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.”

 

A Visit

A Visit

Sometimes I have a strong feeling, a feeling of needing to visit Lindsay.  A pulling to spend time with her, a time of solitude, a time of quietness, a time I can spend with her memory, just me and her. It is a feeling that does not go away until I stop and take the time for a visit.

I have come to realize over the past two years I don’t have to be by her side to do this. I don’t have to sit on her granite memorial bench and look at her bronze marker to be close to her. I know in my heart that the only thing I am visiting is her earthly shell, her earthly body and that is not what made Lindsay, Lindsay. What made Lindsay who she was, was her heart and soul, her attitude, her spirit, her presence, her commanding personality, none of that will ever be locked in a grave. I can walk out on the dock behind the house, where she and I hung lights for Christmas, and say, “Hello girl, I miss ya.” I can stand on top of Grandfather Mountain and remember when her and Jarrett would run across the bridge and I would say, “Be careful, stay together,” because I was too scared to cross that mile high swinger. If I needed to, I could stand in the middle of ten thousand people massed together in Time Square or sit in the quaint little restaurant called Bea at 403 W. 43rd Street and say, “Remember when? Remember when we were here? I sure wish you were here with me again.” I can sit in Magnolia’s Restaurant in Charleston, SC and hear someone order a grilled meatloaf sandwich or stand on Main Street USA in front of Cinderella’s Castle and remember the enchantment that filled a little girls eyes. From the boardwalk and jetty rocks of Long Beach NY to the boardwalk and jetty rocks of Carolina Beach NC she left a memory for me to treasure. So many memories buried like priceless pirates jewels on the shores of Long Beach NY to the Outer Banks, Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches, to the sandy shores of Holden and Myrtle Beach. From the North Carolina and Tennessee mountain tops to the streets of Disney, Brooklyn and home sweet home she left so many memories. She left so many places for me to visit her, so many places for me to feel her by my side, so many places for me to smile, so many thoughts to ponder. Where I feel closest to my Lindsay Lou is where ever I am. Wherever I am standing, wherever I am sitting, riding, flying. walking or driving. I know in my heart, she will always be with me just as I had planned to be with her, when I was gone from this earth, and she was fifty four years old planning a short, quiet, visit with her dad.

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.  

Mane ‘n Tail

Mane ‘n Tail

 It has been more than two years since Lindsay passed away and I miss her more than ever, I guess that will never change. I miss her smile, I miss her laugh and I miss her very opinionated views on life. I miss the silence but knowing she was upstairs, I miss the “Hey ya’ll” before anything important she had to say. I still come home and look up at her bedroom window and say, “Hey girl, I’m home.” There are not many days that pass that I don’t have some sort of conversation with her. I hope that never stops. It still amazes me the random places and things that bring her back to the forefront of my mind, places and things that I would never expect.

This, after two plus years, is a perfect example.

I have no real idea how it happened, but I found myself in a beauty supply store last night. As Kelli looked for some fantastic super-duper shampoo I was wandering around and scanning the shelves for something that would remotely pique my interest. One thing I know for sure, there is not a lot of product in a beauty supply store that a man just cannot live without. I had traveled the blow dryer and curling iron aisle, made my way down the hair color aisle and was heading to that super-duper shampoo section. As I strolled down and looked at the numerous bottles for dry hair, for damaged hair, for colored hair, for frizzy hair, a very familiar sight caught my eye. It was a large white plastic bottle with blue and yellow colors and two horses running free. It was “Mane ‘n Tail” shampoo. It took me back to the first time I ever saw one of these bottles. It took me back and it made me smile. I could not believe that Lindsay actually spent money on horse shampoo for her hair, her naturally curly hair that she would throw a shout out to every now and then.  I can remember the conversation like it was yesterday and her justifying the purchase. She began to explain how this shampoo would make her hair stronger and fuller, how It would make it shine and never be dry. Being a dad all I could hear was the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher in my ear as she continued to pass on the knowledge she had accrued about how this horse shampoo would enhance her already beautiful hair. My main concern as a dad was how much it cost. I don’t remember the cost of the shampoo the day Lindsay brought it home and I don’t remember what it was last night, but that plastic bottle sitting on the bottom self of a random beauty supply store was priceless as far as I am concerned. Priceless, because of the enduring memory it unknowingly shared with me. What I would not give to buy her an entire case of it today.

 Life is a gift we get to open every day, and every day it is a surprise. The contents of the gift, the surprise of what we unwrap is up to us to decide. We can open today’s gift with the thankfulness and anticipation of happiness or we can open today’s gift with bitterness and animosity, the choice is always ours to make. I choose to do all I can to be happy, to enjoy every moment I can, to help others through my own personal journey of grief, to love my family, to remember Lindsay and keep looking for those memories, keep looking for those random moments in time that make me smile. 

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.

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.

Precious Time

Precious Time

With every dawn that breaks the eastern sky, a grieving parent somewhere in this world starts “their day.”  They wake up knowing today is the day, today is the day I lost my child. There is not a day that begins nor a day that ends that a parent who has lost a child is not grieving their child. Whether it be one year, five years, twenty years or fifty years a parent never forgets that day. The day their world crumbled, the day their soul emptied, the day their heart was, in every sense of the word, broken. Broken to a point that you never think it will work again. This day, no matter where you are, is the most difficult day of the year for a grieving parent. Whether you stay curled up in bed to try and sleep the day away or go to work to try and keep your mind occupied. Every moment you check the time thinking has it passed. Has the hour, the minute, the second your child slipped from this world passed. Is it behind me for another year, is this one moment in time gone for now. Because in your mind you think if you can make it passed that moment in time you will be okay, but your heart knows different. Two days from today will be my “day,” August 28. For me it has been two years, a sliver of time in the large, expansive realm of life, but feels like an eternity. An anniversary that no one wants to celebrate. This day becomes part of a grieving parents life just as birthday’s and holiday’s. A day no one truly wants to remember, but a day that will never be forgotten.  For those of you that did not know about Lindsay and what happened I what to give you a brief synopsis before I go on to my next thought. On August 21, 2016 Lindsay was in a horrible traffic accident that caused a traumatic brain injury. After emergency surgery she was still in very critical condition and remained unconscious for the remainder of the week, we lost her August 28, 2016. After a week of hoping, praying and spending every moment we could with Lindsay, she in her own way told us it was time, as her broken body began to let go. You see, Lindsay had a dream to be a surgeon, a saver of lives. By being an organ donor she was about to do just that, save lives. She knew her mother and I could never make the devastating decision’s we had to make so she made them for us.

So now, not only do I have the day of August 21, and the day of August 28,  I also have the night of August 27. Imagine knowing tomorrow would be the last time you would ever see your son or daughter. The last day to hold their hand, the last day to kiss their forehead, the last day to just sit and look at them. Imagine the thoughts that would go through your mind. Imagine the love, the anger, the sadness, the memories, the what if’s, the why’s, the guilt, the remorse, imagine the pain that would almost cripple your body. Imagine being so exhausted but fighting to stay awake because you do not want tomorrow to come. Imagine already knowing, without a miracle from God, what tomorrow will bring. 

I have heard it my entire life and I have said the very words myself when it comes to someone passing away that has been sick or on life support, “At least the family had time to say goodbye.” Not even close to being true. There is never enough time, there are never enough minutes in the day, hours in a week or days in a year for a parent to say goodbye to a child, forever. To stand beside a young woman only seventeen years old lying in a hospital bed, holding her hand and feeling her last heartbeat. I never thought as I stood in the very same hospital seventeen years earlier, and watched Lindsay come into this world, that I would be holding her hand as I watched her leave this world.  Believe me there is never enough time.

On the other hand was I thankful for the time, the week we had with Lindsay, yes, more than anyone will ever know, more than I have the vocabulary to express. Thankful for every second I stood in that room holding her hand, talking to her, praying that she would wake up and answer me. Thankful for the doctors, the nurses, the chaplain, the janitor, everyone that walked that long hall with me, shook my hand, hugged my neck, and said a prayer for Lindsay. Time with your children is a very precious thing, and no matter if they are leaving for kindergarten, leaving for college, leaving for love and marriage, or leaving you forever, take the time, make the time, embrace the time. Time with your children will start to flee very fast as they grow older, but time for a grieving parent now stands still.

When you lay down Monday night August 27th, don’t think of my family or Lindsay, think of your son, your daughter. Think about the love you have for them, think about the last time you told them you love them, think about the last time you gave them a hug. Think about what life would be like without them, it will make your life and time with them more precious. Realize the time you have is never enough, it can be stolen from you like a thief in the night.  Be thankful for the time and memories you have because when the memory makers are gone, memories are all you have.

On my day, August 28th, if you think of my family or say a prayer for us, please also remember Lindsay’s extended family and her countless friends. Remember somewhere in this world there are probably other parents who share this day with us, and say a prayer for them as well. My day will be long and it will be difficult, but what will keep me going is remembering all the precious time.