I know we all have fears, some more than others. Some have very little fears and others live their life in fear. Before Lindsay passed away I had many fears, most concerning both her and Jarrett. I now look at fear in a totally different manner. You often hear people say “I am afraid of dying.” There are two ways you can look at that statement. Are they afraid of the act of dying or afraid of how they are going to die? I am not really afraid of dying, my fear falls in the how am I going to pass away category. I actually have 2 major fears in this area, one is being burned to death and the other is passing while being alone. Ever since Lindsay passed away I have found it very hard to be alone. I used to love having my alone time, but now, not so much. Being alone gives me too much time to think about all my fears and worries.
Trust, to me, is the cure of all fears. I have to trust that I am not going to be alone when I pass or pass in a fiery blaze. Trust relieves all fears, and trust is what I have in my children. I remember having a very long conversation with Lindsay about trust and curfews. In her mind, her curfew was a direct result of how much I trusted her, wrong. Her curfew was a rule set in my house based upon what time I thought she should be home. I told her if I did not trust her, she would never leave the house. I trusted her, it was the billions of other people out there I didn’t trust. The lack of trust in those people manifested fear in my mind, fear for her safety. Now anyone that is a parent has a whole different set of fears for their children. The vast expanse of the millions of things that could happen to your children is sometimes overwhelming. A parent’s fear begins for their children before they are even born. Are they going to be healthy, are they going to sleep through the night, are they going to hate me one day? I am going to say yes, to that last one. They will at some point in their lives, but once they are old enough to trust that you have their best interest at heart they will love you again, I promise.
As you can tell from the beginning of this blog I believe trust relieves fear. When your child has been in a horrible accident and her life is in the hands of doctors, surgeons and nurses whom you have no relationship with, whom do you trust? To start with, you trust God, I know for a fact He was with Lindsay, the doctors, her surgeon and nurses. There were so many signs of God’s presence the entire week in the hospital. Did trusting God subside all my fears? I hate to admit it, but no. When I reached the hospital it was mainly the fear of the unknown. How bad was she hurt, can I see her, will I ever see her, and will she be okay? The fears increased with every moment that passed when there was no news of her condition. After we spoke to the surgeon, a nurse and the chaplain the fears escalated. Her injuries were beyond serious, it was a severe head trauma, it was broken bones down her entire left side, every bone with the exception of her ribs. Her ribs, how were they not broken? This was the first sign I needed to trust God, and I had no idea until later in the week. We were all led down a maze of halls heading to the surgical waiting room and the fears were there as well. What I am about to tell is known by only a few people, it is something I have not shared before. The volunteer that was leading myself, my wife and my mother to the waiting area got lost in that maze of hallways. He said we needed to turn around and go back to the emergency room and start over. Now on top of the fear and anxiety was anger. I needed to get to the waiting area to speak to the surgeon with Lindsay’s mom, I could not miss that conversation. Here is where my heart sank. As I turned to walk back down this long hallway I saw a doctor dressed in scrubs and a stretcher being pushed very hastily. I thought could it be? I pushed myself as tight as I could against the wall to give them room, the doctor walked by and I could see the seriousness in his face, and the intensity in his step. Then I looked at the stretcher and there was my little girl. It was so surreal; it was like I was in a very bad movie. The image of her being rolled down that hall is one that is burnt in my memory forever. As soon as I saw her face the entire scenario turned into slow motion, I just wanted to reach out and touch her hand as she went by. She looked like she was sleeping so peacefully, her hair was lying on the sheets almost as if she had placed it that way herself. She looked just like the young lady I had left only hours before. There was only a small cut on the left side of her face right above her eye. Fear, yes, I was engulfed in it. Trust, nowhere to place it.
When your child comes out of surgery and the prognosis is not one you want to hear, the fear begins to eat away at you. It is gut wrenching, it keeps you awake at night, it turns your world upside down. As the night wore on we began to have a familiarity with Lindsay’s nurse’s and a somewhat calmness came over me. I was beginning to trust them. After meetings with her surgeon I began to trust him as well. I was trusting my daughter’s life to people I did not even know, but something in my heart was leading me to do so. The fear was easing up until I tried to close my eyes that night and it all came rushing back. At this point my biggest fear was, was Lindsay in pain, did she feel the collision, did she sit and suffer until the first responders arrived? It was literally killing me on the inside. Did my Lindsay Lou feel any pain, how was it I was not there to protect her? I don’t know if you have read any of my other blogs or heard any of my speeches, but that surgeon I was beginning to trust was Dr. George Huffmon. As I have said before Dr. Huffmon was a God send in my life. I asked him a question directly in a meeting the day after Lindsay’s accident. My exact words were “I am afraid she felt pain, I have to know, was she in pain?” With tears in his eyes he said, “Mr. Benton, I can assure you 100% she did not feel any pain.” I can say with all my heart it was a relief, that fear was put away, I trusted this surgeon, this man of faith, this father. I was talking to Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, the next day and we were both burdened with the same fear. Was Lindsay alone? We had both prayed about this and asked God for an answer. We started our day like we had the day before, spending time with Lindsay before we went to the cafeteria and tried to eat something. We had made our way back to the STICU waiting room and I received a message on my phone. Our phones were constantly buzzing, vibrating or ringing so I did not rush to look at this new message. After a while I picked up my phone and there was a message from a retired 82nd Airbourne medic. She began to tell me how she was on her way back to Fayetteville NC from Wilmington when she saw Lindsay’s accident. She said she did not hesitate; she went straight to her car to be with her. This lady, this soldier, this stranger was willing to stop and help. She told us there was already 3 other gentlemen at the car with Lindsay. Another fear put to rest, another prayer answered. We did not know or hear from the other three gentlemen that day. We had no idea who they were or how to contact them to tell them thank you for being there with Lindsay. What happened next is another example of God’s hand. I don’t remember the exact day, but we received a message from a woman that lives in Compass Pointe, our neighborhood. Her name is Carolyn and her husband is Rock and they touched our hearts. Carolyn told of how they were coming home and were turning into Compass Pointe when they actually heard the crash of Lindsay’s accident. They stopped and Rock went straight to Lindsay’s car. This hero of a man climbed through the back window of Lindsay’s car and held my daughters head until the paramedics arrived. He spoke to hear and told her the ambulance was on its way, help was on the way. He held my daughter’s head and talked to her, this person I have never meet, this man whom I had never crossed paths with, stopped to help, stopped to help my daughter. I had the privilege of meeting Rock and Carolyn shortly after Lindsay passed away. I can say there were tears, and there were hugs. Rock said to us “I hope you don’t mind but I told Lindsay when the ambulance arrived that you guys were there too.” This wonderful person was apologizing for what he had told Lindsay. Telling her that we had arrived to possibly, miraculously, somehow get through to her. My heart was full and yet it was breaking. We were, and still are, blessed with so many good people in our lives.
As the week continued our fears turned to a place none of us wanted to be. After multiple meetings, and endless tests, the fear of making some of the most devastating decisions a parent would have to make were ours to bare. No amount of trust can remove this fear, the fear of losing your daughter. It was at this time we were introduced to Carolina Donor Services and Family Coordinator Rodney Pilson. In my past blogs, I have told the story of how Lindsay’s dream was to be a trauma surgeon and save lives. As her family, we had no choice but to help her fulfill her dreams. As we met with Rodney and he explained the entire donor process a whole new set of fears rolled in. We shortly found Rodney was a man of honor, a man of sincerity and a man of faith. It did not take long to learn he was a man I could trust. I entrusted Rodney with the integrity of my daughter as he accompanied her into the operating room, as he helped her fulfill her dream of saving lives.
If you remember, I mentioned earlier that I saw God at work and didn’t even know it. It was later that night I realized why God keep her ribs intact, why they were the only bones not broken. I believe in my heart God knew Lindsay’s dream and saved her ribs to protect her gifts of life. The gifts she gave to save three lives. A wonderful wife and mother of two is smiling a little brighter today, two middle age gentlemen, one in Tennessee and one in North Carolina are living a better life today because of the dream of a seventeen-year-old young lady. Never have I seen or been a part of such an unselfish gift, a gift of life.
Fear can be the manifestation of our own lack of trust in God and the human race. I have lived through the most devastating tragedy a parent can live through, and the amount of kindness and love I have found in people has restored my trust and faith in humanity.
Trust in God and the people that love and care for you and even a few strangers, and your fears will be put at ease.