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.

 

 

Trying to Remember

Trying to Remember

I’m not sure if you are old enough to remember the commercial, “This is your brain on drugs.” For those of you that are too young, here is brief description of how the commercial went. There was a hand holding an egg which represented your brain. The hand then takes the egg, cracks it and lets it pour into a very hot frying pan. This is to represent your brain on drugs. It is a very effective way to show what drugs can do to your brain. I feel there needs to be a new commercial, one that replaces the word drugs with grief. In this new commercial they need to crack two eggs, one for your brain and one for your heart. Let the eggs ease out slowly and begin to simmer in the heat of an old seasoned cast iron frying pan, because there are days when you feel your heart and mind are just fried. There are days when Lindsay lays so heavy on my heart and that in turn, fills my mind with grief. On these days if I slice up the normal trials and tribulations of everyday life, mix in a little drama, season with a bad day at work and  throw all that in the pan with the eggs, well you get the idea. I have tried so hard to change the recipe of grief, I have tried so hard to use different ingredients, to use a different pan, to bake instead of fry, but at the end of the day no matter how you serve it grief is still grief. It still hurts, and it can still, on any given day, be a buffet of heartache. 

The day your child passes away is a day you never want to remember, but you spend your entire life trying not to forget. My wife and I are on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, an area we both enjoy spending time. As we started out on our adventure yesterday I wanted to go to Chimney Rock. This small town is located on HWY 74 and it is sandwiched in between the towns of Lake Lure and Bat Cave. Chimney Rock is just that, an out crop of rock from the mountain side that gives the appearance that the mountain has a chimney. You drive over three miles up the mountain on some very twisting and narrow roads to reach the base of this natural beauty. You then get in an elevator, which was built inside the mountain, and start a twenty-six story climb. Once you make your way through the gift shop you are looking up two flights of stairs to reach the top. I am not a fan of heights, never have been and never will be. It is not so much a fear of heights as it is a fear of falling and coming to a very sudden stop. I grabbed the rail with a death grip, looked at nothing but the next step and made it to the top. I very carefully made my way to the center and looked up. What an a amazing view. You can actually see three different states from the top. You can see waterfalls, lakes and the beauty that is the NC mountains, but I was still looking for what I had come to see. I had to close my eyes for a moment and there she was, in my mind, I could see Lindsay and Jarrett standing possibly right where I stood. I could see her looking at the same beautiful mountains God had put here just for us to enjoy. It was worth the climb, it was worth the fear, it was worth it for me to be where she was. I have visited this area many times, and they were special because of the many family vacations I took as a child, but today was different. Lindsay had spent a week in Lake Lure with her mom, stepdad, her brother and best friend just days before she passed away. Some of the last pictures ever taken of Lindsay were taken on this trip. I just needed to be where she once was. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph, you spend a life time trying to remember.

A Father’s Grief is an outlet for me to try and explain how I am dealing with the loss of my daughter. How her passing has not only affected me but the lives of so many.  It is a means in which I have tried to heal my own heart, while trying to help others. Through the urging of family, friends and even strangers to publish my writings I have done just that. The book “A Father’s Grief – A Year of Healing” is now available through WestBow Press. Publishing this book was a bitter sweet journey, but it was a journey worth taking, it was a risk worth taking, it is a way to remember, but most importantly it is a way to heal.   

If you would like to purchase a copy of my book you can visit westbowpress.com and simply search my name, Brad Benton. You can also click the “Book” link on this website and it will take you to the West Bow Press page to order. You may also visit my Facebook Page, A Father’s Grief – A Year of Healing and click on the Shop Now link. If you visit my page please like and share it. A portion of the sales will go directly to the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation (lindsaymbentonfoundation.com) as we continue Lindsay’s legacy and help the charities she worked with.

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”

 

08/21

08/21

In two days it will be August 21, the second anniversary of Lindsay’s accident. The second anniversary of the first day of the worst week of my life. A day that changed the world for my entire family. A day that will never be remembered in the history books but one that will never be forgotten by the ones that knew and loved Lindsay. There are days it seems like only yesterday and there are days it seems longer than two years ago. So many times in the past two years I have relived that day, and so many times I have asked the question many parents ask “Why?” To this day I still have no answers. I have often wondered if I stop trying so hard to remember would the pain subside? If I stopped trying to understand would the huge hole in my heart heal? If I stopped asking questions would the answers come more easily? I can assure you I will never stop remembering, I will never stop trying to understand and I never stop asking questions. That is why, in my opinion, a parent that has lost a child will for the rest of their life be lost themselves. When you’ve lost a part of your life, your heart and your soul things just never seem to work correctly. It is like a bike with no chain, you can pedal all day but you never go anywhere. A refrigerator with out a door, it will run twenty four hours a day but nothing ever gets cold. A door with no hinges, it looks good in its’s place but it will not open or close. It is as if you have sat down in the driver’s seat of your car and when you look through the windshield you can see your entire future, you turn the key, the engine starts, you place the car in gear and nothing. The dreams on the others side of that windshield have been erased. When you lose a child the part that is missing keeps you from working correctly. It does not fit into the normal plan of life. The plan of growing up, falling in love, getting married, having children, growing old having grandchildren, and passing away happy knowing the normal plan for an adult life was complete. When you lose a child that plan is thrown into a twisting turning array of, “what do I do now?” I can answer that question, at least for myself. I get up every morning and I thank God for the time I had with Lindsay. I thank him for the time I still have with Jarrett. I remember Lindsay every day, I say her name every day. I talk to her every day, whether it is a short good morning girl or a long talk about whats going on in my life. We, as a family keep her legacy alive through the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation. I lean on my wife, Kelli, for support when the bad days rear their ugly head. I keep going, I strive to do better each day, I try to be a better person each day. I keep the chain on my bike, the doors on my refrigerator, the hinges on my doors and my windshield clean so when days like August 21 come around I am ready to see my future. I miss Lindsay with every nerve ending in my body, and I still love her with every beat of my heart. I saw a sign on the internet today that said “A Queen will always turn pain into power” and I truly believe my Queen LMB has done just that. She gives me the strength to do what I do everyday. She has turned the pain of her tragedy into a power for all to see. The power of love, the power of giving, the power of sharing, the power of changing lives and relationships and the power of being triumphant. I love you Lindsay Lou, and thank you for giving me the power to breath everyday.

A Beautiful Day

A Beautiful Day

As usual, I got up today before the dawn and my day started off with some very unusual sights and sounds. You see, it has been raining here for what I believe to be the last fifteen days. It may have been more, but I truly lost count. But on this morning the sun had no barrier, there was no impediment, no stumbling block to keep it from it’s daily routine of bringing light into our little corner the world. You could see the rays as they began to slowly creep their way over the horizon. The beams of light began to make their way through the cracks of the blinds and immediately filled the room with light, and with that, there was hope for a beautiful day. As the sun continued its climb up the eastern sky you could hear the sounds of life from the many birds chirping in the back yard, a sound only heard over the past couple of weeks when there was a break in the dark and gloomy clouds. When the sun made it’s final push to clear the grasp of dawn and show itself in all it’s full warming and illuminated glory, I knew today was going to be a good day. 

In the life of a grieving parent, there are many days like today. You may go through days, weeks, months even years where it seems to be metaphorically raining everyday. You can wake up every morning where life’s gray and gloomy clouds are all you see on the horizon. You feel the sun is never going to shine in your life again, you are never going to feel that healing warmth, or have those illuminating rays fill your life. You make it through, day by day, wishing yesterday was your tomorrow so maybe, just maybe, you can work your way back to that day. You forget what it’s like to just sit and listen to the birds, or watch a sunset. Your world is filled with “what if’s” and “why’s”. You spend most of your time trying to figure out how to make your life normal again, when there is no normal, and the normal you create is so abnormal. You make it through the bad days hoping for just one good day. You try to change the lives of others by sharing your tragedy, in hopes of one day smiling again. We, as parents of children taken way to soon, have many bad days, but it’s that one morning, that one ray of sunshine, that single act of kindness, that one email, that one text, a simple pat on the back that makes it seem okay for that moment. For me, its when I wake up and think of Lindsay and the time we had. I think of Kelli, Jarrett and all the other many blessings I have in my life. I think of the love that covers this family from so many hearts. The prayers that come from near and far, and the lives that have been saved because a seventeen year old young lady had a dream. It is mornings like these I know, in my heart, it’s going to be a beautiful day.

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.