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.

And So It Begins

And So It Begins

And so it begins. The countdown. With only days to prepare and rearrange the emotions that have taken up residence in whatever lobe the brain uses to process grief. The internal tug of war that has sadness pulling with all its infinite strength at one end of the rope and at the other end, happiness. This happiness that has been dormant,  hibernating, that is weak and timid, almost afraid to come out of its shell. The happiness that reluctantly places its metaphorical uncalloused hands on what seems to be a rope that is sure to pull it straight into a pit of despair. This is an everyday torment, every time you lean toward being happy the guilty feeling that you need to be sad, creeps in. I know in the deepest part of my heart that Lindsay wants me to be happy, but it is so hard when my heart wants her here.

Kelli and I  have finished with our minimal decor for Christmas. I don’t know if its because the joy is no where near what it used to be or if I am just getting older and really hate taking it all back down. Either way it takes all I have to just put up a tree. Every year we add an angel to our decorations or a butterfly to our tree. It is just the little things that help you get through each day. There will never come a day, week, month or year that I will not think of Lindsay. There will never be a holiday that I will not wish she were here. I hope and pray there never comes a holiday that her name is not mentioned, or a story is told. I never want the memories to die. My son, Jarrett, and wife, Kelli, are the people that keep me going during these holiday seasons. The remainder of my family are like B12 shots, they give me the energy to smile, they give me hope for the future, and they give me the desire to be happy. 

This is quote from the blog, An Unexpected Family Outing. In this blog the author is discussing grief and fathers. “There’s a lot we, as women, can do. We can listen to their stories and to their silence. We can encourage them to share. We can recognize and honor their fatherhood in its many iterations. But, there is something we can’t do for them.  We can’t be fathers.” We cant be father’s. What a powerful statement. As parents that have lost a child we all hurt, we all suffer, we all live with grief. But as a father you lose, you lose as a protector, provider, and proactive leader of this young life that once was your child.

I truly hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas. If you know someone that has lost a child and you are in their presence this Christmas, please mention their child’s name. Parents remember everyday that their child passed away, so mentioning their name does not remind them of that, it reminds them that their child lived. I could never explain the emotions that stir inside my heart and head during this time of year. So if you see me or any parent sitting quietly, just taking it all in this Christmas, it may not be because we are sad. I believe we have learned a very hard lesson in life. Never take even one second for granted, enjoy the smiles, enjoy the laughs, enjoy the treasured time with family and friends. I know where Lindsay is spending Christmas this year and who she is spending it with. I know there will come a day when we will all be together again. I know she is looking down at our half wall hugging tree again this year, and in the sophisticated southern draw I can hear her telling every one in heaven,” That’s pathetic ya’ll.”

Question

Question

A few times, over the past weeks, I have had people approach me and ask the same question. “I want to buy your book for someone that has recently lost a child, I was wondering do you think it will make them sad?” This really made me stop and think for a moment before I answered them. To the best of my fifty four year old memory this was my response. “There is nothing in this entire world that can bring more sadness into your life than the loss of a child. Will my book make them sadder, probably, but it will also let them know they are not alone. It may help them understand there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It will hopefully show them that you can take the worst tragedy that could happen to a parent and somehow, someway turn it into a triumph. Turn their nightmare into hope for someone else.” My book is a year of blogs that tell about Lindsay’s accident, the week we spent in the hospital and how I have dealt with the grief that still enters my life everyday. I honestly do not know if it will make another parent that has lost a child sadder than they already are, I can only hope it will help.

Switching gears a little. It’s coming soon, the most loved, hated, bittersweet day of the year for a parent that has lost a child. The day that spreads joy to the world and decks the halls with boughs of holly. The day we celebrate the birth of Christ, the day we join together as a family and reminisce over the past year. This day that brings back smiles and tears. I thank God that I have the family I have, a family that gathers at my home and mentions Lindsay’s name. The worst thing for a parent is for a holiday, a birthday or any special day to pass and no one mention their child’s name. No parent ever wants to think their child has been forgotten. I see all the posts on social media of Christmas trees being put up and decorated so beautifully and I begin to dread putting ours up. It was Lindsay’s favorite thing to do this time of year. I ride down the street in our neighborhood and see all the yard decorations and it reminds me of a time when I loved doing the same. Now I have no desire to put out any yard decorations, it is an internal emotional tug of war that has happened for the past two years on what to do and what not to do. It all boils down to the fact I just cant do it, yet. I hope there comes a day when I am excited about decorating again because I know Lindsay is shaking the heavens stomping her feet screaming down, “Get that tree put up.”

 

A Visit

A Visit

Sometimes I have a strong feeling, a feeling of needing to visit Lindsay.  A pulling to spend time with her, a time of solitude, a time of quietness, a time I can spend with her memory, just me and her. It is a feeling that does not go away until I stop and take the time for a visit.

I have come to realize over the past two years I don’t have to be by her side to do this. I don’t have to sit on her granite memorial bench and look at her bronze marker to be close to her. I know in my heart that the only thing I am visiting is her earthly shell, her earthly body and that is not what made Lindsay, Lindsay. What made Lindsay who she was, was her heart and soul, her attitude, her spirit, her presence, her commanding personality, none of that will ever be locked in a grave. I can walk out on the dock behind the house, where she and I hung lights for Christmas, and say, “Hello girl, I miss ya.” I can stand on top of Grandfather Mountain and remember when her and Jarrett would run across the bridge and I would say, “Be careful, stay together,” because I was too scared to cross that mile high swinger. If I needed to, I could stand in the middle of ten thousand people massed together in Time Square or sit in the quaint little restaurant called Bea at 403 W. 43rd Street and say, “Remember when? Remember when we were here? I sure wish you were here with me again.” I can sit in Magnolia’s Restaurant in Charleston, SC and hear someone order a grilled meatloaf sandwich or stand on Main Street USA in front of Cinderella’s Castle and remember the enchantment that filled a little girls eyes. From the boardwalk and jetty rocks of Long Beach NY to the boardwalk and jetty rocks of Carolina Beach NC she left a memory for me to treasure. So many memories buried like priceless pirates jewels on the shores of Long Beach NY to the Outer Banks, Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches, to the sandy shores of Holden and Myrtle Beach. From the North Carolina and Tennessee mountain tops to the streets of Disney, Brooklyn and home sweet home she left so many memories. She left so many places for me to visit her, so many places for me to feel her by my side, so many places for me to smile, so many thoughts to ponder. Where I feel closest to my Lindsay Lou is where ever I am. Wherever I am standing, wherever I am sitting, riding, flying. walking or driving. I know in my heart, she will always be with me just as I had planned to be with her, when I was gone from this earth, and she was fifty four years old planning a short, quiet, visit with her dad.