with her in the ER. What a woman!


So here I am having to take care of my child, which I do not begrudge in the slightest, and having to put my emotions on hold so I can function as her support. The entire day required that I set those feelings aside so I could do what I needed to do. And as the day waned on, I felt like all the grief was going to come spilling out the second I got some alone time. Ember got some anti-anxiety meds because she really hates hospitals and needles, then got an IV of fluids. Everything else seemed fine and her upset tummy gradually got better over the week.


Mine did not. The aching and grief that I was holding onto did indeed spill out. I spent Sunday night grappling with it, Monday kind of zoning out from being so tired over the weekend, and then Tuesday night following hanging up some pictures in our house I cried before falling asleep. Seeing the pictures of Joni and our family were triggers. I don’t want to feel like I can’t look at her in pictures! I thank God that I was seeing my counselor the next day because I really needed help sorting through my emotions. My heart aches for her, longs to have her back. In that longing is a mix of sadness that I lost her, anger that she’s gone, rage at cancer, helplessness to do anything about it (an all too familiar feeling), confusion in what to do with my emotions and processing this in conjunction with my relationship with Bella. But the biggest thing for me is the longing, the wishing this was a nightmare that I would wake up from.


Most of you don’t know this, but for YEARS while we were married I had recurring nightmares about her leaving me. In the dreams, it was usually because she decided I was ridiculous and didn’t want to put up with me anymore, or she began ridiculing all of my insecurities, or she found someone else. “But they’re just bad dreams,” she and I would both say to me. Except...they weren’t just nightmares. Now they’re my reality. She left me. Not by choice, of course. I know that, so please don’t correct me. But she’s still gone.


And that night I wept as I talked to her and God. I asked all the questions that have no answers and begged for things I know are impossible, but they were tears from my heart.


Mother’s Day Redux

Wednesday was a hard day at times, and I wasn’t able to finish writing this very post. But I got through those moments and looked forward to the afternoon/evening. Because we didn’t get to observe Mother’s Day as we wanted, we decided to do it Wednesday. Everyone was off work or out of school so we decided to do all the things we wanted to do (except church). First, we went to Home Depot and bought veggies for the garden - many of which she herself would have chosen - and flowers for the front yard. Some of the flowers we’ve grown before and wanted to get to honor her, some of them were new for us and ones we wanted to plant to honor her.


We came home and all worked in the garden together and I smiled and said that mom would love that we were all working in the garden together. She loved that - working alongside family in the garden. When it started pouring rain we decided to go out for Thai food, her favorite. After dinner we went to a new ice creamery in town, which she also would have loved, then we finished the evening by watching the UK version of Whose Line Is It Anyway, one more of our favorite things to watch together. All in all it was a wonderful day and I know that Joni would have loved it. We had a good time laughing and even though it was hard, it was still fun and I knew she would be proud of how we handled it.


Thanks for reading.


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