Today was a very proud day for me and my family. Our son, Jarrett Bradford Benton, graduated from Cape Fear Community College. I personally have never been prouder of Jarrett, and the man he has become. As I sat in my seat at the Wilson Center on the campus of CFCC beside my wife, I looked up and down our aisle. On my right was my ex-father in law and beside him my ex-brother in-law. Beside my wife was my mother, and beside her were two of Jarrett’s new grandparents. Sitting next to them was my ex-wife and her husband and beside them was my ex-mother in law. I thought, this is what puts the “function” in our dysfunctional family. The love of our children, grandchildren and the love of family. Is it always a dysfunctional life of butterflies and unicorns, absolutely not but we make it work, for the love our children. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, our village is small and it sometimes has an inter-tribal skirmish, but at the end of the day a peace treaty is signed, and once again the village is at peace for the love of their children. The tears began as soon as the first graduate started walking across the stage to take their seat. We all waited in anticipation to see Jarrett walk across that stage and there he was, cap, gown, shirt, tie and sideburns. It was a beautiful commencement ceremony with a wonderful and thoughtful farewell to the graduates from the president of CFCC. Now it was time for the distribution of diplomas and announcements of accomplishments. We sat, anxiously waiting to hear Jarrett’s name one more time. When it came time and the M.C. announced “Jarrett B. Benton degree in Fine Arts” my heart almost exploded with love and pride. My mind was in somewhat of disbelief , how was this young man with an accumulative GPA of 3.5 or above actually walking across this stage when only yesterday he was beginning to crawl? How could he be doing this, he was just 4 years old and we were going fishing down at Uncle Spencer’s pond. This young man who at one time found it hard to tell the waitress at a restaurant what he wanted to order, will now get on any stage at any time and perform stand-up comedy, play drums like a rock star and sing karaoke with the best of them. How could my little man have become a grown man in the blink of an eye. I really don’t know, but I will tell you this, I am scared to death to blink again. As I walked out of the auditorium I could not wait to put my arms around him, tell him I love him and how proud I was to be his dad. He has a very short break and then its back to school at UNCW where he will continue his studies in the Fine Arts. I truly cannot wait to see what life’s journey has in store for Jarrett. As his father I pray for a life of happiness, love and success, and a good job wouldn’t hurt. Not in any way am I trying to take away from Jarrett’s day and all he has accomplished, but as were taking pictures I thought for a second there is always going to be someone missing from these pictures. Son, I know in my heart that your little sister is so proud of you, and she now knows, you have got it together.
Where do I begin, oh yeah, “Dad so you were born in Brunswick County right?” Of course, my response was “Yes ma’am I sure was, and proud of it, why do you ask?” What she responded with was the last thing I ever thought I would hear coming out of my precious little baby girl’s mouth. “Well if you’re from Brunswick County then you should be proficient at shot gunning a beer, right?” This was Lindsay, never afraid to ask anybody anything at any time. I case you were wondering my answer was, no.
When I first meet Jesse Bessette, with Oleander Memorial Gardens, needless to say, I was not in a very good place. We had just lost Lindsay and we had just finished planning her funeral. The next step in this horrific process was finding the perfect place for Lindsay. Her mother and I both agreed, without hesitation, Lindsay had to be laid to rest at Oleander Memorial Gardens. It was as close to the beach as we could get her and she had to be under one of the lovely moss draped oak trees. We made an appointment with Jesse shortly after leaving the funeral home for later that afternoon. Once we arrive we knew exactly where we wanted her to be. It is a beautiful spot on the north-west side of the cemetery, as close to the ocean as possible and under two very large oak trees. Jesse made this as easy as possible for us. We told him what we wanted and he made it happen. The site we picked was in question on whether or not we could have a memorial bench, something we so badly wanted. Jesse took charge. He measured and re-measured until he made it happen. He walked us through every step, and all the while he was crying right along with us. Jesse also has a way to put a smile on your face, he has the uncanny ability to tell a good joke right at the most opportune time. He made me smile through the tears. If you recall there was a tropical storm the day of Lindsay’s funeral, and I woke that morning with the horrible fear of water, water puddled right where Lindsay was to be. I could not get it out of my head, the fear of Lindsay being laid to rest in water was killing me inside. As the day progressed my thoughts turned to other things and the service ahead. At the end of Lindsay’s service, the pastor announced there would not be a graveside service due to the weather and the fear crept right back in. We were able to have a small service in the mausoleum close to Lindsay’s site and a fair amount of people were able to attend. The pastor said a final prayer and as he said amen there was the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard in my life. We all believe it was Lindsay saying Amen. After the service in the mausoleum, our family went back to the church for a meal they had so graciously prepared for us. I was sitting at the end of a table eating and talking to Kelli and some other family members when in walked a man drenched to the bone. It was Jesse. He was so wet you could hear him when he walked. He walked straight to my side knelt down and said “Everything was dry, there was no water. She is good”. Those words will never leave my memory. All my fears and worries about this were put to rest by a stranger that now I call my friend. Jesse did not have to come to the church, he could have simply gone home to get out of his soaking wet clothes and never mentioned this to me again. I just could not get over the fact that he took the time and went out of way to do something he did not have to do. As he stood to leave there was a small puddle of water where he had knelt and I could see him shiver from the coldness of the room. He walked out of that building on that devastating day, a day where my world was lost, a true hero. Jesse, I know I have told you a hundred times, but I have to tell once more, Thank you my friend.