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. 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. 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.
“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 very 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.”
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. She keeps me going, she gives me strength, and she gives me sanity. I guess we knew each other pretty well.