The Grip of Grief.

The Grip of Grief.

There are not many days like today, but when there is, I feel lost. I feel numb. I feel nothing. Most days start out the same and I make it through with no real problems. Then there are days I hear something, I see something, someone says something and then grief clamps down on my mind, my heart and my soul. It is as if I am driving on a long desolate highway at that time of day when dusk is surrendering its crowing moment of light to the darkness of an endless night. There are no exits, no side roads, no intersections, no escape from grief’s grip. The last road sign that had any direction just told me, “Buckle up, its going to be a long bumpy ride.”

Days when I see other people smile, that smile is like a dagger piercing the deepest recesses of my heart. I hear laughter and it is like an ice pick being shoved slowly into my ear. I see other people happy, and it hurts. I hear other people complain about the minuscule problems that plague their life and it makes me angry. I want to be alone, but tremble at the thought of solitude. When being alone is in the middle of a crowded room because I feel like an outsider, a mutant, I feel like I am the only one. I feel like I am the only one that has ever lost a child, the only one that knows the hurt, the pain, the gut wrenching grief of loss. I feel like there is no life line, no flotation device, no rescue team to pull me out of the clutches of grief. This can last an hour, or sometimes, a day or two. I just want to forget it ever happened, I want to forget the accident, I want to completely erase August 28, 2016 from my memory, but then the guilt sets in. How could I, how could I even entertain the thought of forgetting? What a horrible person, a horrible father for even having these thoughts. Now the other can of worms has been opened, guilt. The other side of the double edge sword of grief. Throw in a little regret and you have the true trifecta of this day. Grief, guilt and regret. Three strikes and you are out. That defeated feeling as you take that walk from home plate back to the dugout, a feeling of failure, a feeling of loneliness, the feeling of not contributing. In the midst of all these feelings I try to smile, I try to be happy, I try to be the guy I am every other day that grief does not have its claws wrapped around my every thought. I try to make a joke, or be sarcastic and the thought of how dare you enjoy life enters my brain. There is nothing that can snap me out of feeling like this, not a word, a gesture, the millions of quotes about grief. This feeling is like a virus that has to run its course and then it is gone. Gone until the next grief season. There is no grief shot, no Z-PAC, no antibiotic for these feelings. There is only time, and time is no real cure. There truly are no words to describe this feeling, no diagram to break down the emotions and no EKG to show the pain in my heart.

What I have come to realize, on these days, when grief has such a strong grip on my heart is I am not thinking about Lindsay. I am not thinking about who she was or what she accomplished. I am not thinking about her laugh, her eyes, or her hair. I am not thinking about that voice that had so many levels. I am not thinking about all the good we are doing through the foundation, all the lives that have been able to touch, all the lives that have been changed because of the legacy of a seventeen year old young woman.  I am thinking she is not upstairs, she is not at her mom’s and will not be home later, she is not at school or cheer practice. She is not at dinner with a friend, she is not at the pool or the gym. She is not, will not, and will never again be here.

What I have to start doing is remembering everyday she will always be in my heart, she will always be in my memories and she will always be there to help me release the grip of grief.

Mane ‘n Tail

Mane ‘n Tail

 It has been more than two years since Lindsay passed away and I miss her more than ever, I guess that will never change. I miss her smile, I miss her laugh and I miss her very opinionated views on life. I miss the silence but knowing she was upstairs, I miss the “Hey ya’ll” before anything important she had to say. I still come home and look up at her bedroom window and say, “Hey girl, I’m home.” There are not many days that pass that I don’t have some sort of conversation with her. I hope that never stops. It still amazes me the random places and things that bring her back to the forefront of my mind, places and things that I would never expect.

This, after two plus years, is a perfect example.

I have no real idea how it happened, but I found myself in a beauty supply store last night. As Kelli looked for some fantastic super-duper shampoo I was wandering around and scanning the shelves for something that would remotely pique my interest. One thing I know for sure, there is not a lot of product in a beauty supply store that a man just cannot live without. I had traveled the blow dryer and curling iron aisle, made my way down the hair color aisle and was heading to that super-duper shampoo section. As I strolled down and looked at the numerous bottles for dry hair, for damaged hair, for colored hair, for frizzy hair, a very familiar sight caught my eye. It was a large white plastic bottle with blue and yellow colors and two horses running free. It was “Mane ‘n Tail” shampoo. It took me back to the first time I ever saw one of these bottles. It took me back and it made me smile. I could not believe that Lindsay actually spent money on horse shampoo for her hair, her naturally curly hair that she would throw a shout out to every now and then.  I can remember the conversation like it was yesterday and her justifying the purchase. She began to explain how this shampoo would make her hair stronger and fuller, how It would make it shine and never be dry. Being a dad all I could hear was the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher in my ear as she continued to pass on the knowledge she had accrued about how this horse shampoo would enhance her already beautiful hair. My main concern as a dad was how much it cost. I don’t remember the cost of the shampoo the day Lindsay brought it home and I don’t remember what it was last night, but that plastic bottle sitting on the bottom self of a random beauty supply store was priceless as far as I am concerned. Priceless, because of the enduring memory it unknowingly shared with me. What I would not give to buy her an entire case of it today.

 Life is a gift we get to open every day, and every day it is a surprise. The contents of the gift, the surprise of what we unwrap is up to us to decide. We can open today’s gift with the thankfulness and anticipation of happiness or we can open today’s gift with bitterness and animosity, the choice is always ours to make. I choose to do all I can to be happy, to enjoy every moment I can, to help others through my own personal journey of grief, to love my family, to remember Lindsay and keep looking for those memories, keep looking for those random moments in time that make me smile. 

The Right Thing.

The Right Thing.

On Friday, October 19th, a very special event happened at Wilmington Christian Academy. It was one of the triumph’s that have come from our tragedy.  One of those days when you feel good again, a day when you know you are doing the right thing. A day when the tears that fall from your eyes meet the corner of a smile because you can literally see the joy in someone else’s heart for what you have done.

This day began more than six months ago when the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation was in the planning stages for it’s annual volleyball tournament at Catp’n Bill’s. Little did we know that on the day we planned the volleyball tournament we would have a very unwanted visitor to the coast of North Carolina the weekend prior, hurricane Florence. What could have been a very bad day turned into a very good day for all the charities the foundation is involved with. We only had 6 teams register for the tournament but we had a very good turn out and everyone there bought raffle tickets, 50/50 tickets, LMBF merchandise and just donated because they felt the need to. This year, the tournament was on Lindsay birthday, September 29th, so we knew in our hearts it was going to be a good day no matter what. One of the charities the foundation supports is “Patriots for Pink.” This is usually a week long fundraiser at Wilmington Christian Academy in which the student body adopts someone that has been diagnosed with breast cancer. For an entire week they raise money for the newly adopted member of the Patriot Nation. The school works along side a wonderful organization, Going Beyond the Pink, created by Joy Wade in 2017. Not only does Going Beyond the Pink financially assist throughout the process of treatment, they are there before to educate women and men, and they are there after the war has been won with continued support. The schools week long fund raiser was spoiled by of course, hurricane Florence. A few of the buildings on campus were no match for Florence’s driving winds and rain and sustained quite a bit of damage.  In true WCA fashion, they did not let this set back stop them from doing what the Patriot Nation does, they persevered, they trusted God and they made it happen. Wilmington Christians week of games, T-shirt sales, theme days and candy sales had been condensed into just one day, just a few hours. This relentless student body and staff set out to do all they could to compress one week into a single soccer game. We were invited to present a donation from the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation at halftime for Patriots for Pink. When we arrived it was a sea of pink. There were pink T-shirts, pink hair, pink faces, and of course the familiar pink ribbons. Soon after we arrived we met with Mrs. Bordeaux, from WCA, and with Joy Wade to discuss how and when we would present the check. As we were talking a very young lady began to walk toward us, with her dog by her side. Joy spoke up and said. “This is Kim J and Alex. She is what today is all about.” As we met Kim and began to hear her story I was amazed at her smile, and her attitude toward life and this horrible disease. When we, as a foundation, present a donation we use a large check so we can write out who the donation is going to. Believe me it is very hard to walk around hundreds of people carrying this check and trying to keep the amount hidden. As halftime of the soccer game approached we made our way to sidelines close to mid-field. We continued to talk to Kim about her journey through this disease, I kept noticing one thing, she never stopped smiling. As the game clocked ticked down to zero we made our way onto the field along with 98 very young cheerleaders that had attended cheer camp at WCA that week. Mrs. Bordeaux took the microphone and began to tell everyone in attendance why we were all standing together. She told the large crowd about Kim and her fight and she told everyone about Lindsay and the foundation that bares her name. Next Joy Wade told what Going Beyond the Pink is all about, and then she turned to us to present the donation. As Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, and I turned the check around and held it for everyone to see every face began to light up with surprise. Not only were we there holding that check, but every single person that bought a raffle ticket, every sponsor, everyone that gave their time and money, everyone that bought a LMBF T-shirt or hat was there through their wonderful donations. Because of all the love and support we received this year the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation was able to present a check for $5,000.00 to this amazing young lady through Patriots in Pink. Kim J was still smiling and turned to me to say, “That is wonderful for the foundation and all the other patients.” I replied ” Ma’am this is all for you.” She still looked a little confused and still did not grasp that this entire day was for her. She did not know the check we were presenting, the T-shirt sales, the money taken up at the gate and all the other donations were for her. Joy turned to Kim and told her “All of this is for you Kim. You will not have to worry about paying your rent for a while, you will not have to worry if you have enough money for gas. You don’t have to stress about finances for a while, you can concentrate on healing.” After that statement, it sunk in, Kim J finally realized today was all about her. You could see the joy in her face, you could see the stress leave her body and you could see the tears begin to flow from her eyes. I know in my heart the school made the right choice by picking this humble young woman for its adopted patient this year. God bless you Kim J, continue smiling and continue fighting like a girl. Continue fighting each battle so in the end you can win the war.

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Shanda Bordeaux, Brad Benton, Kellie Ekstrom, Kim James, Joy Wade

 

This did not end the day for me personally. Remember the 98 very young cheerleaders that took the field at halftime? Well, along with these very young ladies were the Lady Patriot Cheer Squad. They, along with Coach Rickard, had been working with these young girls and now they were all on their knees leading these ladies in the cheers they had learned. As I sat watching all the parents, every one of them smiling as they waved to there little one’s, all could see was Lindsay. I could remember watching her sit on her knees leading the little ones. I can remember how she would smile as she worked with these aspiring future Lady Patriots. It brought a smile to my face, but it also brought a tear to my eye. As I sat and watched all the cheerleaders I took a peek to the heavens and gave Lindsay a quick wink because I knew she was right there watching every move they made. I hope she enjoyed watching and I hope she is proud of each of us for carrying on her name and her legacy.

I get asked questions all the time about Lindsay, starting a fund for cheer and art at WCA, starting a scholarship, starting the foundation, writing a blog, and now having a published book. There seems to always be, somewhere in the conversation, this common question, “Do you regret starting any of this? It has to make it difficult keeping Lindsay, and her passing at the forefront of your life on a daily basis?” The answer is always the same, “Absolutely not.” The reason why, because it is truly days like October 19, 2018 that make me know in the deepest part of my heart and soul that we are, doing the right thing. 

 

A Thin Line.

A Thin Line.

The complete and utter heartbreak from hearing “I am sorry your loved one has passed,” the complete and utter excitement from hearing “We have a kidney for you.” The sorrow and pain of hearing “We did all we could do, but we could not save your child,” the joy and heart lifting feeling of hearing “Please get to the hospital there is a heart on it’s way.” The ying and yang, the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, someones best day and someones worst. One life ends and one life begins anew. These are just a few of the polar opposites when someone passes away and someone else gets to live on. When your heart is breaking and someone else’s heart is full of hope for the future. There is no greater pain than to say goodbye to a child, a mom, a dad, a brother, sister or spouse. There is no lonely like the lonely when you walk through the door of your home, the same door your loved one walked out of for the last time. William Shakespeare said “The purpose of life is not to find your gift, but to give it away.” There is no truer statement when it comes to organ donation. We are given this life, these bodies are a gift. We are supposed to take care of them, treat them as if they where temples, but the abuse we put them through is sometimes detrimental. Once a kidney stops working, a liver quits functioning, the heart starts deteriorating, the lungs have no capacity, or numerous other organs begin to decline, we look to organ donation. The field of donation has come so far in the last ten years, the ability to transplant almost any organ has become a reality. But for this to happen someone has to die, someones son, daughter, mother or father has to lose their life for another to live. As many of you already know Lindsay was an organ donor. This was her own conscious choice at he age of sixteen. Her decision to save lives through donation fit right in with her dream of becoming a surgeon. So many times I have asked myself “Why her? Why did Lindsay have to pass for someone else to live?” The question will never be answered while I walk this earth. I will only get the answer when I leave this world and stand before God. The emotion felt when your loved one passes and you know someone else will live is virtually unexplainable. The immediate feeling of numbness passing through your body and you feel helpless, you feel as if your heart and soul has died right along with your loved one. At that point, the fact that someone else will live, someone else’s life will be extended does not matter to you, in fact it almost brings you to anger.  I had to come to realization that it was not the recipients fault that Lindsay passed away, they did not wish for her to have an accident that Sunday afternoon in August of 2016. I have only been on this side of organ donation, I only know the hurt and the pain of loss. I do not know the joy and elation of getting that phone call telling the recipient to get to the hospital as soon as they can. I personally know one of the recipients of Lindsay’s donations. She is a wife and a mother of two. I work everyday with her husband and her son. She was in almost complete kidney failure and Lindsay was able to save her life and give her many more years to spend with her family. Even knowing the recipient does not make the loss any easier, it does not make the pain any less. I had taken quite a bit of time off from work after Lindsay passed away and when the time was drawing near for me to return there was one thing I had to do. I had to see her and her husband, I did not want the first time I saw her husband to be at work. I did not know how I would react. Would I break down and cry, would I want to punch him, would I be happy for him, would I hold some sort of resentment for his gain and my loss? We did meet, and the first thing she said was “Lindsay is right here” as she  patted her lower abdomen. When I saw the smile on her face and the tears running down her checks all of my anxiety, all of my fears, where gone. We had an amazing visit and we talked about her surgery and of course we talked about Lindsay. You could see in her eyes the pain she felt for us but in her voice you could hear the appreciation for the sacrifice made. I often wonder if the other recipients that received Lindsay’s donations ever think about our family, if they ever think about the fact that a seventeen year old young lady had to die for them to carry on. Do they ever think about who she was, what she had accomplished, or where she was headed in this life. 

I asked Jeanne Connolly, who works for Carolina Donor Services, and has become a good friend to our family, to send me a statement concerning both sides of this life altering time. This is what she sent to me, “From what I have been a part of with the recipient families that resonates over and over again is that while sometimes writing or receiving a letter to the donor/recipient families can be difficult because they know that their loved one had died which allowed them to live, which is a struggle sometimes. When a donor recipient family meeting happens it brings a sense of knowing that the decision to donate has given both sides a bond that brings a sense of peace and understanding. One donors mother who met her son’s heart recipient said there  was finally a sense of calm and knowing that her son still lived on. As she listened to his heartbeat in the recipients chest it was what she had needed to get that peace. Every year on Mothers day the recipient sends flowers to his donor mom and they have established an ongoing relationship. In his words: The best tribute I can give to my Donor and his family is to live.

It is a fine line we walk as the survivors of a donor, a fine line between hurt and happiness, between loss and living, between grief and gratitude. This fine line often seems to grow even thinner on days that we truly miss our loved ones. On days we know that someone, somewhere is walking, talking and breathing. but they are not.  It is a fine line we will walk for the remainder of our lives, but knowing that the best tribute a recipient can give to their donor and family is to live does make the line a little broader.

 

 

The Why Day

The Why Day

Mark Twain once said “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”  

I believe we can all say we have the first day nailed down, the day we were born was very important, not only in our lives, but in the lives of our parents. The day we were born truly was the first day of the rest of our life. It was a day that set in motion a vast, infinite amount of paths that have lead us right were we are today. Now, where we are  has been a result of decisions, circumstances and conclusions that have had many forks in the road and it has been up to us to choose which way to go. All of these paths should have led us to the second part of Twain’s statement, “…the day you find out why.”  I am not sure about you, but after fifty three years I am still looking for that flashing neon sign that says, “Today is the day you find out why.”

After I read Twain’s quote, for what I believe, was the very first time, I began to think long and hard about “the why day.” Was it the day I was born? Was Twain insinuating that both days were actually the same day. I know the minute I arrived in this world I had no true thought process, although, I am sure I was tired from the move and I have no doubt I was hungry. But was that day in October many years ago my day to know why? It could have been for my parents, because like all parents, we feel the day our children are born is the greatest day of our lives. We feel like that is why we are put on this earth. to keep the human race moving forward by bringing new life into existence, but is that wonderful day a “why” day? Or could the “why” day be a day you, through no conscious effort, change the life of someone you did not even know? A simple act of emptying the change from your car into the hands of a hungry person who has been down on their luck. Could it be a loving word of encouragement that brings someone back from depression and the darkest thoughts of suicide. Could your day have been yesterday when you showed a random act of kindness and an anonymous onlooker with the hardest of hearts began to soften and realize the joy of compassion. Could your day have unknowingly already passed or is it still waiting to arrive? How do we find out what day our why day is? A question so many will spend a life time asking and may never get the answer.

A life time. To many, this statement means longevity, years of living, years of experiences, years of family and years of love. To me, so far, it has been fifty three years. To others it was only a few hours, a few days, a few months or seventeen years. To the ones that only made it a few days, a few months or seventeen years, I feel they are looking down and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what their “why day” was, it was the day, if they were organ donors, they became a hero. It was the newborn that passed away in their mothers arms. It was the toddler that fought the most courageous fight against a disease they never heard of. It was the father of two that worked every day to save lives running into burning buildings. The mom that said an oath to protect and serve so we could all sleep in peace. It was a beautiful seventeen year old young woman, it was my daughter. It has been every organ donor that has been a hero and a life saver. Lindsay, my daughter, lived a lifetime in seventeen years. She was the one giving her change to a down and out person, she was the one sitting and listening to a friend and bringing them back from a very dark place, she was the one showing a random act of kindness to those who felt unwanted, unliked, or shunned by the popular crowd. She was a leader, she was a sister, she was a friend and she was an organ donor. In my heart and mind she had many days that I thought were her “why day,” but I am almost positive, the lives that she saved would think differently. I have accomplished a lot in my life, and because of Lindsay I have accomplished so much more. I have stood behind a podium many times in front of hospital CEO’s, surgeons, doctors, nurses and family members of other organ donors and told Lindsay’s story. I have become the President of a foundation that we, her four parents, started to continue her legacy and to support the charities Lindsay was involved with. I started a blog for my own therapy and to help other grieving parents. I have become a published author, to help share how I, a father, handled and am still handling the loss of a child, and to hopefully help the next father understand he is not alone. But my “why day” is still yet to come, my day will come with the same sadness and grief that is shared by so many everyday. My “why day” will be my last, when I close my eyes for the last time and know in the depths of my soul, “why.” My day will also bring joy to random strangers and their families as they know their love ones now have a fighting chance. Strangers that in the mist of their joy, morn for the donor and their family. My day will come when I am standing beside Lindsay and we both know our two most important days and why.

Please, if you have not registered to be an organ donor,

let today be the day

you know your

why.

 

 

Trying to Remember

Trying to Remember

I’m not sure if you are old enough to remember the commercial, “This is your brain on drugs.” For those of you that are too young, here is brief description of how the commercial went. There was a hand holding an egg which represented your brain. The hand then takes the egg, cracks it and lets it pour into a very hot frying pan. This is to represent your brain on drugs. It is a very effective way to show what drugs can do to your brain. I feel there needs to be a new commercial, one that replaces the word drugs with grief. In this new commercial they need to crack two eggs, one for your brain and one for your heart. Let the eggs ease out slowly and begin to simmer in the heat of an old seasoned cast iron frying pan, because there are days when you feel your heart and mind are just fried. There are days when Lindsay lays so heavy on my heart and that in turn, fills my mind with grief. On these days if I slice up the normal trials and tribulations of everyday life, mix in a little drama, season with a bad day at work and  throw all that in the pan with the eggs, well you get the idea. I have tried so hard to change the recipe of grief, I have tried so hard to use different ingredients, to use a different pan, to bake instead of fry, but at the end of the day no matter how you serve it grief is still grief. It still hurts, and it can still, on any given day, be a buffet of heartache. 

The day your child passes away is a day you never want to remember, but you spend your entire life trying not to forget. My wife and I are on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, an area we both enjoy spending time. As we started out on our adventure yesterday I wanted to go to Chimney Rock. This small town is located on HWY 74 and it is sandwiched in between the towns of Lake Lure and Bat Cave. Chimney Rock is just that, an out crop of rock from the mountain side that gives the appearance that the mountain has a chimney. You drive over three miles up the mountain on some very twisting and narrow roads to reach the base of this natural beauty. You then get in an elevator, which was built inside the mountain, and start a twenty-six story climb. Once you make your way through the gift shop you are looking up two flights of stairs to reach the top. I am not a fan of heights, never have been and never will be. It is not so much a fear of heights as it is a fear of falling and coming to a very sudden stop. I grabbed the rail with a death grip, looked at nothing but the next step and made it to the top. I very carefully made my way to the center and looked up. What an a amazing view. You can actually see three different states from the top. You can see waterfalls, lakes and the beauty that is the NC mountains, but I was still looking for what I had come to see. I had to close my eyes for a moment and there she was, in my mind, I could see Lindsay and Jarrett standing possibly right where I stood. I could see her looking at the same beautiful mountains God had put here just for us to enjoy. It was worth the climb, it was worth the fear, it was worth it for me to be where she was. I have visited this area many times, and they were special because of the many family vacations I took as a child, but today was different. Lindsay had spent a week in Lake Lure with her mom, stepdad, her brother and best friend just days before she passed away. Some of the last pictures ever taken of Lindsay were taken on this trip. I just needed to be where she once was. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph, you spend a life time trying to remember.

A Father’s Grief is an outlet for me to try and explain how I am dealing with the loss of my daughter. How her passing has not only affected me but the lives of so many.  It is a means in which I have tried to heal my own heart, while trying to help others. Through the urging of family, friends and even strangers to publish my writings I have done just that. The book “A Father’s Grief – A Year of Healing” is now available through WestBow Press. Publishing this book was a bitter sweet journey, but it was a journey worth taking, it was a risk worth taking, it is a way to remember, but most importantly it is a way to heal.   

If you would like to purchase a copy of my book you can visit westbowpress.com and simply search my name, Brad Benton. You can also click the “Book” link on this website and it will take you to the West Bow Press page to order. You may also visit my Facebook Page, A Father’s Grief – A Year of Healing and click on the Shop Now link. If you visit my page please like and share it. A portion of the sales will go directly to the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation (lindsaymbentonfoundation.com) as we continue Lindsay’s legacy and help the charities she worked with.

I hope you were smiling.

I hope you were smiling.

What else can I say but “Thank You!!” Thank you to all that came out this Saturday for the second annual Lindsay M. Benton Volleyball and Corn Hole Tournament and helping us celebrate what would have been Lindsay’s 20th birthday. What an amazing group of volunteers that gave up their Saturday to come out to help and to support the tournament. Thank you to Captn’ Bill’s Backyard Grill and the amazing staff that took such great care of us and each and every person that walked through the gate. Thank you to each person that took the time to come out and play volleyball, corn hole and to purchase raffle tickets for such a great cause. The turnout this year was not what we had last year, but it was expected. We knew, because of the continued clean up, repairs, and heartbreaking loss of property due to hurricane Florence, the attendance would be down. We could not let this get our spirits down and we “as a foundation” pledged to enjoy the day, enjoy all that were in attendance and without mention, enjoy remembering our Lindsay Lou. The most memorable part of the day, by far, was the young man that won the bike during the raffle. When he realized he had won he went straight up to the bike, confirmed his name on the ticket and rode that bike right out of the door and all around the Captn’ Bill’s volleyball complex. To see the joy in this young man’s heart is a big part of what this day was about. I had to go outside and stop this young man and tell how happy I was for him. No matter the turn out, the day was a success. We raised over half of the amount that we raised last year, we met some wonderful people, we laughed, and we remembered a beautiful young lady, that just happens to be my daughter.  

Lindsay Lou, this was not a Tiffany’s, princess, or Barbie themed party like the ones you had in the past, but this party was for you. Happy birthday Sweetie, I miss you more than my heart can take sometimes. The gifts you received this year did not come in a nicely wrapped box with a beautiful bow, what you received were gifts of hope. Hope that a cancer patient will live to see another day and possibly celebrate their birthday one more time. The gift that a young person with special needs will have a fun filled day of activities and feel a sense of worth. The gift of life to someone that is on a long waiting list for a life saving transplant. The gift of knowledge for a student that will follow your dreams of being in the medical field. The gift of freedom to a art student to share their visions with the world. The gift of security that the cheer squad that you loved so much can do more, go more, and have more. A special gift you received this year will go to an outstanding organization, Samaritan’s Purse, as they help bring hope to the many people effected by hurricane Florence. The gifts that were given, maybe not to you, but through you will bring hope, value, life, knowledge, freedom, security, and a peace of mind that all is not lost. Gifts that were given from the heart with an unspoken love.

As I was scrolling through one of the many social media pages today looking at all the pictures and comments of the tournament I came across a post that truly captured what this is all about. A hymn written 145 years ago by a man that had lost almost everything. He lost his children to disease and a ship wreck. He lost his home, his business and his fortune to fire, but yet he still had faith, he still had the security of knowing no matter what stumbling blocks are placed in your path, no matter how much pain is in your heart,  there is always hope.

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul”

Happy Birthday Lindsay girl, hope you were watching and I hope you were smiling.