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.

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.”

 

Florence

Florence

Let me start by apologizing for not posting a blog last Sunday, September 15th, things were a little hectic in this area. We were in the last days of dealing with hurricane Florence. We went several days with no power, no WiFi and no internet. I have lived in the same small town, across the Cape Fear River from Wilmington NC, my entire life. I have been through several tropical storms and many hurricanes in my fifty three years, but I have never lived through what hurricane Florence brought to our front door. This hurricane was large, it was powerful and it was slow. This storm brought rain unlike any storm I have ever seen before. In most cases a hurricane will make landfall and be gone in a less than a day, I am referring to the very first heavy rain band until the last warm breeze hours later. They usually come, dump inches of rain, do their destruction and leave. Florence must have really been tired from her journey across the Atlantic Ocean, because she decided to sit down right here on the entire southern coast of North Carolina and visit for a while. For two and a half days she poured rain from her dark nemising clouds, and her winds blew continually, only stopping as if she was taking a deep breath to blow again. 

I have seen the best in people and I have seen the worst. I have seen humans giving everything they have to help a neighbor and I have seen humans taking everything a neighbor has. I have seen people giving, because they have extra, and others having nothing. I have seen people taking from another, just because they can. I have seen damage from wind and I have seen devastation from water. I have seen entire homes flooded and everything within the walls of that home lost to the rivers, creeks, lakes and the 2 plus feet of rain Florence poured on our part of the world. I have seen first responders rescue families from their roof tops and I have seen people steal a family’s last gallon of gas from their generator. I have seen insurance companies, contractors and charitable organization helping the masses with answers, repairs, shelter and food. I have also seen the bottom feeders of the world trying to take the last dollar a family has pretending to be one of the good guys. Times like these bring out the good in so many, and unfortunately, it brings out the worst as well. The power workers, the linemen, the men and woman that leave their families to travel hours, even days, to come to our towns, our cities, our neighborhoods to help. The few that complain because someone else has power and they still don’t. These linemen put their own lives in danger trying to restore what we have come to take for granted and they do it for complete strangers.

The saddest day, for me, was Wednesday the 19th day of September. I received a call from my brother, he was at his storage unit and it had flooded. Almost two feet of water had filled his unit and several containers that held so many precious memories. All the memories of his children, the books, the journals, the photographs all destroyed. All the books that he and my sister in law had read to their children as they grew and saved to read to their grandchildren. The retirement memories from my brothers school, my grandfathers bible, my sister in laws hope chest that held so many cherished items. As I stood there and looked at years of memories stuffed in garbage bags, it broke my heart. I knew how much each and every memory meant to them. They kept saying over and over again, “It is just stuff, we still have each other.” No matter, it still hurts to see so many years of your life ravished, ruined and now residing in large black plastic bags bound for the county landfill. So many items never to be looked at or held again. So many things that will not cover the walls of their new home, so many trinkets and souvenirs that would bring a smile as it sat on a shelf, gone. My sister in law came over to me and gave me a big hug, I thought to myself I should be hugging her. Then she said these words, “We have lost a lot, but you have lost so much more.” What a loving and profound statement that fit our situation and the situation of so many after a catastrophic storm. Possessions can be replaced, houses can be rebuilt, new memories can be made, but nothing can replace the loss of a loved one.

How Do You Do It?

How Do You Do It?

First let me say, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there. I myself am the proud father of two wonderful children, Jarrett and Lindsay. Jarrett is still with us and I am so proud of all he has accomplished and all he is yet to do. My Lindsay girl is spending Father’s Day with here eternal Father, but I know she is smiling down on her earthly dad.

Settle in somewhere comfortable because this is a long one. I am sorry but I have a lot to share and it takes a lot of words to do it. 

I have had numerous people ask me “How do you do it? How do you get up every morning and carry on? How do you make it through each day?” There are so many answers to these questions, so many reasons why, and behind every answer there is a person, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance and sometimes a perfect stranger. It seems that everyday someone says or does something that keeps me going. Whether it be a hug, a smile or just a look, it always seems to come just at the right time. It could be the smallest of gestures or the grandest act of kindness. 

This blog will make number fifty-two, a full year. I have been writing to help relieve the weight of grief, to do my best to explain what a father goes through when he loses a child, and hopefully, help someone who has been dealing with the loss of a child. In this blog I want to share some of the kindness, some words of encouragement and the little surprises that keep me going. Whether it was a long hand written letter, or a picture with the smallest of reminders in the background so many things have helped me get up every morning. So many things have changed in my life, I see the world with very different eyes and feel with a softer heart. I watch videos of “America’s Got Talent,” and I cry each and every time there is a “Golden Buzzer.” I am not sure if its tears of happiness for the contestant or sadness over the fact that their dreams are coming true and Lindsay’s never will. When you lose a child your entire emotional world changes. You cry at things you never would have before, you smile at the smallest sign of kindness, and you wonder, you always wonder, “What if?” It has been 656 since Lindsay left us and it has been 656 days of struggle. You may not see it when you see me smile or hear me laugh, you may not see it when you see me enjoying life, but the struggle is there, it is always there. The struggle lives in a place I try so hard not to reveal, but when it reaches flood levels I have to open the levy and let it flow freely. I need to release the pain and the hurt that fuels the daily pain of losing a child. As I said, I want to share a big part of what keeps me going, what I turn to when grief starts to over power my heart, and the joy that comes from each word, each thought and each photograph.

We received so many wonderful cards of encouragement, love and sympathy when Lindsay passed away. The came from family, friends, neighbors and many from people we did not know. I have keep each and every one of those cards and letters and on the days I feel I need some help, I feel I need to close those flood gates I pull them out, I read them and I know everything will be okay.

The photo on the right are all hand written letters from cheer teams that met Lindsay at state competitions. The top right are mounds of cards and letters we received. The bottom right is one of the many cards we received from complete strangers telling us how Lindsay had touched their lives. This is how I make it through everyday.

 

There was one very special card with a photo enclosed. It was from my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jimmy. The photo is of my uncle Jimmy holding Lindsay her first Christmas.Uncle Jimmy We were at their house for our traditional Christmas eve party and Ms. Lindsay was being very fussy. My uncle Jimmy held her and she calmed right down. He held her for most of the night and she was quite happy with that. We had a memory tree at Lindsay’s service and this was my uncles memory of her.

 

Speaking of the memory tree, I would like to share just a few of the beautiful words written by visitors to Lindsay’s service. This idea was given to us and set up by a complete stranger who lives in Compass Pointe who came to our home to speak to us, she too had lost a child.

It is also the little surprises that get me through the day. The small simple things that I never knew about that find their way to my heart. The first photo below is from a video taken by Haleigh, a friend of Lindsay’s, in her dorm room. I was watching the video and noticed a small white canvass hanging on her wall. On that canvas where just the words “Love Lindsay” with Lindsay’s signature heart. This was from the a birthday card Lindsay sent to Haleigh before she passed away. The second photo is from an exchange student that meet Lindsay at church. She had the logo from the foundation tattooed in memory of Lindsay. The third is of two amazing friends of Lindsay’s, Sierra and Rebecca. We try our best to stay in touch with as many of Lindsay’s friends as possible. Sierra sent this to Kellie, Lindsay’s mom. The last two photo’s, are a drawing of roses that Lindsay drew and gave to Heather, her best friend. On Heather’s eighteenth birthday she had it tattooed on her back in memory of Lindsay.

 

What can I say about Wilmington Christian Academy? Every time I walk on that campus I can feel Lindsay with me. The entire academy has been so supportive and loving through out every day since Lindsay has been gone. When I am there I truly feel like part of a family. They continue to help us with the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer and Art Fund as well as the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship.

The top two photographs are of Heather Reynolds, the 2017 recipient and Amanda Fisher,  the 2018 recipient of the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship. The bottom two photographs are of two pieces of Lindsay art work that the school had framed for us. 

 

When Jarrett got the tattoo of Lindsay’s EKG with her actual signature it was a mix bag of emotions.JB tatoo 1 On the one hand my little boy had grown up to be a man. Not saying getting a tattoo in any way makes you a man, just stating the fact that he was eighteen. On the other hand my little boy was still my little boy. He did this for his sister, he wanted to be able to tell anyone that asked about it that, “This was my sister.” He wanted to honor her, and in my eyes he did just that.

These are the things that get me through the day. Looking back and remembering all the things that people have done to remember Lindsay. There are so many wonderful memories and so many people that have honored her that it would take weeks to mention them all. I want to mention one more. North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant. Lindsay competed in the pageant in 2016 and they did a beautiful job of remembering and honoring her in 2017.

The photo below is of a friend of Lindsay’s she met at the Azalea Pageant. I can remember like it was yesterday the two of them holding hands on stage as the results were called out.  This is what she sent to us. 

St. Pats“I am currently in New York. We walked inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and I lit a candle for the memory of Lindsay. Thought I would share this with you.”

 

Last year the STICU at NHRMC was renovated and all the rooms were changed. Someone room numbervery special called me and asked if I would like to have the plate from Lindsay’s room. It still amazes me at the heart and soul of some people. The fact that they would even think to ask means to world to me.

 

This blog has been my way to share my grief, share my love, and share what I have learned as a grieving father. It has helped me to ease the pain, it has helped me to carry on, and it has helped me to see life in a totally different light. It has been read in thirty five different countries and reached thousands of people. My hope is that is has helped the readers as much as it has helped me. I would like to share some of the comments I have received on this blog. I am not doing this for my own self satisfaction or gratification but to show how many good people there are in this world grieving, how many people are hurting, and how many people walk the same walk I do everyday. 

“You don’t know me, nor you, I, but thank you. I do understand exactly what you mean. We have had to bury not one, but two, children. Our only children, 3 years apart from each other, exactly 3 years + 3 days. You’re right, there is nothing normal about it. However, there is a new normal for us, but every grieving parent must figure that out on their own time, and not be told. I also wrote a sort of how-to blog on caring for a grieving parent, but it was definitely not as well written as yours. Thank you for putting into words the thoughts I couldn’t. ♡♡♡”

“I truly get goosebumps when I read your blog. It is so similar to the loss of my 17 yr old daughter. She also saved 2 lives. One small, bump on the right side of her head resulting in a tbi. Her right side was broken in many places. We are coming upon the second year of her accident Aug 28th and her death Aug. 30th. Lots of anxiety. I know you all are feeling the same. God Bless you.”

“My thoughts and prayers go out to you and thanks for writing this, I hope it helps you. We too lost our 20- year- old daughter 6 months ago so I can relate to everything you say! God bless you and comfort you.”

“I was suggested this blog via my cousin. I am not certain whether this put up is written by means of him as nobody else recognize such distinct approximately my problem. You are amazing! Thank you!”

“Brad, when I learned about the accident, my heart broke for you and your family. I am so glad that T***** M**** shared this post. I have been blessed by reading it. I have not lost a child, so I can’t say that I understand, but I did lose a much younger sister to a car accident when she was sixteen. You are right about the “Thousand Little Things”. Her accident was 39 years ago, and I still have those moments. God bless you and your family as you continue this journey through your grief.”

“Thank you Brad, for sharing such a personal part of yourself and for enlightening many of how precious time with loved ones is. I mourn for your Lindsay too, and I never met her. She touched me forever. Peace be with you.”

“Reading your words reminds me to be more present with my 7-year-old. Thank you for sharing.”

“Tears and heartache for your loss. Thank you for sharing your soul and your experience. I know Lindsay is so proud of you and her loving family and friends. I will probably always ask why her Lord?…such an amazing young lady…she sure did make her mark in this life, she lives on in so many hearts. Prayers for you and Kelli, Kellie and Jarrett. May God give you strength and comfort day by day.”

“I had the privilege to pray with her every night last summer at camp and it’s amazing how God sends you people that share the same struggle and testimony! I don’t know if it will be any comfort or not but talking to her and praying with her was a such blessing to me because it helped show me why God allowed somethings in my life to happen in order to help girls just like her through the same things and that Gods hand is truly guiding my every step. When I tell you, she was different than most campers that I minister to I really mean it because I gave her a letter that I carry around in my bible that my best friend wrote me in a hard time and I gave her my number to call me whenever she needed someone to just listen. I saw some of myself in her and just talking to her and hearing her heart I have no doubt that she knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior and that one day we will see her again! God bless you! I will keep you and your family in my prayers!”

“The courage and strength that you continue to show daily are amazing. I read your words and feel so grateful that you have the grace to write them. I pray that you continue and hope that the process brings you some peace. I know for me personally it has been very enlightening. Thank you.”

“I know you don’t need to hear this, or maybe even want to hear it, but I am so proud of you. Thank you for striving to help others navigate what you are going through. Love you man.”

“I did not personally know your Lindsay but know her now through her strong mamma Kellie. She is a beautiful soul and has joined my daughter Erika also from a car accident. I will be following your blog. Thank you so much for writing.”

“I can never thank you enough for sharing the personal and intimate journey you and your family have been on. It is taking me several tries to get through today’s as my eyes won’t stop leaking and my heart is breaking. Please don’t ever stop sharing with us. Hugs and gratitude to you!!”

“You probably don’t know me, but I was a friend of Lindsay’s. I wasn’t told about what happened until December of 2016. I wanted to reach out and give my condolences or do something for you guys but I didn’t know how or what to do and never really processed any of it well. I pray for you and your family still. I also wanted to tell you that she was one of the best people that I knew. She genuinely cared about her friends,and was one of my favorite people to just talk to. She touched my life and made it much better every time we interacted. She was a blessing. This post just reminded me of her and you guys and I wants to tell you that she was an increasingly person.”

tree

We are almost there, the end. I could not finish this blog without the people who have never left my side. My wife, Kelli. This amazing woman has been with me every step of this journey. She has seen the struggle, she has seen the pain, and she has seen the tears. She has stepped up and she has stepped back, she has been my voice when I needed a break. She has been the one I could lean on and truly express how I was felling. She has never wavered, she has been my rock, and she continues to be my support. I could never in a million life times express how much I love her and thank her. 

My family. I could not have asked for a better support group. My mom and dad have been there no matter the conversation or the lack there of. They are the foundation on which I have built my life. My brother, one of the most solid men I know, was by my side from the day after Lindsay’s accident until the day he absolutely had to return home. Kathy, Kelli’s mom, was always there everyday with a hug. My niece, nephews, step daughter and step son were here for me but most importantly for Jarrett. I could never thank them enough for all of their love and support.

Lindsay’s mom, Kellie and her husband Brett. We all pulled together to support each other, and make it trough the most horrific thing that could ever happen to parents. We stood together when times where the hardest and still today we lean on each other for support. Kellie’s parents, family and friends, thank you for your support then and now.

The doctors and nurses at New Hanover Regional Hospital. I could never thank them for all they did for Lindsay. The care, the compassion and the communication they had with us. I am still in contact with some of these wonderful people and hope they will continue to be a part of my life.

Each and everyone of you, the readers of this blog. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words and for your kind and generous support of the Foundation that carries Lindsay’s name. You keep me writing and sharing my heart.

Lindsay’s friends that continue to surprise us with photos, stories and love for our family. 

My son Jarrett, one of the strongest young men I know. He asked to speak at his sisters funeral and he did a beautiful job. He told his story of his sister and the love he had for her. He was so proud of her and her strength. I could not have been prouder of him for standing there, composed and confident in front of over 800 people during the most emotional time of his life. I love ya son.

My God, my faith and my belief that one day I will see my daughter again. That I will see her smile, I will see her hair, I will see those all important eyelashes, I will hear that laugh, and I will tell her thank you for being my daughter. Thank you for the seventeen years you gave us back on earth. Thank you for all the lives you saved and all the lives you touch. Thank you for being Lindsay.

So the answer to the question…well, there is no real one answer. It is a continual struggle, a day by day battle to combat grief and all its sorrow and fear. It is waking up everyday thinking about what I have lost, but also, everything I have to be thankful for. It is the love of family and friends and the many blessing of life. It is the triumph that has come from such a tragedy. But if I had to give one conclusive answer it would be Lindsay.instagrm 2 She keeps me going, she gives me strength, and she gives me sanity. I guess we knew each other pretty well.

 

 

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.