Thanksgiving Reunion.

Thanksgiving Reunion.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope your day was filled with family, friends and good food. As this long weekend winds down I have had time to reflect and remember the many Thanksgiving’s past. I have been so fortunate to have spent every Thanksgiving, as far back as I can remember, with family and friends. Although, throughout the many Thanksgivings I have been a part of, the faces have changed several times. As I do, most Thanksgiving mornings, I wake up thinking, “What do I have to be thankful for?” This year, for some reason, I thought about the recipients of Lindsay’s organs. I thought, “Do they ever wonder who the donor was that gave them the ultimate gift. Are they thankful for her sacrifice and generosity. Do they find, just a moment in all the chaos, to look up and say thank you to someone they never meet. Are they thankful for all the Thanksgiving’s yet to come. All the Thanksgivings they will get to spend with family and friends all because a seventeen year old girl, unbeknownst to her, was thinking about them.”

No matter how hard you try to put the grief and sadness on the back burner for just one day, it always creeps in. Every time you start counting how many chairs or plates you are going to need, it is always there. Whether it is a family picture taken before everyone starts to go their separate ways. A picture you look at later and smile but in the same moment think, “Lindsay would have been standing right there.” A family breakfast with everyone sitting around a table full of smiles and laughter and think, “Lindsay would have loved this.” I see all the family pictures on social media, I see all the smiles, I see all the love and I think, “Why me, why us, why Lindsay?” It happens every year around this time and it lasts for months. I want to be so happy, but a part of me is gray, is sad, is heavy and burdened. I feel selfish, and in my head I feel I have every right to be, but in my heart I know I shouldn’t be. Life after losing a child is never easy, but the holidays always seem to be the hardest. Below is a posting I placed on social media my first Thanksgiving without Lindsay. 

“As I woke up this morning my first thought was, “What do I have to be thankful for?” A very hard question for a father that has recently lost a child to answer. As I began to really think about it there are so many things I am thankful for. The 17 years, 10 months and 28 days I was the father of two of the most wonderful people I know, my children. Today is the second of many firsts to come. My first Thanksgiving without my daughter, Lindsay. I am thankful for the 17 Thanksgivings we did have together, and I am thankful for many Thanksgivings yet to come with Jarrett. I am thankful for all the memories, pictures and stories the past years have provided. As this day begins, I know it is not going to be easy, but with the love and support of family and friends I will make it.
My wife, Kelli, what can I say. She is the most supportive, loving, caring, giving person I know. She is my other half, my partner, my best friend, my everything and I love her with everything in me. Without her there is no me.
Jarrett, it makes me happy inside just to see his face. He is my dose of joy every time I see him. He is who he is and I love him for it. I am thankful for the man he is growing into. I love you son.
My grandparents who gave me my parents, without them me or my brother would not be here. I am thankful my parents raised us to be strong, caring and most importantly honest men. My brother, what a great friend, husband and father he has been to his family. My in laws, Kathy and Charlie, without them I would not be the happy man I am today, they gave me Kelli. Ron and Linda, without them I would have never had Jarrett and Lindsay. Jarrett and Lindsay’s mom, Kellie, for bringing them into this world and the job we did raising them. For Kellie’s husband Brett for being a good man and stepfather.
Lindsay’s cousins, friends, and teachers, I am so thankful for all of you. You were there for Lindsay and continue to be there for me and the rest of my family throughout this most difficult time. I am thankful for your love, support and caring.
I could go on forever for the many blessings I have had and continue to have in my life, but the fact remains my Lindsay Lou will not be here. She blessed my life in so many ways, she made me laugh, cry and be a better father. She knew what buttons to push and when she had met her match. She was my girl and I miss her dearly. I am thankful I was lucky enough to be her dad.
The one thing I am most thankful for is that one day I know I will see those steely eyes again, watch that long flowing hair move with the breeze again, hear that room shattering laugh again, and hold the hand of my daughter once again. I am a very thankful father, husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend.” 

Only a parent that has lost a child can understand the tug of war you deal with during the holidays. Grief pulling in one direction and happiness pulling in the other. I read this several times a year to remind myself how thankful I should be, how lucky I am to have such a loving and supportive family, and to remind myself of a very special Thanksgiving reunion yet to come.  

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.

 

 

Where Would You Be Today?…

Where Would You Be Today?…

Lindsay has been on my mind all week. I could see her in almost everything I was doing and everyplace I have been the past few days, and I could feel her as if she was right beside me. Why?

Kelli and I spent some time in Long Island NY this week with Alyssa, my step daughter, and her partner Liz. They are brand new home owners of a not so brand new, but very cozy, apartment in what they refer to as “Melrose Place.” I assume they tagged their complex with his name because of the age of everyone living there, the diversity of the occupants and of course, the drama.  These two young ladies took on the daunting task of renovations and survived it, for the most part, unscathed. They had a few rough rounds with a contractor, and I use that term loosely, that they hired, but in the end they were victorious. We made this journey for multiple reasons. It was Alyssa birthday and also Mothers Day. We were able to go out to dinner with a few of our friends and Kelli was able to see some of her family. For the most part Alyssa and Liz had asked us to come up and help them finish a few little projects. Well these few little projects ended up taking almost three days. It seemed that for every step forward, we took two steps back, back to Home Depot for more supplies. On our last full day there we were all waiting on the balcony, very anxiously, for the UPS driver to bring the last piece of the puzzle to complete these small projects. Once we had the missing hardware in our hands we made the final turn and headed down the home stretch for the finish line. At last projects complete, renovations complete, wife happy, step daughter happy, my job here was done. I truly enjoyed the time we spent with Alyssa and Liz this past week. I am very proud of them both for becoming homeowners, taking on this project and sticking it out when it seemed everything was against them. Congratulations ladies on a job well done!

I can’t help but to admit the whole time I was there I was wondering, as I do most days, where would you be today Lindsay? You see this same apartment was going to be Lindsay’s very short and temporary residence for her eighteenth birthday. One weekend in Long Beach, Long Island NY with her step sister. The plans were in place and all involved were on the same page for this all included birthday gift to one of Lindsay’s favorite places. As you know the gift was never unwrapped, the tickets were never purchased, and Lindsay didn’t make it to Long Beach this time. What if she had? Would she have fallen even more in love with it and after graduating high school moved into “Melrose Place” and started a life living on the beach in New York. Would I have been at her apartment working on projects for her this past week? Maybe I would have been at Chapel Hill or East Carolina loading up the truck as I emptied out a years worth of dorm room memories. Wait, maybe you would have stayed at home an gone to UNCW, a father can dream can’t he? Every day the thought runs through my head “Where would you be today?” Every day the thought “What would you be doing today?” sneaks into my thoughts. Would I be getting post cards from some far away exotic location where there is no phone service. Some place where you were working a photo shoot, either in front of or behind the camera. You had the talent and the beauty to do both. Would you have been with Heather in Charlotte this past week, would you have come back from Florida with Mary after spending some time with Mickey and Donald. Would you finally have had that dinner with Drew at Tower 7, the one you missed out on because of your accident.  Would you be hanging out with ya dad at Seaglass this weekend, I am guessing not. Would you be at the beach with your mom soaking up the sun with ya beach buddy? Would we plan on keeping the boat so you and your friends could ride up and down the waterway, docking and eating lunch with the “cool kids.” Would you continue “doing science projects” in the mud with Mary.  Would you be co staring in the film Jarrett and his friends from school are making? Would you and Jarrett realize that life is short and become the best friends a brother and sister could be. The thoughts are there every day, the wonder of your thoughts, the absents of your voice, the never again’s and the never to be’s. Would you have changed your mind about becoming a doctor? If so what path would you have set your life’s compass to follow? Maybe politics, you would have been one of the greatest with your out spoken opinions and head strong forward moving ideas for the rights of all. Your never being afraid to ask anybody, anything, at anytime to get the answer you were looking for. Would you have been a environmentalist? Your love of this earth we live on, and all that inhabit it, always astonished me. Married with children? I really think not, but you always did surprise me. The possibilities are never ending and the sky is only the beginning of trying to wonder where you would be today, what you would be doing today.

No matter where you would be today, no matter what you would be doing you would always be my little girl. No matter how successful, or not, I would have always been proud of you. No matter how big of a thorn in my side, I would have never pulled it out. No matter how long my sanity stays with me, I will never stop wondering, where would you be today?

 

Reflection…

Reflection…

There are so many days I feel I have nothing more to write about, like I have said all I need to say. Days when I feel I have said too much, and days I feel like I have said nothing at all. This week has been filled with those days, until this morning. When I woke up at my usual early hour I stood in front of the bathroom mirror. I stood there and looked at me, I looked at this man, this son, this brother, this husband, this father in the mirror. I have told Kelli that when I look in the mirror I still see, or imagine, the guy I was in high school, I try so desperately to see myself at eighteen years old. This morning was different, this morning was the truth. You see, a mirror has no soul, no heart, it has no filter. The mirror was not brought into this world or born, with a sin nature to lie like all humans. The only lies a mirror tells are the ones we tell ourselves when we look into our own eyes. A mirror knows only one thing, and one thing only, the truth. It shows the exact reflection of what is staring into it. In most cases the mirror is used for grooming, shaving, makeup, or checking the clothes or outfit you have decided to wear for the day. How many times have you looked into a mirror and actually looked yourself in the eyes? How many times have you stood there and let the mirror tell you the truth? For me the answer was not many until Lindsay passed away. Now, today, it happens very often. I look into my own eyes and ask, “Could I have been a better father? Could I have been more supportive? Could I have been more understanding? and the hardest question of all “Why?” The answer to all of those questions, with the exception of why, is yes. With Lindsay’s passing, the student became the teacher. All the life lesson’s I tried to teach her during her short seventeen years are nothing compared to what she is teaching me each time I look into my own eyes. She is teaching me to be a better father, be a better husband, son, and brother. To be more giving and be more compassionate. She has taught me these things because we are never promised tomorrow, never promised the next hour, the next minute or even second. We never know when will be last time we see someone we dearly love. This simple accessory, this inanimate object that we hang on a wall is used mainly for our own vanity. This simple piece of silver coated glass cannot speak even the simplest of words, but more times than not it has the loudest voice of all, if you just listen with your eyes.

I look into my own eyes and I try so hard to see Lindsay, I look at my face and try to see her, but she is not there. There is nothing about my features that even remotely resemble her, or her me. For a moment that brings a sadness over my old and tired face. Then I look harder, I look deeper, I look in places most people are afraid to look, especially when they have lost a child, and that is where I find her. I look in my heart of hearts and the depths of my soul and I find her every time. For me that is where a part of her lives now, there is where I need to go to see her, to talk to her and to remember her smile. Now, every time I look into a mirror and look deep into my own eyes, the mirror goes past my face, past my features and straight to where Lindsay lives in me. It allows me to see her reflection in me.

The Seed…

The Seed…

Last night, I sat with my wife Kelli, in a theater that is 100 years old. The sight of the bare brick walls and the curvature of the ceiling made me think of so many days gone by. The beautiful weathered wooden floors creaked, as if they are trying to tell you a story, a story of all the people that had graced her grand hall for a century. As we entered this beautiful historic landmark, the marquee illuminated the evening’s first sight of darkness as a beacon for all to come, and they did. Every seat in the house was full for the evening performance, “Sounds of the Seventies.” When I entered the house doors my anxiety level began to rise, I felt a little nervous, almost as if I was walking into class my freshman year of high school back in 1979. I knew why this was happening, I knew why I felt this way. Thirty nine years ago I walked into a classroom, a classroom mind you that was on a stage. A classroom where the desks were arranged in a circle and in the middle of the circle was this young, fresh out of college, full of energy fireball of a teacher Ms. Cathy Segraves. This teacher, although short in stature, was large in life. This small, yet very loud teacher, began vigorously spewing out nonsense such as William Shakespeare, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dickens and Poe. She began with such elation telling us about creatures called Hobbits, their Lords and his rings. A weather forecast about a Tempest and possibly an English naval vessel with a crew of singing sailors. As the on-slot continued the names Gilbert and I believe Sullivan where in the mix, and possibly something about wearing tights, yes tights. This five foot something teacher was able to get football playing jocks to not only wear tights, but stand on a stage and perform William Shakespeare. Shakepeare me and Brian I would say she was, and still is, quite something. This woman, this mother, this grandmother, and this teacher unbeknownst to her had taught me so much, and tonight the lessons continued. When I was in high school she tried to mold my mind, but tonight she molded my heart. Her ageless smile and her kind and loving words, her hugs and softly spoken whispers of sorrow for the loss of Lindsay truly touched my soul. Thank you Cathy and Bill Furpless for inviting us to be part of your evening. Thank you for keeping this beautiful landmark in your family and resurrecting Mr. Bill’s grandfathers legacy to entertain once again. Please take a moment and read more about the beautiful Amuzu Theater in Southport N.C. 

After thirty-nine years the teacher is still teaching the student.

During last nights performance I watched a young lady pour her heart into a song I have heard for many years, but the words never truly pierced my heart the way they did last night. When you think you have made no progress, when you think you have not made a difference, when you think all is lost and there is no hope, when you are filled with grief, when you have lost a child, there is “The Rose.”

“Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows 
Lies the seed 
That with the sun’s love 
In the spring 
Becomes the rose”

I saw Cathy up there, banging out on keyboards everything from Dolly Parton to Led Zeplin. As I watched her I thought, “I hope she knows she made a difference, I hope she knows the influence she had on so many lives, I hope she knows she planted seeds and I hope she knows, eventually, they became a rose.”

As for this parent, winters bitter snow is the horrific weight of grief carried everyday for Lindsay. In my heart I know all the seeds that were planted and I know one day, because of the SON’s love, when all the snow and grief are no more, I will again see, The Rose.

rose

 

Hold that memory in your hand…

Hold that memory in your hand…

August 2, 1948 my grandfather, Rockfellow Benton, passed away. He was a commercial fisherman by trade and also built boats with his brother Woodbury. That day in August, many years ago, he was returning from a fishing trip and found himself in the midst of a storm. He was heading to the safety of the inland waterway when he noticed another boat trailing behind. He made the decision to turn and try and assist his fellow fisherman. That decision was the last one my grandfather ever made. While making the turn the wind and the waves cap sized his boat and my grandfather was never found. He was lost to the sea forever. This August 2, 2018 will be the seventieth anniversary of his death. On that faithful day, close to the mouth of the Shallotte River, my grandfather left behind a wife, three small children and one on the way. My father was one of those left behind. He was the oldest of the soon to be four children, he was eight. I cant imagine being eight years old and losing my father. I cant imagine how different my life would be today. Those are the same questions my father says passes through his mind still to this day. He often wonders how his life would be different if his father had stayed the course and headed to safer waters. My father grew up with little to no memory of his father. The majority of his fathers memories consist of stories he has been told about my grandfathers life. My father has a few of my grandfathers belonging’s, some tools and his old tool box. In this tool box are some of the very tools he used to build the boats with his brother. My father has a copy of his dad’s draft card with his signature on it, and he has a few pictures of his mom and dad together. The one thing he did not have was a picture of himself and his father together, until recently. My father will be 78 years old in June, almost seventy years without seeing a photograph of himself and his father together. Seventy years without holding that memory in your hand, seventy years without being able to remember a moment that was been lost in time. I have only seen tears in my fathers eyes a few times in my life. When he had a kidney stone, when his brother, his mother and Lindsay passed away, but when he showed me this picture and said “Look, I have my arm on his shoulder,” a tear once again fell from my fathers eye.

Dad and Rock (2)

I am sure the reason my dad did not have a picture of himself and his father is taking a picture 70 years ago was no where near as common as it is today. I am sure everyone did not have a camera readily available and I’m not even sure how or where the pictures were processed. Today, we can pull out a device that will not only take a picture but we can send it all over the world in an instant. We don’t give taking a picture a second thought until our phone crashes, gets lost or is destroyed by some means, and all those memories are possibly lost forever. We carry our memories around in our hand, constantly. We touch a button and voila there are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pictures that can take you back to a time that holds a special memory in your life. I thank God every day that Lindsay loved to take pictures of her friends and herself. Between her mother, myself, Kelli, Brett, and Jarrett we have thousands of pictures of Lindsay, and Jarrett both, on our phones and computers. I love looking at them to bring that moment to the forefront of my mind. When you lose a child, pictures and memories are all you have and the hard truth is, there will never be any more. Below are my two favorite pictures with Jarrett and Lindsay.

These pictures are framed and sit on a table in my bedroom so I can see them everyday, and everyday they make me smile. They remind me of the innocence of childhood and when I ran a close second to an American Girl doll and Rescue Hero’s. They remind me of hearing “Daddy’s home!” and the feeling of four arms wrapping around my legs with the tightest hugs ever. They remind me of the dreams of a father for the future and happiness for his children. I don’t have to search through hundreds of pictures on my phone to see these, they are there for me to hold, look at and remember.

Before your phone crashes, before it is lost, before it is destroyed, or before the “cloud” is full and pours all of your pixels out like raindrops, print those special memories for you and future generations to cherish, but most importantly print them so you can hold those memories in your hand.