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.

 

 

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”

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Masterpiece…

Masterpiece…

First things first. I want to thank Kelli for stepping in for me last week. This blog is very important to me and I truly appreciate her sharing her thoughts.  Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. I am back up and running, not very fast, but running.

 

“The colors that we use to paint the pathways of life, tell a vivid story of what was and what is yet to be. The infinite array of hue that covers our past manifests itself to an eclectic pallet of chroma to create our future. Try and let everyday be a prism of happiness.”      –Brad Benton

 
Sometimes I run across something I wrote a long time ago that means something totally  different than the day I wrote it. I guess the meaning could change daily based upon the trials and tribulations faced, or the happiness and joy we find in a moment. In it’s most basic form the passage I wrote above was for me to learn from my past, apply it to today and create a brighter future. I could write a blog about the things I have learned from my past, the joy, the pain, the decisions, good and bad, the life lessons my parents taught me that did not register until later in life.  The list could go on forever, but the one thing I have learned in the most recent past is there are still good people here on this earth, and most importantly, in our lives. I would never attempt to list all the good people that have come into my life since Lindsay passed away. One thing I have realized is most of the people were already there. They are your friends, your family, the ones that randomly send you a picture, or a message when they stop by to visit Lindsay. To sit with her and share a smile, a laugh and a tear. They are the ones that remember her birthday, remember how hard it is for me to hear the words graduation, prom, and wedding and not think of her. There are good people in this world and I am thankful to call them my friends.
If, in your mind, you have painted your future with your family in place, college degree and or a great job, married, children, your grandchildren, then you have painted the picture that every parent dreams of. The pride you would have displaying this beautiful original painting in your home. Your child or children and their many accomplishments, their battles won and their dreams full filled. Now take whatever medium you need for the paint you have used to create this wonderful painting of your future and erase it because nothing ever stays the same. Every year or two you will need to recreate this dream painting that hangs so carefully in the gallery of your mind. Everyone will get older, everyone will grow, whether tall or wide, hair colors will change, wrinkles will need to be added, spouses need to be added. Everyone and everything changes. Now imagine you are repainting and there is someone that hasn’t changed, someone who hasn’t gotten any older, grown any taller or their hair color is still the same. Someone who will never get wrinkles or ever have a spouse. That someone is a child lost. It makes no difference which one, because honestly you have no choice when it comes to losing a child so early in their life. There is no picking, one day they are there and the next they are not. It is not planned, it is not on the list of things to do, it is not a thought in your head when you are in the middle of mindfully creating this parental work of art. One does not replace the other because they are two totally different people. You love them all equally, you raise them all in the same environment, you teach them all you know. Not once did you ever think you would be leaving a blank spot on your canvas. Although the spot may not be blank it will never change, it will never grow, it will never age. This spot will forever be in the past. There is no paint, no color that will ever change this part of your painting. The only thing that can change this image, is you. You can take this horrific loss and turn it into good. Tell people the story of your lost child. Speak their name, honor their memory and always carry their heart in yours.   
Soak your brush into that vast array of color from your past, and be the artist that paints your future, one that goes far beyond the tragedy, trials and tribulations of today. You and only you can move, mix and manipulate the colors of the past to ensure a masterpiece for tomorrow, a masterpiece for you, your family and for your lost child. 
Be Patient…

Be Patient…

In the past twenty months I have learned so much about loss, grief, and living without a part of your heart. I have learned that there are still good people in this world willing to go above and beyond to help carry on a legacy. I have learned that no matter your age, your skin color, your religion, your current state of residence, your financial situation, or your currant state of mind, grief effects everyone in as many ways. I look back over these months and I see a common thread, an anchor of consistency that runs true in every day since Lindsay passed away, patience.

Think back, if you have children or if you have lost a child and remember the day they were born. Think back and recall the day you left the hospital to bring this new part of you home. Think back and try to remember where you put the manual that came with this wonderful bundle of joy on how to raise them, how to comfort them, how to keep them safe. Remember? Obviously there is no such manual, and we use our DNA installed parental instinct along with advice from those who have been there, to attempt to bring this child up in a loving and caring environment. I have gone back to those days several times in my head and the word I keep hearing over and over again is patience. You have to be patient. This is so true when you are raising a child. Every child is different, no two are the same and each and everyday brings new challenges, With those challenges patience is needed. Learning to crawl, learning to walk and talk. The ever dreaded potty training. The pre-teen and the teen years when, we as parents, become completely ignorant and know absolutely nothing about anything. I have learned not only do you need patience when you raise a child, it is paramount when you lose a child. Let me try to explain that statement by having you read this. “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” This is Proverbs 15:18 and it is so true. I have been told that I have patience, a calm demeanor and an ease when dealing with difficult situations. When your child is lying in a hospital room fighting for every breath and clinging to life some of those characteristics, I am sure, got lost in the mountain of emotion. As Lindsay’s father I quickly learned while she was in the hospital that the statement “Patience is a virtue” is so true. I have searched the the internet looking for a good explanation of this statement and this is the best, yet most simple one I could find, “The ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset is a valuable quality in a person.” This is so true when you are waiting on answers, waiting on doctors, nurses and the reason why this happened to your child. As Lindsay’s father I had to have patience with everyone, especially the staff in the STICU. My heart wanted every answer, ever test, ever possible avenue taken immediately to bring my little girl back. My mind knew I needed to be patient, to wait on the doctors, nurses and the tests. I had to tell myself this is what these people do, they save lives and I needed to let them do their jobs without a constant barrage of questions from me. I needed to have patience so when the time came for them to tell us what was taking place I could in return inform the rest of the family. Was it hard? Was it difficult? Yes, in every way imaginable. I would take the information that we, her parents, were given and in return relay the same information to our families. It was the most difficult news to hear from the doctors, it was even more heartbreaking to say it out loud to our families. All I wanted to do was tell them and leave the room to process all this in my own heart and brain, but I needed to be patient and answer any of their question as best I could because they where hurting just like us. When your child passes and it is time to leave them for the last time you can not leave your patience at the hospital. The time for patience is just beginning.
Be patience with your spouse. I some cases, like mine, my spouse is not the mother of my child but she loved her with all her heart. Be patience when they ask you a thousand times, “Are you okay? How are you doing today?” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” They mean well and only have your well being at heart. So many times my wife would say, “I wish I could pick you up and put you in my pocket and just carry you around.” No matter what they say or do, you have to keep in mind they are doing it out of love for you.

One very important thing to remember is, men and women, moms and dads grieve differently. Why? Another one of life’s many mysteries. I believe it is the mothers bond that is created in the womb, that bond that takes place over a nine month period that fathers do not have. Does this mean moms love their children more than dads? Absolutely not. I loved Lindsay with everything in me, just as I still love Jarrett. I think dads feel they have to be strong and hold a lot of emotion in check. I know for me my grieving and emotional draining took, and still takes place, in solitude. Away from anyone, where I can be with my thoughts and talk to Lindsay freely. No matter if your spouse is the mother or father, step mother or step father be patient with them because they love and care for you.

Family and friends also love you and know you are hurting. No matter their comments, always use patience and know they come from the right place. There will come a time when the comments and the visits will slow and eventually stop. Then is when you need to be patient because they have not forgotten you or your loved one they have simply continued on with their life. They will, when you least expect it call, or stop by to check on you, and this will touch your heart like nothing before.

Friends of your child. They may not know how to approach you, what to say or how to say it. Just last week, we received a message from one of Lindsay’s friends stating just that. He wanted to say something, do something but he did not know how. Today I saw a picture a friend of Lindsay’s took at her grave site while she was visiting her. I can not begin to tell you how much this touches my heart, that these young people take the time to remember her and reach out to us to reassure their support. So be patience with them when they come to you, listen to them and thank them. They are young and they are hurting as well. 

Siblings. Unlike the friends of a lost child, the sibling(s) shared and lost so much more. They had been together since each others birth and have shared what time they had together here on this earth. They played together, ate together, and fought together. They grew up together, the went to school together and they have been through things that we, as parents, may never know about. They have lost their “go to” person and may feel very lost in this big old world. They may have regret and it may take time for them to express it. When, and if, they do be patient and most importantly be attentive. Sit, look them in the eye, give them your undivided attention. Turn the TV off, turn your phone off let them know they are the only person in the world right now you are concerned about. Be patient with any comment or answer, and please do be afraid to say “I don’t know why.” Let them know, even as their mother or father, you don’t have all the answers. Be patient in your listening. They may not know how to express how they are feeling or how to word what they want to say.

Grief requires the most patience of all. Grief is a day to day event. You have good days and you have bad days. You wonder if it will ever go away. I can tell you from talking to other parents that have lost a child, the answer is no. Be patient with yourself, don’t feel bad if you can’t make it through a day without crying or you want to crawl in a corner to shut the world out. On the other hand, don’t feel bad if you make it through a day laughing and enjoying life. It takes time and patience to figure all this out. You feel bad if you feel good, and you feel sad if you feel bad. I often wonder when it’s okay not to be sad? When is it okay not grieve? When is it okay to be happy? The thought of your child never being by your side again, never accomplishing their life goals and never growing old is always on a parents mind. I can tell you twenty months from now I will be right here, in the same place, not knowing, hurting and trying to be patient.

 

Dance…

Dance…

Last Sunday, April 27th, I went to a wedding. This was only the second wedding I have attended since Lindsay passed away. Last year I went to my nephew Aaron’s wedding and last Sunday I went to Andrew’s, my other nephew. I think the world of these two young men and would have never missed their special day. I am so happy for the both of them and the spouses they have chosen to spend the rest of their lives with.

The venue last Sunday was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, The Oaks at Salem in Apex NC. The grounds, the pond, and the feeling of joy that surrounded the entire ceremony was majestic. Andrew and Lauren asked that Kelli and I be the greeter’s that welcomed all their other guest to their special day. Andrew also made a special request that I wear my pink blazer, he and Lauren wanted me to dress, should I say, a little brighter than the norm. I was more than happy to oblige their request.Meand Kelli  With our greeting responsibility complete, Kelli, my son Jarrett and I took our seats for the ceremony. After sitting for a few minutes I could see Andrew and the preacher walking along the pond and I could not hold back the tears. I was sitting right behind my brother, Brian, and I was trying to imagine what he was thinking, what was going though his mind. I am sure it was thoughts of worry, happiness, concern, pride and love for his son and the union Andrew and Lauren were minutes away from completing. The reason I am sure is because that is what I would be feeling if it was Jarrett walking beside that pond.  I thought of Jarrett and the day, I hope, he takes that walk. The day he stands before God, family and friends and pledges his love for that special person. We sat as the wedding party began their entrance, they were family and friends of both the bride and groom.  Aaron was the best man and their sister Mary was one of the bridesmaids. Once the last coupled attendants made their way to the beautiful arbor where the couple would say their “I do’s” the music for the bride’s entrance began. Everyone stood and turned to watch as the huge rustic wooded doors opened for the bride to make her appearance.  I turned to look at Andrew, I wanted to see his reaction, his expression when her saw Lauren. It was no less then I expected. You could see the love he has for this wonderful young lady. As Lauren and her father made their way down the aisle I began to think, of Lindsay. My initial reaction was to rub my ring, a ring that I had custom made with Lindsay’s fingerprint itched into the surface, the diamonds from her earrings mounted on each side and “My Lindsay Lou” engraved on the inside of the band. Anytime I want to feel extra close to her, the ring is my connection to her. As I turned to watch Lauren take those finial steps with her father I could see the glow of love and happiness. There are two things that made the top five list of “Things I will never get to do” when Lindsay passed away and one was about to happen. The question, “Who gives this women in marriage?” One day I will get to sit right where my brother has sat, the father of the groom, full of hope for my son’s future and happiness, full of pride for the man he has become, but I will never get to take that walk and answer that question. There were as many tears of joy as there were sadness, because I know deep down inside, Lindsay was there with us, just as she was for Aaron’s wedding. When the ceremony was over and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Benton turned to face their family and friends for the first time it was true happiness and love that shined through their smiles. 

 

We made our way from the ceremony location to the reception area and mingled with family and met new friends. It was nice to be surrounded by family from both mine and Brian’s side as well as Julie’s, Brian’s wife. Jarrett, Kelli and I were at a table with several of Andrews friends. It was a joy to sit and talk to them about there accomplishments and plans for the future. It gives me hope for this world that there are good, young people out there. Jarrett, being a liberal arts major, had a lot to discuss with all of our table guest. I believe all of them had something to do with music, acting, or production. On our table each and every plate had a hand written note. Andrew and Lauren penned personal messages to each guest they had invited respectfully. I am not going to share what Andrew wrote to me but, I will tell you, it touched my heart deeply and confirmed what a loving, caring young man he is. The D.J. announced the newly married couple and they were to have their very first dance together as husband and wife. It was enchanting, their smiles for each other were endless, loving and sincere. As I sat and watched this young couple dance into their future I knew what was coming next, the second item on the top five list, the father daughter dance. When the D.J. announced for Lauren and her father to make their way to the dance floor my heart was torn in so many different directions. I was so happy for Lauren and her dad to have this very special moment in time, this time to start a memory for the rest of their lives. This time when a father and daughter share the spot light and humbly share their feelings for each other, with their family, with a single dance. The song Lauren chose for this special dance was Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella.” I have to admit I don’t believe I have ever heard this song before, but I can guarantee, I will never forget it. They danced through the first few verses and then broke out into a medley of fast, hip hop-ish type songs to showcase their true dancing talent. At the end they danced to the last verse Cinderella, which touched me the most.

“So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone”

I never had the chance to dance with Lindsay and I never will while I am still here on this earth, but I am looking forward to the day I get to have my first father daughter dance. In my heart I know it will be beautiful, with a heavenly angelic choir singing. My advice to any father that has a daughter, dance with her. I don’t care how old she is or how old you are, dance. It does not matter if she is embarrassed, she will thank you one day, dance. Dance when she least expects it, but dance. Dance in the street, in the house, dance in a ballroom, dance at a ballgame, dance in the middle of Times Square, but dance. Dance with her now because you never know when that clock will strike midnight and she will be gone. Weather you present her in marriage to the man she loves or God takes her from this world before you expect it, dance before she is gone. 

Thank you Kelli, Jarrett, Mom, Dad, Brian, Julie, Andrew, Lauren, Aaron, Mikayla, Mary and everyone else in my family for all your support. I love each one of you in my own way.

God bless you Andrew, Lauren, Aaron and Mikayla. May your future’s be bright, your laughter be long and your memories be sweet.