Finding the Pixie Dust in Difficult Milestone Dates

ALS,Walt Disney World
A PhotoPass photographer caught this moment in front of the Castle at Walt Disney World. It was actually the first time we returned after Ben’s ALS diagnosis in 2010

Today, July 6, marks the eighth anniversary of the day that Ben had a respiratory crisis and we ended up in the Emergency Room at Mount Sinai Medical Center.  For me, this is simply- or maybe not so simply- the date when everything changed. I have learned not to have expectations about how I will feel on these milestone dates, but it has remained a particularly difficult day. Even after all this time, I still wake up dwelling on events that occurred on that morning, when Ben said he could not breathe. I think of how we waited for the ambulance, not knowing what would happen. How ironic it is that today is International Kissing Day, because on that day he was connected to a ventilator and his mouth was covered with a  Bipap mask. For the next few weeks, before he agreed to a tracheostomy, our way of kissing was to blink our eyes tight and then I would throw him a kiss- he couldn’t use his arms or hands to throw one back.

In a post from a previous year (click here to read it) I recalled the details of that time. For a few years, I needed to rehash every one of those moments on this day, in particular. It was part of the way I processed grief and felt that I was demonstrating my loyalty to and love for Ben. I still struggle with that, but today I realized that I am finding a better balance between recalling memories and creating new ones. I do look for signs that Ben is with me and that he is okay with how I am living my life. I often ask him for signs.

I made plans to see one of my very favorite singers- Liz Callaway- at one of my favorite venues in New York City- 54 Below. I have loved Liz Callaway’s voice since the first time I saw her in the Broadway show Baby in the 1980s. Her voice is my go-to if I’m feeling happy, if I need a good cry or just want to get lost in beautiful tunes. It still feels a little uncomfortable to plan to do something where I will enjoy myself on a day that is definitely not enjoyable. But, as I have explained, I have begun to push myself and embrace however I feel. I actually went by myself, and although this highlighted my loneliness and aloneness, I liked the idea that I could just listen and relate to the music without being social or bringing anyone else into my thoughts. I don’t want to hear from anyone the cliches that I should keep living, that I should distract myself, or that Ben would want me to be happy. Sure, it’s all true, but it doesn’t matter.

As I said, I look for signs that Ben is with me and that I am making good choices that Ben would approve. Liz gave me several at this concert of “Screen Gems.” She began with “When You Wish Upon a Star.” A beautiful Disney song and one I have blogged about! I knew I was in the right place and Ben was right there with me. Liz also sang “Singin’ in the Rain,” which conjured such fun memories. Ben and I loved that film and it was one of the first two DVDs he gave me when he gifted me my first DVD player when we were dating. Ben loved to imitate Lina Lamont, saying “And I caaaan’t stand ‘em,” whenever I would complain about someone. If you haven’t seen the film, or it’s been a while, please treat yourself! Surprisingly, she sang a song that I love, from one of my favorite films- “It Might Be You” from Tootsie. Ben knew that it was my number one film when I needed to cheer up and it always made him laugh that I could even hum the score and would start laughing uncontrollably before the funny lines were even said, also saying them along with the film. It made him laugh that my dad and I made each other laugh quoting the film. I was happy to learn that Liz and her husband considered the tune “their” song. Another gorgeous song she sang was “The Place Where The Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns. That song, and the film, were very meaningful and poignant for me, as they were for Liz. She talked about the loss of her mom, which touched my heart, particularly emotional now because my mom’s birthday would be July 8. After I saw the film for the first time, I wrote a blog post about this song, which you can read by clicking here.

There was a lot of other beautiful music, laughter, joy and memories. In fact, Liz sang “The Way We Were,” evoking all I was thinking about the many memories that live in my heart.

As the happy, bittersweet and sad memories played in my head while I enjoyed the music, I realized that I was actually making a new memory by going to the concert. I feel the comfort of Ben when music- one of his true passions- brings up a memory of our relationship. Disney will always be ours. Ben knew how much I loved Liz Callaway and I know that he would be happy that this evening, I found peace in her music. The past was with me in my heart, but I am living in the present. As I see it, that’s a lot of pixie dust.

I miss and love you every day, Ben.