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.
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.
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.
Last Sunday I went to the pool in my neighborhood, I went early because I know how crowded it can get on a nice day. I found myself a chair right beside one of the four sets of steps leading down into the pool. It was a chair with a table on one side and a planter on the other, I had my space, my semi alone space. Not once since Lindsay passed away when I walk through that gate do I not think of her. In my mind I still see her sitting in that chair, “Do you see it?” It’s the one at the end of the pool right in the middle, yeap that was Lindsay’s Lounge. Every time I see someone sitting there I wonder to myself, “Do you know who’s chair you are sitting in?” “Do you know how much that one single chair means to me?” I am going to guess that 99.99% of all the people that have sat in that chair since August 21, 2016 have no idea that was where Lindsay was sitting just hours before her accident. Just another of the hundreds of things that go through my mind when I see, hear or feel certain things. As I settled in for a day of relaxation, sun and cooling off in the pool I put in my new, state of the art ear buds and began to listen to the vast array of music on my old antique iPod. After listening to a few hand picked songs I put my iPod on “Shuffle” and the first song started with “Now watch me whip, Now watch me nae nae” and a huge smile came over my face and in my heart. I can not even begin to tell you the last time I heard that song. You see this song brings back one of the many fond memories of me and Lindsay. Kelli and I were in the living room of our home discussing that specific song and the one of a kind dance moves that went along with it. I told her I could do all the dance moves but one, the actual “Nae nae” part. I was never sure what you were supposed to do. I did not know if you Nae Nea’ed before you whipped it, which possibly brought on the “Break your leg” aspect of the dance. I knew Lindsay would know, so I hollered up stairs and ask her, “Lindsay do know how to Nae Nae?” Before I knew it there were arms and legs flying everywhere headed down the stairs. I believe she actual jumped the last few steps and was dancing before she hit the floor. She said “Do I know how to Nae Nae, watch me watch me.” We put the song on the house sound system and she began to teach the old man a thing or two and by the time it was all over she said “Dad, you have zero rhythm, you really need to stop.” I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember what she was wearing, and what she said. I remember just standing there watching her “Whiping, Nae Naeing and breaking legs.” We were smiling and laughing the whole time. That is one of the good ones, all brought back by a shuffled song on an old mans iPod.
I have met and talked to so many parents that have lost children since Lindsay passed away. Some had lost a child only weeks or months before we met and others have been grieving their child’s passing for many years. Some parents lost their child at a very young age and some lost their adult child, no matter the age, it was still their child. Some lived with the parents and some had their own families. As I look back and recall these conversations the one common theme to every one was the reminders, the songs, the smells, the pictures, and the list goes on of all the things that remind them of their child. It it still fresh to me and so many others parents that have just recently lost a child, and the reminders are almost daily. The parents that had lost a child years ago, the parents that have had years to heal said the same thing, after all the years they still see or hear reminders almost every day. The old saying “Time heals all wounds” is partially true. Time does heal the wound, but the pain seems to last forever. So time does help with the reminders, it does help with the thousand little things I wrote about last year, but it never takes away the pain that has set up permanent residence in your heart. I believe in my heart it is the reminders that catch you by surprise, the reminders that put a smile on your face that help close that wound. Not long after Lindsay passed away I read a quote by the late Barbara Bush on the loss of her own child. ” The death of a child is so painful, both emotional and spiritual, that I truly wondered if my own heart and spirit would ever heal. I soon learned that I could help myself best by helping others.” Helping others, how I could I ever help others when I could not help myself with the weight of loss and grief. We, as a family, started The Lindsay M. Benton Cheer and Art Fund along with the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship at Wilmington Christian Academy. We started The Lindsay M. Benton Foundation, which raises money for all of the charities that Lindsay held dear to her heart and the organizations that helped us through her passing. All of this helped with the healing, the pain and the loss of our Lindsay Lou. I still felt I, personally, needed to do more to help, especially for those parents that had lost a child. That is when I was lead to write this blog, to tell Lindsay’s story, to write what was in my heart, what helped me through the loss of my daughter and what is still keeping me going today.
I hope I make it to the golden years, whatever they may be, and I find that old antique iPod in the bottom of a drawer. Take my electric wheel chair to the retirement village pool, plug in my not so state of the art ear buds, hit shuffle and hear the words “Watch me, watch me” No matter how old, no matter the place, no matter the state of mind, hearing that song will always put a smile on my face. I hope and pray Lindsay has been watching us and I hope she is proud of all we are doing in her name. I do it for her as well as myself, helping others helps me heal my heart.
Please remember the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation second annual Volleyball Tournament will be on September 29, 2018. (We hope to be adding a Cornhole Tournament this year as well. Confirmation to come soon. Please continue to check the web site.) This is Lindsay’s actual birthday. What a great way to remember her and donate to the charities that meant so much to her. You can find out how to become involved, whether it be by becoming a sponsor, volunteering or by donating at lindsaymbentonfoundation.com. What a great way to help others right here in our own community.
You can also join us at Chick Fil A on Market St on July 26th from 5:00-7:00. We are partnering with them for a Spirit Night, with a percentage of the proceeds going directly to LMBF. Vouchers are needed with your purchase, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly email them to you!
First let me say, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there. I myself am the proud father of two wonderful children, Jarrett and Lindsay. Jarrett is still with us and I am so proud of all he has accomplished and all he is yet to do. My Lindsay girl is spending Father’s Day with here eternal Father, but I know she is smiling down on her earthly dad.
Settle in somewhere comfortable because this is a long one. I am sorry but I have a lot to share and it takes a lot of words to do it.
I have had numerous people ask me “How do you do it? How do you get up every morning and carry on? How do you make it through each day?” There are so many answers to these questions, so many reasons why, and behind every answer there is a person, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance and sometimes a perfect stranger. It seems that everyday someone says or does something that keeps me going. Whether it be a hug, a smile or just a look, it always seems to come just at the right time. It could be the smallest of gestures or the grandest act of kindness.
This blog will make number fifty-two, a full year. I have been writing to help relieve the weight of grief, to do my best to explain what a father goes through when he loses a child, and hopefully, help someone who has been dealing with the loss of a child. In this blog I want to share some of the kindness, some words of encouragement and the little surprises that keep me going. Whether it was a long hand written letter, or a picture with the smallest of reminders in the background so many things have helped me get up every morning. So many things have changed in my life, I see the world with very different eyes and feel with a softer heart. I watch videos of “America’s Got Talent,” and I cry each and every time there is a “Golden Buzzer.” I am not sure if its tears of happiness for the contestant or sadness over the fact that their dreams are coming true and Lindsay’s never will. When you lose a child your entire emotional world changes. You cry at things you never would have before, you smile at the smallest sign of kindness, and you wonder, you always wonder, “What if?” It has been 656 since Lindsay left us and it has been 656 days of struggle. You may not see it when you see me smile or hear me laugh, you may not see it when you see me enjoying life, but the struggle is there, it is always there. The struggle lives in a place I try so hard not to reveal, but when it reaches flood levels I have to open the levy and let it flow freely. I need to release the pain and the hurt that fuels the daily pain of losing a child. As I said, I want to share a big part of what keeps me going, what I turn to when grief starts to over power my heart, and the joy that comes from each word, each thought and each photograph.
We received so many wonderful cards of encouragement, love and sympathy when Lindsay passed away. The came from family, friends, neighbors and many from people we did not know. I have keep each and every one of those cards and letters and on the days I feel I need some help, I feel I need to close those flood gates I pull them out, I read them and I know everything will be okay.
The photo on the right are all hand written letters from cheer teams that met Lindsay at state competitions. The top right are mounds of cards and letters we received. The bottom right is one of the many cards we received from complete strangers telling us how Lindsay had touched their lives. This is how I make it through everyday.
There was one very special card with a photo enclosed. It was from my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jimmy. The photo is of my uncle Jimmy holding Lindsay her first Christmas. We were at their house for our traditional Christmas eve party and Ms. Lindsay was being very fussy. My uncle Jimmy held her and she calmed right down. He held her for most of the night and she was quite happy with that. We had a memory tree at Lindsay’s service and this was my uncles memory of her.
Speaking of the memory tree, I would like to share just a few of the beautiful words written by visitors to Lindsay’s service. This idea was given to us and set up by a complete stranger who lives in Compass Pointe who came to our home to speak to us, she too had lost a child.
It is also the little surprises that get me through the day. The small simple things that I never knew about that find their way to my heart. The first photo below is from a video taken by Haleigh, a friend of Lindsay’s, in her dorm room. I was watching the video and noticed a small white canvass hanging on her wall. On that canvas where just the words “Love Lindsay” with Lindsay’s signature heart. This was from the a birthday card Lindsay sent to Haleigh before she passed away. The second photo is from an exchange student that meet Lindsay at church. She had the logo from the foundation tattooed in memory of Lindsay. The third is of two amazing friends of Lindsay’s, Sierra and Rebecca. We try our best to stay in touch with as many of Lindsay’s friends as possible. Sierra sent this to Kellie, Lindsay’s mom. The last two photo’s, are a drawing of roses that Lindsay drew and gave to Heather, her best friend. On Heather’s eighteenth birthday she had it tattooed on her back in memory of Lindsay.
What can I say about Wilmington Christian Academy? Every time I walk on that campus I can feel Lindsay with me. The entire academy has been so supportive and loving through out every day since Lindsay has been gone. When I am there I truly feel like part of a family. They continue to help us with the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer and Art Fund as well as the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship.
The top two photographs are of Heather Reynolds, the 2017 recipient and Amanda Fisher, the 2018 recipient of the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship. The bottom two photographs are of two pieces of Lindsay art work that the school had framed for us.
When Jarrett got the tattoo of Lindsay’s EKG with her actual signature it was a mix bag of emotions. On the one hand my little boy had grown up to be a man. Not saying getting a tattoo in any way makes you a man, just stating the fact that he was eighteen. On the other hand my little boy was still my little boy. He did this for his sister, he wanted to be able to tell anyone that asked about it that, “This was my sister.” He wanted to honor her, and in my eyes he did just that.
These are the things that get me through the day. Looking back and remembering all the things that people have done to remember Lindsay. There are so many wonderful memories and so many people that have honored her that it would take weeks to mention them all. I want to mention one more. North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant. Lindsay competed in the pageant in 2016 and they did a beautiful job of remembering and honoring her in 2017.
The photo below is of a friend of Lindsay’s she met at the Azalea Pageant. I can remember like it was yesterday the two of them holding hands on stage as the results were called out. This is what she sent to us.
“I am currently in New York. We walked inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and I lit a candle for the memory of Lindsay. Thought I would share this with you.”
Last year the STICU at NHRMC was renovated and all the rooms were changed. Someone very special called me and asked if I would like to have the plate from Lindsay’s room. It still amazes me at the heart and soul of some people. The fact that they would even think to ask means to world to me.
This blog has been my way to share my grief, share my love, and share what I have learned as a grieving father. It has helped me to ease the pain, it has helped me to carry on, and it has helped me to see life in a totally different light. It has been read in thirty five different countries and reached thousands of people. My hope is that is has helped the readers as much as it has helped me. I would like to share some of the comments I have received on this blog. I am not doing this for my own self satisfaction or gratification but to show how many good people there are in this world grieving, how many people are hurting, and how many people walk the same walk I do everyday.
“You don’t know me, nor you, I, but thank you. I do understand exactly what you mean. We have had to bury not one, but two, children. Our only children, 3 years apart from each other, exactly 3 years + 3 days. You’re right, there is nothing normal about it. However, there is a new normal for us, but every grieving parent must figure that out on their own time, and not be told. I also wrote a sort of how-to blog on caring for a grieving parent, but it was definitely not as well written as yours. Thank you for putting into words the thoughts I couldn’t. ♡♡♡”
“I truly get goosebumps when I read your blog. It is so similar to the loss of my 17 yr old daughter. She also saved 2 lives. One small, bump on the right side of her head resulting in a tbi. Her right side was broken in many places. We are coming upon the second year of her accident Aug 28th and her death Aug. 30th. Lots of anxiety. I know you all are feeling the same. God Bless you.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to you and thanks for writing this, I hope it helps you. We too lost our 20- year- old daughter 6 months ago so I can relate to everything you say! God bless you and comfort you.”
“I was suggested this blog via my cousin. I am not certain whether this put up is written by means of him as nobody else recognize such distinct approximately my problem. You are amazing! Thank you!”
“Brad, when I learned about the accident, my heart broke for you and your family. I am so glad that T***** M**** shared this post. I have been blessed by reading it. I have not lost a child, so I can’t say that I understand, but I did lose a much younger sister to a car accident when she was sixteen. You are right about the “Thousand Little Things”. Her accident was 39 years ago, and I still have those moments. God bless you and your family as you continue this journey through your grief.”
“Thank you Brad, for sharing such a personal part of yourself and for enlightening many of how precious time with loved ones is. I mourn for your Lindsay too, and I never met her. She touched me forever. Peace be with you.”
“Reading your words reminds me to be more present with my 7-year-old. Thank you for sharing.”
“Tears and heartache for your loss. Thank you for sharing your soul and your experience. I know Lindsay is so proud of you and her loving family and friends. I will probably always ask why her Lord?…such an amazing young lady…she sure did make her mark in this life, she lives on in so many hearts. Prayers for you and Kelli, Kellie and Jarrett. May God give you strength and comfort day by day.”
“I had the privilege to pray with her every night last summer at camp and it’s amazing how God sends you people that share the same struggle and testimony! I don’t know if it will be any comfort or not but talking to her and praying with her was a such blessing to me because it helped show me why God allowed somethings in my life to happen in order to help girls just like her through the same things and that Gods hand is truly guiding my every step. When I tell you, she was different than most campers that I minister to I really mean it because I gave her a letter that I carry around in my bible that my best friend wrote me in a hard time and I gave her my number to call me whenever she needed someone to just listen. I saw some of myself in her and just talking to her and hearing her heart I have no doubt that she knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior and that one day we will see her again! God bless you! I will keep you and your family in my prayers!”
“The courage and strength that you continue to show daily are amazing. I read your words and feel so grateful that you have the grace to write them. I pray that you continue and hope that the process brings you some peace. I know for me personally it has been very enlightening. Thank you.”
“I know you don’t need to hear this, or maybe even want to hear it, but I am so proud of you. Thank you for striving to help others navigate what you are going through. Love you man.”
“I did not personally know your Lindsay but know her now through her strong mamma Kellie. She is a beautiful soul and has joined my daughter Erika also from a car accident. I will be following your blog. Thank you so much for writing.”
“I can never thank you enough for sharing the personal and intimate journey you and your family have been on. It is taking me several tries to get through today’s as my eyes won’t stop leaking and my heart is breaking. Please don’t ever stop sharing with us. Hugs and gratitude to you!!”
“You probably don’t know me, but I was a friend of Lindsay’s. I wasn’t told about what happened until December of 2016. I wanted to reach out and give my condolences or do something for you guys but I didn’t know how or what to do and never really processed any of it well. I pray for you and your family still. I also wanted to tell you that she was one of the best people that I knew. She genuinely cared about her friends,and was one of my favorite people to just talk to. She touched my life and made it much better every time we interacted. She was a blessing. This post just reminded me of her and you guys and I wants to tell you that she was an increasingly person.”
We are almost there, the end. I could not finish this blog without the people who have never left my side. My wife, Kelli. This amazing woman has been with me every step of this journey. She has seen the struggle, she has seen the pain, and she has seen the tears. She has stepped up and she has stepped back, she has been my voice when I needed a break. She has been the one I could lean on and truly express how I was felling. She has never wavered, she has been my rock, and she continues to be my support. I could never in a million life times express how much I love her and thank her.
My family. I could not have asked for a better support group. My mom and dad have been there no matter the conversation or the lack there of. They are the foundation on which I have built my life. My brother, one of the most solid men I know, was by my side from the day after Lindsay’s accident until the day he absolutely had to return home. Kathy, Kelli’s mom, was always there everyday with a hug. My niece, nephews, step daughter and step son were here for me but most importantly for Jarrett. I could never thank them enough for all of their love and support.
Lindsay’s mom, Kellie and her husband Brett. We all pulled together to support each other, and make it trough the most horrific thing that could ever happen to parents. We stood together when times where the hardest and still today we lean on each other for support. Kellie’s parents, family and friends, thank you for your support then and now.
The doctors and nurses at New Hanover Regional Hospital. I could never thank them for all they did for Lindsay. The care, the compassion and the communication they had with us. I am still in contact with some of these wonderful people and hope they will continue to be a part of my life.
Each and everyone of you, the readers of this blog. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words and for your kind and generous support of the Foundation that carries Lindsay’s name. You keep me writing and sharing my heart.
Lindsay’s friends that continue to surprise us with photos, stories and love for our family.
My son Jarrett, one of the strongest young men I know. He asked to speak at his sisters funeral and he did a beautiful job. He told his story of his sister and the love he had for her. He was so proud of her and her strength. I could not have been prouder of him for standing there, composed and confident in front of over 800 people during the most emotional time of his life. I love ya son.
My God, my faith and my belief that one day I will see my daughter again. That I will see her smile, I will see her hair, I will see those all important eyelashes, I will hear that laugh, and I will tell her thank you for being my daughter. Thank you for the seventeen years you gave us back on earth. Thank you for all the lives you saved and all the lives you touch. Thank you for being Lindsay.
So the answer to the question…well, there is no real one answer. It is a continual struggle, a day by day battle to combat grief and all its sorrow and fear. It is waking up everyday thinking about what I have lost, but also, everything I have to be thankful for. It is the love of family and friends and the many blessing of life. It is the triumph that has come from such a tragedy. But if I had to give one conclusive answer it would be Lindsay. She keeps me going, she gives me strength, and she gives me sanity. I guess we knew each other pretty well.
Sitting here in the house down at Holden Beach looking out over the canal that is fed by the inland waterway, I think back to the days of so many years ago when I was a child. The summer weekends my family spent at Sand -N- Sea Campground. The laughter, the friendships, and the food. The kite flying, playing on the beach and the nights spent in the waterway floundering and scooping up crab. My dad calling us into the camper so we could watch former President Richard Nixon resign on a thirteen inch black and white TV. He wanted us to witness a piece of history. The friends that joined us almost every weekend and the new friends we made. These memories will forever be etched in chronicle’s of my mind. Life is about making memories with family and friends, life is about triumph and tragedy, life is about living. I watched a movie today, “My Sister’s Keeper,” it was the first time I have ever watched this movie. A movie in which the parents basically created a second child to be a match for donating to their first daughter who had leukemia. In the end it was the sick sister that had had enough. The daughter with leukemia asked her younger sister to put a stop to all the operations, the blood work, the marrow extractions and to just let her live for whatever time she had left. The whole time the sick daughter kept a scrap book of memories, memories of all the good and bad times. It took the younger daughter suing her parents to stop them from using her as a human medicine cabinet for her sick sister. So many times the sick young lady had told her parents to let her live out her live and stop putting her younger sister in danger of losing her own life as well. When your child is lying in a hospital bed and they are clinging to life you feel you would do anything to save them. But when that child tells you they are tired, they are done with all the testing, when in your heart you, as a parent, know the there is nothing else that can be done, you have to let go. Never in my life did I ever imagine myself and Lindsay’s mom having to face this decision. But just like in the movie it was Lindsay that let us know she was ready, it was time. Even though she never regained consciousness from the day of her accident, her body was telling us. This movie brought back so many emotions when the parents finally realized and excepted what their daughter was telling them.
Letting go is part of being a parent, the fear, the anxiety, the unknown, the loss of control. From the first time they ride their bike around the block alone to the first day of school. First time standing at the plate waiting on the first pitch. First time on stage spinning and dancing in their rhinestone and lace costume. Driving, this, at their early age, is somewhat the crescendo of letting go. Proms, parties, graduation, weddings, with every day of a child’s life, we as parents, ever so slightly have to let go . Those of us that have lost a child know all too well about letting go. When a child rides their bike or dances on a stage, they come back. When you see them off to the prom or a date, there is a very good chance they will return home safe and sound. Even when a child gets married they will still be there for you to see, touch and talk to. When a parent watches their child take their last breath and can feel their last heartbeat, that is the pinnacle of letting go. They will never come back, they will never speak to you again. They will never come walking through the door, arms open for a hug. Never again will you get to help them solve all their earth shattering problems. You kiss them goodbye, tell them you love them and then you let go. Through all the heartbreak, the pain, the anguish, the loneliness and the grief, you realize what you have let go of. You have let go of a part of your heart and soul that leaves a gaping hole that in your mind will never be healed or filled again. Another part of letting go when you lose a child is letting go of their personal belongings. When? To whom? Where? What do I keep? What do I donate? All these questions can be answered with one statement, “When you are ready.” It could be a week, a month, a year, or mutable years before you are ready to let go. Only the parents of a lost child will know when that time comes and when it does you will be able to let go. For me, I am still waiting.
Letting go is hard, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. but I have come to realize that what I let go of was an earthly shell to carry Lindsay’s heart and soul for the short period she was here with us. Lindsay is still with me every day, her presence is always near. She is still working in peoples lives. Her tragedy has brought so much triumph to others and will continue to through her Foundation. I will never have to let go of the memories, they are mine and nothing can take them away. Just like the memories of camping right here at Holden Beach when I was young, those memories of Lindsay are forever ingrained in my heart and mind.
I was so lucky to be able to create new and lasting memories with Lindsay here at the beach. The walks, wading through the shallow waves, looking for shells and of course taking pictures. Her, somehow, getting all 5′ 10″ in a swing built for two and taking naps in the shade. Getting right down on the floor and playing with Kathy’s two pup’s, Rocky and Pudgie. Laughing in that loud, ear shattering laugh, the day I fell out of the boat. I, myself, saw no humor in that at all. She thought it was so cool that we would dock at a restaurant and have lunch. Lindsay and Mary playing science in the mud. Lindsay and Heather fighting with their hair and losing to the wind. The last time we were in the boat was not long before Lindsay passed away. Kelli’s grandson was here, and we all went out for a ride. We stopped and anchored up so Kelli could take Vinny out in the water to play for a while. We all got in the water and after a while Lindsay climbed back in the boat. Kelli asked her to grab her phone and take some pictures of Vinny playing. When Kelli got back in the boat and looked at her phone there were pictures of her and Vinny playing and and a few others. This selfie is my little girl, beautiful freckles and all. I thank God everyday for this one picture. I can see her with no makeup, her hair a mess and that beautiful smile. That was my Lindsay Girl.
I never got back in that boat and have recently let it go, but the memories, like all the others, are mine for a lifetime.
Last Sunday, April 27th, I went to a wedding. This was only the second wedding I have attended since Lindsay passed away. Last year I went to my nephew Aaron’s wedding and last Sunday I went to Andrew’s, my other nephew. I think the world of these two young men and would have never missed their special day. I am so happy for the both of them and the spouses they have chosen to spend the rest of their lives with.
The venue last Sunday was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, The Oaks at Salem in Apex NC. The grounds, the pond, and the feeling of joy that surrounded the entire ceremony was majestic. Andrew and Lauren asked that Kelli and I be the greeter’s that welcomed all their other guest to their special day. Andrew also made a special request that I wear my pink blazer, he and Lauren wanted me to dress, should I say, a little brighter than the norm. I was more than happy to oblige their request. With our greeting responsibility complete, Kelli, my son Jarrett and I took our seats for the ceremony. After sitting for a few minutes I could see Andrew and the preacher walking along the pond and I could not hold back the tears. I was sitting right behind my brother, Brian, and I was trying to imagine what he was thinking, what was going though his mind. I am sure it was thoughts of worry, happiness, concern, pride and love for his son and the union Andrew and Lauren were minutes away from completing. The reason I am sure is because that is what I would be feeling if it was Jarrett walking beside that pond. I thought of Jarrett and the day, I hope, he takes that walk. The day he stands before God, family and friends and pledges his love for that special person. We sat as the wedding party began their entrance, they were family and friends of both the bride and groom. Aaron was the best man and their sister Mary was one of the bridesmaids. Once the last coupled attendants made their way to the beautiful arbor where the couple would say their “I do’s” the music for the bride’s entrance began. Everyone stood and turned to watch as the huge rustic wooded doors opened for the bride to make her appearance. I turned to look at Andrew, I wanted to see his reaction, his expression when her saw Lauren. It was no less then I expected. You could see the love he has for this wonderful young lady. As Lauren and her father made their way down the aisle I began to think, of Lindsay. My initial reaction was to rub my ring, a ring that I had custom made with Lindsay’s fingerprint itched into the surface, the diamonds from her earrings mounted on each side and “My Lindsay Lou” engraved on the inside of the band. Anytime I want to feel extra close to her, the ring is my connection to her. As I turned to watch Lauren take those finial steps with her father I could see the glow of love and happiness. There are two things that made the top five list of “Things I will never get to do” when Lindsay passed away and one was about to happen. The question, “Who gives this women in marriage?” One day I will get to sit right where my brother has sat, the father of the groom, full of hope for my son’s future and happiness, full of pride for the man he has become, but I will never get to take that walk and answer that question. There were as many tears of joy as there were sadness, because I know deep down inside, Lindsay was there with us, just as she was for Aaron’s wedding. When the ceremony was over and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Benton turned to face their family and friends for the first time it was true happiness and love that shined through their smiles.
We made our way from the ceremony location to the reception area and mingled with family and met new friends. It was nice to be surrounded by family from both mine and Brian’s side as well as Julie’s, Brian’s wife. Jarrett, Kelli and I were at a table with several of Andrews friends. It was a joy to sit and talk to them about there accomplishments and plans for the future. It gives me hope for this world that there are good, young people out there. Jarrett, being a liberal arts major, had a lot to discuss with all of our table guest. I believe all of them had something to do with music, acting, or production. On our table each and every plate had a hand written note. Andrew and Lauren penned personal messages to each guest they had invited respectfully. I am not going to share what Andrew wrote to me but, I will tell you, it touched my heart deeply and confirmed what a loving, caring young man he is. The D.J. announced the newly married couple and they were to have their very first dance together as husband and wife. It was enchanting, their smiles for each other were endless, loving and sincere. As I sat and watched this young couple dance into their future I knew what was coming next, the second item on the top five list, the father daughter dance. When the D.J. announced for Lauren and her father to make their way to the dance floor my heart was torn in so many different directions. I was so happy for Lauren and her dad to have this very special moment in time, this time to start a memory for the rest of their lives. This time when a father and daughter share the spot light and humbly share their feelings for each other, with their family, with a single dance. The song Lauren chose for this special dance was Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella.” I have to admit I don’t believe I have ever heard this song before, but I can guarantee, I will never forget it. They danced through the first few verses and then broke out into a medley of fast, hip hop-ish type songs to showcase their true dancing talent. At the end they danced to the last verse Cinderella, which touched me the most.
“So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone”
I never had the chance to dance with Lindsay and I never will while I am still here on this earth, but I am looking forward to the day I get to have my first father daughter dance. In my heart I know it will be beautiful, with a heavenly angelic choir singing. My advice to any father that has a daughter, dance with her. I don’t care how old she is or how old you are, dance. It does not matter if she is embarrassed, she will thank you one day, dance. Dance when she least expects it, but dance. Dance in the street, in the house, dance in a ballroom, dance at a ballgame, dance in the middle of Times Square, but dance. Dance with her now because you never know when that clock will strike midnight and she will be gone. Weather you present her in marriage to the man she loves or God takes her from this world before you expect it, dance before she is gone.
Thank you Kelli, Jarrett, Mom, Dad, Brian, Julie, Andrew, Lauren, Aaron, Mikayla, Mary and everyone else in my family for all your support. I love each one of you in my own way.
God bless you Andrew, Lauren, Aaron and Mikayla. May your future’s be bright, your laughter be long and your memories be sweet.