My Dance

My Dance

Last night, I went to a wedding.  Since Lindsay passed away weddings have been, well let’s just say, not easy. They bring up so many, never going to happen, never going to see, never going to do moments. It is always hard for me to watch the bride walk in with her father, arm in arm, with smiles gleaming from the joy of the day. This walk they take encompasses her entire life from the first time her father held her until today, when he will answer that question with, “Her mother and I.” When the music starts and those doors swing open everyone has all eyes on the bride and mine where no different. As beautiful as she was and as happy as I was for her, I had already witnessed the walk I was there to see, her mother.

The ceremony was very sweet, it always is when you see two young people in love and  starting their happily ever after. We were able to have a wonderful time talking to all the friends and family of the bride, and the food was great. After we ate and visited with everyone the music picked up and the dancing began. As we sat and watched all the fancy dance moves, I could just imagine Lindsay leading everyone in whatever the latest dance craze was. It was by far the most bitter sweet wedding I have attended to date. If you noticed, earlier I said I was not only there for the bride but for the mother of the bride. You see, when the bride’s mother walked down that aisle, so did Lindsay. When I was able to dance with the bride’s mother, I danced with Lindsay.  This mother of the bride was the recipient of one of Lindsay’s kidneys. She will always and forever carry my girl with her. What a blessing to see Laura and Elliot exchange vows, to watch Eric walk his daughter down the isle and to watch Jill and Eric’s son, Matt, walk Jill and Lindsay down the aisle. Last night I was as close as I will ever be to seeing Lindsay walk down a wedding aisle and as close as I will ever be to having our dance.

wedding JIll

 

 

My dance with Jill.

My dance with Lindsay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Eric, Jill, Laura, Elliot and Matt, for allowing us to be a part of this joyous day.

As I was leaving, I was talking to Eric, the bride’s father, and he introduced me to his mother. He told her, “This is Brad Benton, without him, and his daughter, Jill would not be here.” Could not ask for a better way to end the evening, remembering Lindsay during this beautiful wedding.

Hey Lindsay Girl

Hey Lindsay Girl

Hey Lindsay Girl,

Here we go again, year number three of the day before tomorrow. The day before I watched you laugh like no one was watching, the day before you made laugh the same way. The day before we  spent some valuable father/daughter time together, which was a rarity, due to your busy social life. The day you made fun of my old man gang signs, even though I thought, they were somewhat awesome. The day you made my heart so happy when you said, “I am not going to date until I am thirty-five.” The day you lied about all the people at the pool and I didn’t even care. The day I could not believe I was so blessed to have you and Jarrett in my life. Tomorrow, the day I heard your laugh for the last time. The day we spent our last moments together as father and daughter. The day that smile would never be seen again, the day your hair flowed in the wind one last time. The day I heard you say, “Love you too dad” for the final time here on this earth. The day my world came crashing down.  The day I walked into an emergency room and felt like I was in a movie, because I could not believe this was happening. The day your mother and I stood in front of a surgeon and listened to him tell us the next 48 hours were crucial to your survival. The day I walked into STICU room number nine and saw all your dreams, all your plans, all your tomorrows fading away.

Tomorrow is a pretty tough day for me Lindsay Lou. I need to hear your laugh, I need to see your smile, I need you to finish teaching me how to “Nea Nea.” I still can’t believe you said I had no rhythm. I need you. So tomorrow, if I talk to you a little more than usual, please don’t roll your eyes, like I have seen so many times before. Cut the old man a break. Tomorrow, I will go to work and I will spend a little more time at that stop sign, I will drive a little slower as I pass that spot, and I will try to make it through the day. When I head home I will turn in to our neighborhood,  stop at the entrance and sit in the lanai for a while. I will sit there and go over all the scenario’s that would have prevented my tomorrow from happening. A tomorrow that started a week that crushed my soul. Tomorrow I will think about the next seven days that ended with the worst day of my life, the day you left me. I know not willingly, but so peacefully and a hero to so many.

You will always be my princess without a crown, my cheerleader without monograms, and my little girl sucking her thumb dragging that raggedy pink baby around. As much as I hate tomorrow, tomorrows are all I have to look forward to. Tomorrows gives me one more day with Kelli, one more day to be Jarrett’s dad, one more day to be a son, a brother, a stepdad, and a uncle. All the things that help heal the wound, but will never fill the hole in my heart. Tomorrow puts me one day closer to seeing you one again. Tomorrow, I hope you take a look down and wrap your arms around all of us to ease the heartache of our tomorrow.

Love you girl,

Dad

Faith in Faith

Faith in Faith

When you have lost a child you tend to be drawn to other parents sharing the same heartbreak, and they in return, are drawn to you. You learn quickly to lean on each other for support, guidance, and a understanding ear. Their heart is the only heart that can truly understand what you are going through and the pain of grief you live with everyday. The what if’s, the why’s, the thousands of questions that fill your brain and some days turn it into mush. There are days you begin to doubt your faith. You begin to wonder, “Is what we have here, on earth, all we will ever have?” Days that you think the last time you saw your child’s face will be the last time. I was asked this question today, through Kelli, from a parent that lost her son. “Does Brad ever waiver from his faith that he will see Lindsay again?” I was raised Baptist and to believe that there is a heaven, there is a loving and forgiving God, there is a home waiting for me when my soul leaves this temporary earthly vessel. Now, I am friends with people of many different religions. My wife was raised Catholic, I have friends that are Mormon, Lutheran, Presbyterian,  Holiness and nondenominational. We all go to different buildings, we all worship in different ways, we all sing different songs in so many different ways, we all travel a different path. We all have different opinions and different interpretations of what faith means. What I have learned over my many years here on this earth and through the vastly diverse group of people I am honored to call my friends, is that no matter what path of faith we travel, they all lead to the same God.

There is not one soul living on this earth today that can tell me anything different. No one that has died, left this world and came back to say, “It’s not true, don’t believe it, there is nothing after death.” There is only one man that ever walked this earth, that died, was placed in a sealed tomb and three days later arose to live again. The words he spoke are what keep my faith strong, even in the darkest days of grief.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

So to answer the question, no ma’am. Through belief and understanding grows a faith that exceeds all boundaries. Faith has been the only constant in this roller coaster ride of grief. The faith and belief that when I close my tired eyes for the last time, when the last breath of life leaves my body, the first thing I will see is that gleaming smile and the out stretched arms of my Lindsay Lou.

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

It has been more than two years and I am still taking baby steps. Small actions that mean so little to others are still life shattering to me. I have yet to begin the daunting task of cleaning out Lindsay’s room. The clothes, the cheer medals, the shoes, the small treasures that sit on her dresser and nightstand. The pictures that hang on every wall, and God only knows what might be under her bed. The contents of her desk, her books, her back pack, her laptop. The Tail and Mane shampoo that still sits on the shelf in her shower. It is so hard to even fathom that thought of donating, giving away, or throwing out even one piece of paper much less a single article of clothing. All that being said Lindsay was an organ donor and she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save and extend the lives of total strangers. She had a plan for her life, she had a direction, a goal and it was to help others. So, after a conversation with Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, we agreed to donate a specific item to a very good cause, “I Support the Girls.” This is a non profit organization that that takes donated bras and distributes them to homeless women and women who are less fortunate. I feel Lindsay would not mind and she would be proud of us for this donation. I feel now that a stranger has a part of what once was Lindsay’s she will watch over them and make sure they are doing okay.

I had another situation over the weekend that threw me back a step or two. One of those situations that takes your breath away, and only you know why.  My wife Kelli and I, along with another couple, were in the lobby of a restaurant waiting to be seated when around the corner came Heather, who was Lindsay’s best friend. With her was Logan, Amanda and Brianna, three more very good friends of Lindsay’s from high school. After seeing the last one come around the corner I took a glance back, because in that split second I thought maybe, just maybe. It is times like this that makes my heart drop. I don’t know why I looked for her, but I did. I know in my mind, she is never going to come around the corner of a restaurant with her friends ever again, but my heart still looks, and probably always will. It was so nice to see those young ladies, but what made it even more special was they were happy to see us. We hugged all of their necks and quickly caught up on what was going on in their busy lives. As they were leaving we told them to have fun, behave themselves and what I always told Lindsay, “Make wise choices.” Heather was walking toward the door and she turned to us to said, “Love Ya’ll.” I don’t know if she knows how much that truly means to me. Just the fact that she thought to turn and say it. I try to keep in touch with some of Lindsay’s friends. I enjoy seeing them prosper and grow. It’s as if I am looking to them for some kind of clarity, some sort of identity, a small glimpse of what Lindsay would be doing, where she would be. Heather is a special young woman and is very special to everyone in our family.

A weekend of donations to help strangers, a night of seeing what could have been and a lifetime of baby steps.

Until We Meet Again

Until We Meet Again

I wake up everyday with the realization Lindsay is gone, but there are days when it hits me like a ton of bricks, she is not here, she is gone forever. Not many people will understand that statement, but I am sure those that have lost a child will. It is that split millisecond you forget, or the moment when you think, “Today was a pretty good day, but I will never know what it could have been because you were not here.” I have noticed those days are starting to become more common. Grief is not really defined as an emotion, but all the baggage that comes with it covers every emotion imaginable. It has been almost two and a half years since Lindsay left us way to soon. The weight of grief I feel today is much heavier then a year ago, with no explanation as to why. I don’t know if it is the guilt of trying to be happy again, trying to laugh with out hesitation, trying to live my life without the vision of a white Toyota Corolla sitting crippled on the highway, the same highway, the same spot, I travel every time I leave my home. I can’t explain the change, I can’t voice the feelings, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

With that being said I have decided to stop posting a blog every week. I am not going to stop writing or blogging, I will post when I feel I have something from my heart to share. Writing has been my outlet for all the pain, grief and heartache that comes when your soul is empty and your heart aches daily from the loss of a child. I just feel I need some time to process whatever is going on in my head and heart.

I have some public speaking coming up and I will continue to write, both of which have been the best outlet for me to handle my grief. Just like I told Lindsay the day she passed away, this is not good-bye, it is just until we meet again.

Dear Lindsay

Dear Lindsay

Hey Sweetie,

Merry Christmas. I know you can see everything from up there, but just in case I wanted to let you know whats been going on the past few days and that I miss you so very much.

First things first, we put up that pathetic tree again this year. I don’t know if I can ever get rid of it. I sit on the couch and look at it and I see you standing there just shaking your head. Each year we add another angel in memory of you. Just another one of our unwanted new traditions.  

I had a decently good day on Christmas Eve. The house filled up early, everyone was here at the house except Aaron and Mikalya. I am sure you already know this, but they moved to Texas. Pretty sure you had a chance to meet Mikayla, she is a keeper. Her and Aaron seem to be very happy together in the lone star state. They also have a dog named Daisy. Kelli did it again with our meal. We had honey glazed spiral ham, green bean casserole, a delicious cabbage dish, dressing, biscuits and of course your favorite, mashed potatoes and gravy. I even broke out the Grandma’s Molasses for the biscuits. Every time I stand at the sink and I peel that ten pound bag of potatoes I think of you eating mashed potatoes and gravy. You ate enough for a 400 pound grown man and never even flinched. The desserts were amazing as well. We had cakes, cookies, and all kinds of homemade candy. After we ate we had a good time sitting around talking about all the Christmases that have past, and yes ma’am, we talked about you. It was all good, nothing bad, I promise. We gave Andrew and Lauren their gifts because they had to head back home. Lauren’s dad was singing a solo in their churches Christmas Eve program. It was very nice of them to make it back to support him. You never had the chance to meet Lauren but I know you would really like her. Her and Andrew got married this past summer. It was a very nice ceremony but I could not help but think of you and I never taking that walk. The day pretty much ended like all the ones before, everyone rubbing their stomachs as they moaned from being so full. After everyone left Kelli and I sat in the living room and watched a Christmas movie and waited for the fat man to come. Not gonna lie to ya girl, it is hard not having you here during this the most joyous time of the year. 

Well the big day finally came, we got up early, I grabbed the blower and Kelli grabbed your new flowers, we jumped in the truck and headed your way. It still looks so different with one of those big beautiful oak trees gone, hard to believe Florence was able to take down that giant tree. I know you loved it. We had a really good visit with you, always do. We said hello to Sadie and wished her a Merry Christmas. I hope you are still looking after her. I know she was only five, but you can be a great role model for her and continue to show her the ropes. On the way home we stopped by the Waffle House for some breakfast, you know we are classy like that. I felt bad because all those people had to work, but I felt if they had to work we could help them out. We gave our waitress a very good tip. I hope she used it to take herself and her family out to a very nice supper somewhere. When we got back home Kelli started putting the finishing touches on lupper, you know that meal between lunch and supper. We had leftovers and Kelli made a big pan of meatballs and about fifty pounds of baked ziti. While she was cooking I was sitting in your “present opening chair.” We put a beautiful red rose, a lovely candle and my favorite picture of you and Mary on the table beside that chair. I have started sitting it that chair at Christmas because that is where you sat and I just don’t feel right with anyone else sitting there. Hope that is okay. Ya grandma moved up in the world of technology, me and Kelli along with your Uncle Brian and Aunt Julie got her a laptop, she was, to say the least, surprised. We all received wonderful gifts, all of them were from the heart. I have to tell you that on of my favorite gifts did no come from under the tree, it came in the form of a message. I know you remember Haleigh and her mom, Linda. Well Linda posted a picture of Haleigh on Facebook wearing one of the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation hats she had got her for Christmas. The smile that was on her face was amazing, and the tears in her eyes broke my heart, how sweet was that. Here is what Linda posted under the picture,

She is smiling, but the tears are in her eyes and the longing is in her heart. The only Christmas present that made my baby girl cry….we were thinking of sweet Lindsay on Christmas morning with you all. (Haleigh Somberg LOVES the hat by the way!!!!).”  This day like everyday since you left will never be the same. We miss you. we love. you and we will never forget you.

We ended our Christmas holiday last night. Kelli, Jarrett and myself met Heather at Brixx Pizza down at Mayfaire. You are never going to believe this, she drove there!! Yes ma’am Heather got her licence and she got a car for Christmas. Sweetie, you had good taste when it came to friends, she is a good girl. I try to keep in touch with, and check on, all your friends. I think it makes me feel a little closer to you. I hope they don’t think I am some kind of old creeper. Heather is doing good in school and she is missing you too. I feel pretty sure she has discussed it with you but I wanted you to know she has changed her major. She is majoring in social work now, with a minor in psychology. By the way your big brother made the Dean’s list this semester at UNCW. He is so passionate about his acting and his music. If you have any pull up there see what you can do to help him out as he follows his dreams.  I know deep down you are proud of him. He misses you as well. Not going to tell you that ya mom got another dog. I will let her discuss that with you.   

I cant even imagine what Christmas is like in heaven. I am sure it was glorious to say the least. I hope you were surrounded by all your family members that had gone on before you. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents you never had the chance to meet. I hope you have had a chance to meet Charlie. If you have I am sure he has given you a really good nickname. The celebration of Gods only sons birthday, what a party y’all must of had. Sometimes I fell like we have it all screwed up down here. We stress more about the right gift than we do about the true act of giving. We care more about the all mighty dollar than we do the “All Mighty.”  Not sure if you have a new year, but just in case Happy New Year!!  

Merry Christmas my Lindsay Lou. I miss you every day, but these days are the hardest.

Love,

Dad.

 

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

I want to take the time to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas. I hope the same joy, love and hope that filled a small manger in the city of Jerusalem many years ago also fills your home this Christmas. My wish is that each of you will spend time with your family and loved ones. That you will reach out to the family and friends that you have not reached out to in many years. That you will put aside any problems, animosity, and anger if only for one day. Remember that Christmas is not about what is under the tree, but about who is gathered around the tree. Put God and family above any and all gifts that will be put to the side in a weeks time. Your relationship with God and family will be the only gifts that last a life time. My family is my gift from God. My family has been with me through the darkest days of my life and I know in my heart, will be there until the end. Lindsay will be celebrating Christmas with the Holy host of the day. I truly believe with everything in me she will be celebrating with all the children of all the parents that have also lost a son or daughter. I have believed this since she passed away. I believe when I meet a parent of a lost child, Lindsay and that child meet as well. Sometimes I think Lindsay and another child meet in heaven and because of that I meet their parents.

In the middle of all the festivities over the next two days please take just a moment to remember all the empty chair’s. It does not matter if the chair has been empty for years, months,weeks or days it will never be filled again, and that hurts. Don’t ignore the chair, don’t ignore the flowers in the chair. They are there for a reason, so we never forget the one that used to sit there. Talk about the person, whether is was a grandmother, a dad, a mom or a child. Tell a story, voice a memory, say their name. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, my house will be filled with family, and that is the only way I can smile, the only way I can make it through another Christmas. We will eat, we will open gifts, we will laugh and a few may shed a tear but, we will be together. I have learned to cherish every time I see my family. When they leave you can believe I will hug their neck, and I will them thank you. You never know when another chair will be sitting there, empty.