Out of Order

Out of Order

I have thought about this topic many times over the past two years, and the sensitivity of discussing it. I briefly touched on this subject in my second blog “Take a Minute Before you Speak to a Grieving Parent.” I may lose a few readers over this, but I have to get it out of my brain.

How grief effects us all so differently and takes us down the many different paths of emotion. How to some, losing a parent is the same as losing a child. I know I may offend some people, I may step on some toes, but the one thing you have to remember is this blog is written by a father who has lost his daughter, not a man who has lost a parent. The pain of loss can never be taken away nor can it be compared to any other pain, but the level of pain and grief, in my opinion, when you lose a child is beyond comprehension by anyone that has not lived through it. 

There are so many levels of grief, so many stages of pain, and many ways it effects each person differently. There are as many ways to handle grief as there are days you have left to walk this earth. When you lose a loved one it hurts, no matter if the relationship was good, bad or indifferent they were once a part of your life, but to lose a child, I believe, puts you in a entire different category of grief. When you lose a parent you have lost your past. The person that laid the foundation for everything you are today. The person that taught you how to be a parent. Does that make it any easier, absolutely not. It still hurts. When you lose a child you have lost your future. You have lost all the dreams you had for that child, no matter the age. You have lost all the hope you had for their happiness, for their joy and for their future. The very foundation that your parents laid is now starting to crack. You have lost a part of yourself. It is almost like losing an arm or leg because in your mind you will never be whole again. I remember reading once that, “Losing a child is like putting a period at the beginning of a sentence.” In other words their life has come to an end before the story ever really began.

If you have lost a mother, father or grandparent, with all due respect you only know what its like to lose a mother, father or grandparent. You can only understand what another person that has lost the same feels. You only know the pain and grief that comes with the loss of an older loved one. Please understand in no way am I trying to disparage  the pain and grief that comes with the loss of a parent, or sibling. I can, as of now, say I do not know how you feel because I have never walked your path of grief, the grief you are feeling for your parent. That being said, no one can imagine what a person that has lost a child feels, what they are going through, or the depths of pain that ravage their heart, mind and soul without having lost a child of your own. 

I have lost all of my grandparents, Frank and Maylor Gore and Rockfellow and Ethel Benton, but I am still lucky enough to have both of my parents and my brother. My mom just turned seventy five. My dad is seventy eight, and can still out work me any day of the week. I don’t know the grief and pain of losing a parent, I don’t know how it feels to be without the people that raised me and taught me to be the man I am today. I don’t know what it is like to have your “go to” person gone from your life. There is one thing I do know for sure, and I pray it does not happen any time soon, but I hope one day I do know  what it is like to lose a parent. You see, I never want my parents to know what it is like to lose a child. I never want my parents to know the pain that almost cripples your body, paralyze’s your heart and empties your soul. I never want them to see their child laid to rest in a small plot of land with marble and bronze markers to remind people who now resides there. I don’t want my parents to live through the emotional nightmare of losing a child. I don’t want my parents to see what is left of my future vanish before their eyes. I don’t want my parents to wonder about what could have been. In this cycle we call life, our parents are suppose to bury our grandparents, we are suppose to bury our parents and our children are supposed to bury us. Your cycle of life is broken by the death of a child, the natural order of life has been disturbed by attending their funeral, and your world seems to end as you solemnly stand at their graveside. This is not supposed to happen, and that is why it’s different.

“At least they had a good life, they lived a long and full life, they are in a better place” are things, I would assume, someone who has lost a parent hates hearing as much as a parents that has lost a child hates hears hearing “I know how you feel” from someone who has never lost a child. There will always be loss, there will always be pain and there will always be grief in the lives of those left behind. But we should never compare one person’s grief to another. We should never claim to know how they feel unless we have been in their shoes and walked the same road of heartache. We should never, ever claim to know how they feel, because no matter the age of the loved one lost, no matter the relationship, no matter the cause of our grief, we all have our own journey of grief that can only be traveled alone. 

 

Pain Level, 10 Plus

Pain Level, 10 Plus

Pain as defined in the Merriam – Webster dictionary; a usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (such as a disease or an injury) also a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (such as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action. b acute mental or emotional distress or suffering 

Pain is registered in many levels and comes from many varied sources. Pain can come from all different directions and hit you when you least expect it. In some cases it can be bad enough to knock you to your knees. There is physical pain, such as a broken ankle, having a kidney stone or a toothache. Mental pain that comes from stress, the pressures of life or some sort of phobia. Pain from life experience’s such as a broken heart from an ended relationship. A doctors or nurse may ask, “How is your pain level from one to ten?” They may prescribe a pill to help ease the pain, or physical therapy to restore strength to the effected part of the body. A psychiatrist or therapist may ask you to describe your feelings to determine the underlying reason for your mental pain or anguish. Many people wear their pain on their sleeves for all to see, and some keep it all internal, never wanting others to know they are suffering. 

I have had the broken bones, kidney stones, the toothaches and ended relationships. I have had days I thought my head would explode from stress and pressures of everyday life. I have stood in a hospital room and watched my daughter leave this world. I thought I had been through pretty much every type of pain there was until two years ago today. On September 02, 2016 I walked into a church filled with over 800 people, standing out of respect for Lindsay and my family. As I write this blog, two years today we laid Lindsay’s earthly body to rest. That is a pain that exceeds all others, and like always I tried to keep the pain tucked away so no one can see. This day made it real, it made it final, she was gone, my Lindsay Lou was gone, forever. It does not matter if they are seventeen, twenty seven or ninety seven you still see that little seven year old girl holding out her hand for you, her dad. There are no cures for the pain you feel when you lose a child, there is no pill, no cream, no treatment, no surgery. There is nothing that can ease the pain of your heart breaking, shattering. No cure for the emptiness, the feeling of failure, failing as a father, to protect your child. I remember thinking to myself, “Why was I not there to protect her?.” I know in my heart we, as fathers, do our best to raise our children to make the right decisions, to think before they act, to make wise choices. We do this because we know we will not always be there to ward off the monsters that hide under their bed, or save the princess trapped by the evil queen in the castle tower. We will not always be there to hold their hand as they cross the street. We will not always be there when they are faced with peer pressure and decisions that may affect the remainder of their life. We have to trust we have done our best, we have to believe they did listen some of the time, but most importantly we have to have the courage to let them go. Whether you are letting them go to the movies, letting them go on a date, letting them go in marriage, or letting them go forever

 There are days like today when I will get quiet, I don’t have a lot to contribute to the world around me. I remember, I reminisce, and I reflect. There are times when I will catch myself just staring off into nowhere, looking at nothing, trying to find something.  Days like today when the pain is 10 plus. Days like today when I think of the lyrics by Brendan Graham in a song Josh Groban made famous. Every parent that has lost a child knows the peace and ease of pain when they feel the presence of their child, for awhile.

 When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me”

 

Precious Time

Precious Time

With every dawn that breaks the eastern sky, a grieving parent somewhere in this world starts “their day.”  They wake up knowing today is the day, today is the day I lost my child. There is not a day that begins nor a day that ends that a parent who has lost a child is not grieving their child. Whether it be one year, five years, twenty years or fifty years a parent never forgets that day. The day their world crumbled, the day their soul emptied, the day their heart was, in every sense of the word, broken. Broken to a point that you never think it will work again. This day, no matter where you are, is the most difficult day of the year for a grieving parent. Whether you stay curled up in bed to try and sleep the day away or go to work to try and keep your mind occupied. Every moment you check the time thinking has it passed. Has the hour, the minute, the second your child slipped from this world passed. Is it behind me for another year, is this one moment in time gone for now. Because in your mind you think if you can make it passed that moment in time you will be okay, but your heart knows different. Two days from today will be my “day,” August 28. For me it has been two years, a sliver of time in the large, expansive realm of life, but feels like an eternity. An anniversary that no one wants to celebrate. This day becomes part of a grieving parents life just as birthday’s and holiday’s. A day no one truly wants to remember, but a day that will never be forgotten.  For those of you that did not know about Lindsay and what happened I what to give you a brief synopsis before I go on to my next thought. On August 21, 2016 Lindsay was in a horrible traffic accident that caused a traumatic brain injury. After emergency surgery she was still in very critical condition and remained unconscious for the remainder of the week, we lost her August 28, 2016. After a week of hoping, praying and spending every moment we could with Lindsay, she in her own way told us it was time, as her broken body began to let go. You see, Lindsay had a dream to be a surgeon, a saver of lives. By being an organ donor she was about to do just that, save lives. She knew her mother and I could never make the devastating decision’s we had to make so she made them for us.

So now, not only do I have the day of August 21, and the day of August 28,  I also have the night of August 27. Imagine knowing tomorrow would be the last time you would ever see your son or daughter. The last day to hold their hand, the last day to kiss their forehead, the last day to just sit and look at them. Imagine the thoughts that would go through your mind. Imagine the love, the anger, the sadness, the memories, the what if’s, the why’s, the guilt, the remorse, imagine the pain that would almost cripple your body. Imagine being so exhausted but fighting to stay awake because you do not want tomorrow to come. Imagine already knowing, without a miracle from God, what tomorrow will bring. 

I have heard it my entire life and I have said the very words myself when it comes to someone passing away that has been sick or on life support, “At least the family had time to say goodbye.” Not even close to being true. There is never enough time, there are never enough minutes in the day, hours in a week or days in a year for a parent to say goodbye to a child, forever. To stand beside a young woman only seventeen years old lying in a hospital bed, holding her hand and feeling her last heartbeat. I never thought as I stood in the very same hospital seventeen years earlier, and watched Lindsay come into this world, that I would be holding her hand as I watched her leave this world.  Believe me there is never enough time.

On the other hand was I thankful for the time, the week we had with Lindsay, yes, more than anyone will ever know, more than I have the vocabulary to express. Thankful for every second I stood in that room holding her hand, talking to her, praying that she would wake up and answer me. Thankful for the doctors, the nurses, the chaplain, the janitor, everyone that walked that long hall with me, shook my hand, hugged my neck, and said a prayer for Lindsay. Time with your children is a very precious thing, and no matter if they are leaving for kindergarten, leaving for college, leaving for love and marriage, or leaving you forever, take the time, make the time, embrace the time. Time with your children will start to flee very fast as they grow older, but time for a grieving parent now stands still.

When you lay down Monday night August 27th, don’t think of my family or Lindsay, think of your son, your daughter. Think about the love you have for them, think about the last time you told them you love them, think about the last time you gave them a hug. Think about what life would be like without them, it will make your life and time with them more precious. Realize the time you have is never enough, it can be stolen from you like a thief in the night.  Be thankful for the time and memories you have because when the memory makers are gone, memories are all you have.

On my day, August 28th, if you think of my family or say a prayer for us, please also remember Lindsay’s extended family and her countless friends. Remember somewhere in this world there are probably other parents who share this day with us, and say a prayer for them as well. My day will be long and it will be difficult, but what will keep me going is remembering all the precious time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08/21

08/21

In two days it will be August 21, the second anniversary of Lindsay’s accident. The second anniversary of the first day of the worst week of my life. A day that changed the world for my entire family. A day that will never be remembered in the history books but one that will never be forgotten by the ones that knew and loved Lindsay. There are days it seems like only yesterday and there are days it seems longer than two years ago. So many times in the past two years I have relived that day, and so many times I have asked the question many parents ask “Why?” To this day I still have no answers. I have often wondered if I stop trying so hard to remember would the pain subside? If I stopped trying to understand would the huge hole in my heart heal? If I stopped asking questions would the answers come more easily? I can assure you I will never stop remembering, I will never stop trying to understand and I never stop asking questions. That is why, in my opinion, a parent that has lost a child will for the rest of their life be lost themselves. When you’ve lost a part of your life, your heart and your soul things just never seem to work correctly. It is like a bike with no chain, you can pedal all day but you never go anywhere. A refrigerator with out a door, it will run twenty four hours a day but nothing ever gets cold. A door with no hinges, it looks good in its’s place but it will not open or close. It is as if you have sat down in the driver’s seat of your car and when you look through the windshield you can see your entire future, you turn the key, the engine starts, you place the car in gear and nothing. The dreams on the others side of that windshield have been erased. When you lose a child the part that is missing keeps you from working correctly. It does not fit into the normal plan of life. The plan of growing up, falling in love, getting married, having children, growing old having grandchildren, and passing away happy knowing the normal plan for an adult life was complete. When you lose a child that plan is thrown into a twisting turning array of, “what do I do now?” I can answer that question, at least for myself. I get up every morning and I thank God for the time I had with Lindsay. I thank him for the time I still have with Jarrett. I remember Lindsay every day, I say her name every day. I talk to her every day, whether it is a short good morning girl or a long talk about whats going on in my life. We, as a family keep her legacy alive through the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation. I lean on my wife, Kelli, for support when the bad days rear their ugly head. I keep going, I strive to do better each day, I try to be a better person each day. I keep the chain on my bike, the doors on my refrigerator, the hinges on my doors and my windshield clean so when days like August 21 come around I am ready to see my future. I miss Lindsay with every nerve ending in my body, and I still love her with every beat of my heart. I saw a sign on the internet today that said “A Queen will always turn pain into power” and I truly believe my Queen LMB has done just that. She gives me the strength to do what I do everyday. She has turned the pain of her tragedy into a power for all to see. The power of love, the power of giving, the power of sharing, the power of changing lives and relationships and the power of being triumphant. I love you Lindsay Lou, and thank you for giving me the power to breath everyday.

The Right Path

The Right Path

The feeling of uncertainty, not knowing if you are taking the right path, not heading in the right direction, not doing the right thing. When I lost Lindsay I felt every one of these feelings, these emotions, almost everyday. You wonder if all you do is worth it, if all you do is being noticed. If all you are doing to try and reach the people that need the help you are trying so humbly and simply to give are getting it. If all you do is respectful to Lindsay. Is it carrying on her legacy? Does it paint an accurate portrait of her life and her personality? You wonder if twenty years from now, will people still remember Lindsay Michele Benton? Then one day you wake up, make your way through the trials of the day, rush home after work to clean up and head to a meeting about T-shirts. This meeting, this day, like so many others, confirmed that we as a family, are doing the right thing, we are heading down the right path to carry on Lindsay’s legacy. Let me back up a little.

I was looking for a different vendor to produce the T-shirts for this years volleyball tournament. We were in no way not happy with last years shirts, I just wanted to make a change, try a new company, add new faces to the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation family. I began to research the numerous local companies in Wilmington, not so much for price but for a feeling, a feeling of family, a feeling of sharing. I read every history of every company, how they started, their mission statements and their passion for what they do. When I read Fred Meyers, president and founder of Queensboro Shirt Company’s story I knew I had found the right place to make the shirts. His statement, “Helping People Share Who They Are with the World.” The company’s core values clinched the deal in my mind, “Always do the right thing. Value relationships above all. Innovate and have fun!” I asked Kelli to contact Queensboro and set up a meeting so we could get an idea of cost and to see if they maybe interested in becoming a sponsor for the tournament. On our first visit we met with Allie and told her the story behind the foundation, Lindsay’s story. After we went through all the choices we agreed on the shirts and Allie was going to send us a estimate for the order. Before we left Allie mentioned that we should apply for the monthly charity donation that Queensboro provides to a non-profit organization. So when we arrived back home Kelli went online and applied. We were in hopes of getting a discount and nothing more. The application said the donation was awarded on August 6th this month. and the winner would be notified by email. Kelli kept checking the foundation email for any kind of notification about their monthly donation. The foundation board, myself, Kellie and Kelli, had already decided to go with Queensboro regardless of the donation outcome. On August 7th we received the email, the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation had won Queensboro Shirt Company’s monthly donation. We were thrilled, but still unsure of what we had won. After Kelli emailed Savannah back this was her reply, “What you’ve WON is an entire FREE order from Queensboro. We’re going to make sure that all of your apparel needs are met for your event! Feel free to stop in and talk with me! I’d love to meet you! Some of us here at Queensboro remember when tragedy struck your family and it’s very important to us that we are here for you in whatever way we can be!” We could not believe what we were reading. What a wonderful act of kindness. All we were looking for was a possible discount. As I sit here and write this I still can’t believe the generosity of this wonderful company. I could not wait to back to Queensboro to meet Savannah and get started on the final preparation. To top off the day, later that evening I received an email from an employee at Queensboro. After I read it I knew in my heart we had made to right choice. This is the email as I received it,

“Dear Mr. Benton,
My name is N… and I am working at Queensboro. I just learned about your loss and I started to read your blog. I am very sorry and I wish you all the best someone can wish to another human being. I am a mom of a 9 years old boy and I wanted to say that I am very proud of you. Please forgive me because of the lack of any sophistication, my first language is not English. I am heartbroken and can not stop reading your words. I wish you all the best and peace in your heart. I hope one day you will find a little peace. I can not imagine the pain you are going through. All my love from my heart goes to you and your family!
With all of the love of my heart,
N…”

I made it a point to meet this employee the day we meet with Savannah. With tears in both of our eyes we hugged and talked about Lindsay and her son. She told me she read every blog I have written in one day. That touched my heart in so many ways. 

Thank you to Queensboro and your employee’s, not only for your amazing financial donation, but for reminding us that we are in fact, on the right path.

 

 

 

 

A Beautiful Day

A Beautiful Day

As usual, I got up today before the dawn and my day started off with some very unusual sights and sounds. You see, it has been raining here for what I believe to be the last fifteen days. It may have been more, but I truly lost count. But on this morning the sun had no barrier, there was no impediment, no stumbling block to keep it from it’s daily routine of bringing light into our little corner the world. You could see the rays as they began to slowly creep their way over the horizon. The beams of light began to make their way through the cracks of the blinds and immediately filled the room with light, and with that, there was hope for a beautiful day. As the sun continued its climb up the eastern sky you could hear the sounds of life from the many birds chirping in the back yard, a sound only heard over the past couple of weeks when there was a break in the dark and gloomy clouds. When the sun made it’s final push to clear the grasp of dawn and show itself in all it’s full warming and illuminated glory, I knew today was going to be a good day. 

In the life of a grieving parent, there are many days like today. You may go through days, weeks, months even years where it seems to be metaphorically raining everyday. You can wake up every morning where life’s gray and gloomy clouds are all you see on the horizon. You feel the sun is never going to shine in your life again, you are never going to feel that healing warmth, or have those illuminating rays fill your life. You make it through, day by day, wishing yesterday was your tomorrow so maybe, just maybe, you can work your way back to that day. You forget what it’s like to just sit and listen to the birds, or watch a sunset. Your world is filled with “what if’s” and “why’s”. You spend most of your time trying to figure out how to make your life normal again, when there is no normal, and the normal you create is so abnormal. You make it through the bad days hoping for just one good day. You try to change the lives of others by sharing your tragedy, in hopes of one day smiling again. We, as parents of children taken way to soon, have many bad days, but it’s that one morning, that one ray of sunshine, that single act of kindness, that one email, that one text, a simple pat on the back that makes it seem okay for that moment. For me, its when I wake up and think of Lindsay and the time we had. I think of Kelli, Jarrett and all the other many blessings I have in my life. I think of the love that covers this family from so many hearts. The prayers that come from near and far, and the lives that have been saved because a seventeen year old young lady had a dream. It is mornings like these I know, in my heart, it’s going to be a beautiful day.

The Spot

The Spot

Everyone has that one special spot, that one place that means the world to them. It may be an old tree boldly standing in solitude shading the wild flowers of a wide-open field. It could be an alluringly crystal-clear stream that flows effortlessly through the smooth cold rocks of a hidden mountain side. A spot or a place where you feel at peace, where your heart and soul are full from the love that comes from family. A spot where the whole world seems to fade into the beautiful sunset and all your problems are a million miles away. A spot where all your childhood memories come flooding back from the deepest part of your subconscious. The place where you met that special someone for the first time. The spot where you went on your first date, your first kiss, or where you fell in love. There are special places and spots that will forever be in your heart and will always bring a smile to your face. I, like everyone else, have some of these spots. The home I grew up in that holds so many good memories of my childhood along with memories of my children playing and climbing the iconic Dogwood tree. The neighborhood that Jarrett and Lindsay’s mother and I brought them home to after they were born. The many different stages where I watched Jarrett and Lindsay perform from their early years up to high school. The beach where Lindsay took one of my favorite pictures of Jarrett and myself. A small log cabin tucked back into the hills of Maggie Valley where I asked Kelli to share the rest of our lives together. Mexico, New York, and, of course, Leland hold such fond and precious memories in my heart.

But to parents that have lost a child there are spots that that do not hold fond memories, they do not bring joy or happiness. These spots hold heartache and despair, they hold grief and sometimes anger. These spots can be as random as the spots that bring joy to other people. For parents that have lost their children at home, I can only imagine the pain and anguish they must live with. The bitterness of the spot or room in which their child passed away and the sweetness of all the memories that cover every inch of that same home. I found myself in the same situation after Lindsay passed away. Lindsay did not pass away in our home, she passed in the hospital. The accident that cause this happened as she was leaving our neighborhood. Do I move to relieve the pain of seeing that spot every day or do I stay to retain the sweet memories we had created in our home? I chose the memories. I did not want to leave our home and lose all the memories I had there with her. I did not want to move to a different house to escape the pain. I did not want to wake up every morning in a different house knowing the reason why I was there. I wanted to stay right where I was to keep what bit of sanity I had left at home. I wanted to remember her and her characteristics. I wanted to look at that door and see her flying out of it with some new story or topic of debate. I wanted to look at the microwave and, in my mind, hear it slam shut at 11:30 at night for a mac-n-cheese snack. I wanted to sit on the couch and look at the floor that she walked across as she made her way to my bathroom for a selfie session. I wanted to be able to stand in the lanai and see her laying on the dock getting her tan on. I want to live in the home with all these memories as long as my mind allows me to remember. That is the one thing that frightens me the most, forgetting. Forgetting her laugh, her voice, her walk. I dread the day I can no longer remember these things. I dread the day I close my eyes and no longer see hers.

I have two of these heartbreaking spots. The first spot is the intersection at the exit of our neighborhood. As much as I try to shut it out of my mind I still, sometimes, get chills when I pull up to the stop sign Lindsay was sitting at before she started to cross the road. I remember coming home from the hospital for the first time after Lindsay passed away and before we turned into Compass Pointe I told Kelli, “I don’t see any skid marks, there are no skid marks, the other driver never had a chance to slow down.” That one thought, that one ride home still haunts me today.  I think all the time,  Did she have any time to react? Did she know what was about to happen?” Those thoughts will always be with me till the day I die. The second spot has no name or title, because it is just a small piece of asphalt on a four-lane highway. This spot is driven over thousands of times a day by motorist that have no idea what happened there. I myself drive next to this spot almost every day.  It is the spot Lindsay’s car came to rest after the accident. That spot that for some time was marked with the very familiar orange squares painted on the grayish asphalt to outline the tires on a car after an accident. Monday thru Friday at around 2:15 a.m. I drive past that spot on my way to work, the very spot I saw Lindsay’s car sitting on August 21, 2016. Every morning I stay in the right-hand lane, no matter what, out of respect for her. Every morning since the day she passed away I tell her good morning when I pass the spot. Every day I ride by with the thoughts of her sitting there. Every day I remember seeing her car sitting there and the damage that was done to it. Every day I wish I had never seen it. Every day is a reminder, every day is a challenge, even with the ominous orange paint faded away, every day I still see the spot.