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Grief is…their birthday

October 30, 20236 min read

Grief is…their birthday

Ben’s birthday is just around the corner so the grief is front and centre again. I’m still pondering what to do this year when he should be turning 24 but will still be 22. I’m reflecting on what got me through last year, the first time he wouldn’t be here on his birthday. I knew I had to do something to acknowledge it. Something that would give me something to do and be a way to celebrate the wonder that he was. I decided to do goodie bags of some of Ben’s favourite things and deliver them to his closest friends. To the people who really got him and appreciated and loved him for who he was. It’s the only time I’ve channeled what I was feeling into doing something. It felt right. I cried many tears as I gathered, made and assembled the bags. And I made some for friends of mine that had really shown up for me and been so helpful in so many ways. 

Here's the letter I enclosed to his friends:

Hello friends,

When I thought about honouring Ben’s birthday without him I didn’t know what to do. And then I realised I wouldn’t be the only one thinking about him. His friends might be thinking of him too. Remembering cocktails and cake from birthdays past. Ben went for a few years where he didn’t celebrate his birthday with friends at all. After we moved to Kits that changed as he found so many folks who got him and wanted to celebrate with him. I loved that he wanted to get a cake to share with people. It was such a gift. 

I can’t give him a gift so I put together some of his (accessible) favourite things to give to you. In this bag you’ll find some of them. I hope you use them, replace them, drink them and think of him. Remember something fun you did or something funny he said. He loved you. And I’m so grateful you were part of his life. 

Here’s a few of his favourite things. Some will be in your bag:

Birthday Cake Oreos: They used to be limited edition and may still be. I spotted them in the store the other day and wanted to add them here. They used to always come out around Ben’s birthday. If you have regular oreos, try them with peanut butter (skippy or a healthy sweeter version – not natural!). It was a Ben fave treat and is delicious.

Chocolate Chip cookies from Costco: Only the Costco ones would do. They’re magical. They freeze great too so I’d buy a package and freeze them in fours. That way he wouldn’t eat the whole thing in a day.

Aji: This amazing spicy base makes many things. All we ever make is guacamole. Mash an avocado and add two big spoonfuls. Stir and enjoy. Ben loved his nachos with carefully layered chips and cheese and a big bowl of guac.

Cholula Green Pepper Sauce: This is the hot sauce you never knew you needed that you’ll never be without. I have no idea where Ben heard about it (maybe from you) but we started buying it at the beginning of covid. It’s a staple now and goes on everything. Pizza, pasta etc. Delish.

The Ben: Ben loved cocktails. He’s been our bartender since he was about 14 and would research a new cocktail for every Christmas eve. We had many – all delicious. When Kathleen came last March Ben put his foot down and wouldn’t bartend for us. We made a deal he’d make one for us and we’d write down the recipe.  This one is one he created during COVID. It’s delicious. Shake over ice and share with a friend. There’s enough for two.

An Old Fashioned: One day when I was getting my gin out of the freezer, I found a mason jar with brown liquid in it. I asked Ben what it was and he said, “An Old Fashioned…you should always have an old fashioned in the freezer.” So here you go…an old fashioned for your freezer. If Ben had made it, he would have made simple syrup but I cheated. He’d have orange to garnish it with as well. There’s lots of recipes online you can play with to replace this one. 

Absinthe: Ben loved the history and mystique of Absinthe. Plus it’s delicious. If I could have you over we’d do the ritual and use Ben’s Absinthe glasses and sugar spoon. Until then, you can do it at home or use it in many amazing cocktails. It feels fancy and unique just like him.

Tea from Ladurée: When we went to Paris a few years ago, Ladurée was on Ben’s list of places to go. We finally found it at Versailles and got macarons. Delish. When the tea shop opened on Robson, Kathleen and Ben went for tea. This is the tea they had there and Ben bought for at home. Best served in a fancy cup and saucer, he figured, so he had to get a tea cup from Tiffany to drink it from. There should be enough for two teabags or your favourite tea diffuser. 

There are so many things Ben loved. He was amazing at finding high quality, unique things, some easy to find and some rare, some cheap and some expensive. I’ll miss going to him to find what I need…he could always figure out what would be just right. I bet there’s some things he introduced you to. I hope you’ll continue to use them and think of him. 

Thank you for accepting him and being his friend. He spent much of his life feeling like an outcast so people who took the time to get him and enjoy his uniqueness are really important to me. I miss him terribly and am so grateful we had the amazing life we did while he was here – the ups and the downs. Enjoy these things as he did and know you made a difference in his life.  

With love and gratitude,

Suzanne 

It made sense to me to share my love for him with other people who loved him. I hope as you move on without your loved one you find ways to honour them. To share what they loved with people who loved them. To remember them, to hold them close, to love them. If you are supporting someone in grief acknowledging their loved ones birthday is a powerful gift. It shows them you remember and you care. You won’t make them sadder…they are already very aware of their loss on and leading up to that day. You’ll make them feel seen and that is a powerful gift. 

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