Baby Steps

Baby Steps

It has been more than two years and I am still taking baby steps. Small actions that mean so little to others are still life shattering to me. I have yet to begin the daunting task of cleaning out Lindsay’s room. The clothes, the cheer medals, the shoes, the small treasures that sit on her dresser and nightstand. The pictures that hang on every wall, and God only knows what might be under her bed. The contents of her desk, her books, her back pack, her laptop. The Tail and Mane shampoo that still sits on the shelf in her shower. It is so hard to even fathom that thought of donating, giving away, or throwing out even one piece of paper much less a single article of clothing. All that being said Lindsay was an organ donor and she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save and extend the lives of total strangers. She had a plan for her life, she had a direction, a goal and it was to help others. So, after a conversation with Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, we agreed to donate a specific item to a very good cause, “I Support the Girls.” This is a non profit organization that that takes donated bras and distributes them to homeless women and women who are less fortunate. I feel Lindsay would not mind and she would be proud of us for this donation. I feel now that a stranger has a part of what once was Lindsay’s she will watch over them and make sure they are doing okay.

I had another situation over the weekend that threw me back a step or two. One of those situations that takes your breath away, and only you know why.  My wife Kelli and I, along with another couple, were in the lobby of a restaurant waiting to be seated when around the corner came Heather, who was Lindsay’s best friend. With her was Logan, Amanda and Brianna, three more very good friends of Lindsay’s from high school. After seeing the last one come around the corner I took a glance back, because in that split second I thought maybe, just maybe. It is times like this that makes my heart drop. I don’t know why I looked for her, but I did. I know in my mind, she is never going to come around the corner of a restaurant with her friends ever again, but my heart still looks, and probably always will. It was so nice to see those young ladies, but what made it even more special was they were happy to see us. We hugged all of their necks and quickly caught up on what was going on in their busy lives. As they were leaving we told them to have fun, behave themselves and what I always told Lindsay, “Make wise choices.” Heather was walking toward the door and she turned to us to said, “Love Ya’ll.” I don’t know if she knows how much that truly means to me. Just the fact that she thought to turn and say it. I try to keep in touch with some of Lindsay’s friends. I enjoy seeing them prosper and grow. It’s as if I am looking to them for some kind of clarity, some sort of identity, a small glimpse of what Lindsay would be doing, where she would be. Heather is a special young woman and is very special to everyone in our family.

A weekend of donations to help strangers, a night of seeing what could have been and a lifetime of baby steps.

Dear Lindsay

Dear Lindsay

Hey Sweetie,

Merry Christmas. I know you can see everything from up there, but just in case I wanted to let you know whats been going on the past few days and that I miss you so very much.

First things first, we put up that pathetic tree again this year. I don’t know if I can ever get rid of it. I sit on the couch and look at it and I see you standing there just shaking your head. Each year we add another angel in memory of you. Just another one of our unwanted new traditions.  

I had a decently good day on Christmas Eve. The house filled up early, everyone was here at the house except Aaron and Mikalya. I am sure you already know this, but they moved to Texas. Pretty sure you had a chance to meet Mikayla, she is a keeper. Her and Aaron seem to be very happy together in the lone star state. They also have a dog named Daisy. Kelli did it again with our meal. We had honey glazed spiral ham, green bean casserole, a delicious cabbage dish, dressing, biscuits and of course your favorite, mashed potatoes and gravy. I even broke out the Grandma’s Molasses for the biscuits. Every time I stand at the sink and I peel that ten pound bag of potatoes I think of you eating mashed potatoes and gravy. You ate enough for a 400 pound grown man and never even flinched. The desserts were amazing as well. We had cakes, cookies, and all kinds of homemade candy. After we ate we had a good time sitting around talking about all the Christmases that have past, and yes ma’am, we talked about you. It was all good, nothing bad, I promise. We gave Andrew and Lauren their gifts because they had to head back home. Lauren’s dad was singing a solo in their churches Christmas Eve program. It was very nice of them to make it back to support him. You never had the chance to meet Lauren but I know you would really like her. Her and Andrew got married this past summer. It was a very nice ceremony but I could not help but think of you and I never taking that walk. The day pretty much ended like all the ones before, everyone rubbing their stomachs as they moaned from being so full. After everyone left Kelli and I sat in the living room and watched a Christmas movie and waited for the fat man to come. Not gonna lie to ya girl, it is hard not having you here during this the most joyous time of the year. 

Well the big day finally came, we got up early, I grabbed the blower and Kelli grabbed your new flowers, we jumped in the truck and headed your way. It still looks so different with one of those big beautiful oak trees gone, hard to believe Florence was able to take down that giant tree. I know you loved it. We had a really good visit with you, always do. We said hello to Sadie and wished her a Merry Christmas. I hope you are still looking after her. I know she was only five, but you can be a great role model for her and continue to show her the ropes. On the way home we stopped by the Waffle House for some breakfast, you know we are classy like that. I felt bad because all those people had to work, but I felt if they had to work we could help them out. We gave our waitress a very good tip. I hope she used it to take herself and her family out to a very nice supper somewhere. When we got back home Kelli started putting the finishing touches on lupper, you know that meal between lunch and supper. We had leftovers and Kelli made a big pan of meatballs and about fifty pounds of baked ziti. While she was cooking I was sitting in your “present opening chair.” We put a beautiful red rose, a lovely candle and my favorite picture of you and Mary on the table beside that chair. I have started sitting it that chair at Christmas because that is where you sat and I just don’t feel right with anyone else sitting there. Hope that is okay. Ya grandma moved up in the world of technology, me and Kelli along with your Uncle Brian and Aunt Julie got her a laptop, she was, to say the least, surprised. We all received wonderful gifts, all of them were from the heart. I have to tell you that on of my favorite gifts did no come from under the tree, it came in the form of a message. I know you remember Haleigh and her mom, Linda. Well Linda posted a picture of Haleigh on Facebook wearing one of the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation hats she had got her for Christmas. The smile that was on her face was amazing, and the tears in her eyes broke my heart, how sweet was that. Here is what Linda posted under the picture,

She is smiling, but the tears are in her eyes and the longing is in her heart. The only Christmas present that made my baby girl cry….we were thinking of sweet Lindsay on Christmas morning with you all. (Haleigh Somberg LOVES the hat by the way!!!!).”  This day like everyday since you left will never be the same. We miss you. we love. you and we will never forget you.

We ended our Christmas holiday last night. Kelli, Jarrett and myself met Heather at Brixx Pizza down at Mayfaire. You are never going to believe this, she drove there!! Yes ma’am Heather got her licence and she got a car for Christmas. Sweetie, you had good taste when it came to friends, she is a good girl. I try to keep in touch with, and check on, all your friends. I think it makes me feel a little closer to you. I hope they don’t think I am some kind of old creeper. Heather is doing good in school and she is missing you too. I feel pretty sure she has discussed it with you but I wanted you to know she has changed her major. She is majoring in social work now, with a minor in psychology. By the way your big brother made the Dean’s list this semester at UNCW. He is so passionate about his acting and his music. If you have any pull up there see what you can do to help him out as he follows his dreams.  I know deep down you are proud of him. He misses you as well. Not going to tell you that ya mom got another dog. I will let her discuss that with you.   

I cant even imagine what Christmas is like in heaven. I am sure it was glorious to say the least. I hope you were surrounded by all your family members that had gone on before you. All the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents you never had the chance to meet. I hope you have had a chance to meet Charlie. If you have I am sure he has given you a really good nickname. The celebration of Gods only sons birthday, what a party y’all must of had. Sometimes I fell like we have it all screwed up down here. We stress more about the right gift than we do about the true act of giving. We care more about the all mighty dollar than we do the “All Mighty.”  Not sure if you have a new year, but just in case Happy New Year!!  

Merry Christmas my Lindsay Lou. I miss you every day, but these days are the hardest.




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.











Mine for a Lifetime…

Mine for a Lifetime…

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. Lindsay boatWhen 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. 


My Club…

My Club…

A Freemason, everyone knows a Mason, my great grandfather was a Mason. Being a Mason is not a secret, what it takes to become a Mason is somewhat of a secret. I am not going to get into all the religious and political debates about the Freemason’s. I am only using them as an example of a club, a fraternity of men of any race or religion, that have certain requirements to become a member of their group. A fraternity or sorority, usually groups on a college campus, that require certain criteria to become a member. You are a “pledge,” you do whatever an existing brother or sister tells you to do for a period of time, you pass all the tests and then you are a member for life. Like the Freemason you will have a bond, a brother, or sisterhood to look after you and help protect you for as long as you are alive.  The United States Special Forces, The Seals, Rangers, Green Berets, Delta Forces, 82nd Airborne. I am sure I missed a few so please forgive me if I did not list a specific unit. All are elite, all require special, rigorous, physically challenging training and sacrifice. All take a certain type of person or personality to be a member of these special forces for our country. When they place that pin, that represents their respected unit, on their chest they are a member of a brotherhood that will watch their six for life. God bless them all for what they do. Athletes spend years training, practicing, sacrificing for the one goal, to be the best. To be at the absolute top of their game, to be number one. Athletes train for one reason, to win. They sacrifice for one reason, to win. When they win, they win as a team, they are called a winning club. It does not matter if it is a team or individual sport there are always others members in the background, a club, supporting the athlete for success. AARP, a club for anyone age 50 or over. That’s it you just have to be fifty years old to join. This club gives you discounts, insurance, and several other benefits. Now to remain a member you must pay your dues on time. The Black Panthers and Klu Klux Klan, very racially divided clubs. Obviously the race of the member told what club or group they were in. What other requirements were involved I do not know and do not care to know. I am only using these two groups to show how race can determine the membership to a club. The country club, bike club, tennis club, car club, the list can go on forever for the amount and the different types of clubs there are in this world.

To gain memberships to every club or team I have mentioned above there are certain agenda’s, ceremonies or requirements that have to be met. There are tests that have to be passed, whether they be mental or physical. Some are gender, race, age or religion specific. My club has none of these. My club has only one requirement. My club does not discriminate. It does not matter how old you are, it does not matter what race you are, it does not matter where you are from, it does not matter what your financial situation is, it does not matter what religion you practice, it does not matter what your marital status is. There are no temple rituals, there are no pledge weeks, there are no classes, there is no training, there is no manual, or how to book, on becoming a member of my club. There is no preparation required, there is no tryouts, there is no spring training, there is no week long camps. You can become a member in a split second, the blink of an eye, or it could take many painful drawn out years. There is sacrifice, there is pain, there is sadness and there is regret. Each member feels as if there is no team, no club, no brotherhood, each of our members feel alone. There is loneliness and there is depression. There is no book, no guide or no chart that can tell you what to expect when you become a member. There are no guidelines to get you from day to day, week to week, month to month, or year to year. There are dues, dues that can never be recovered. Dues are paid once, or in some cases multiple times, but when they are paid it is the ultimate sacrifice for membership. You would be amazed at how many members there are, your neighbors, your childhood friends, your co-workers, your landscaper, your cable guy, your high school teacher, that lady or gentleman sitting at the next table while you are eating dinner. We don’t have rings, special pins, uniforms, T-shirts or jerseys to wear to let everyone know what club we are in or what team we are on. We don’t have a logo or a team mascot, we don’t need them. You will recognize our club members by seeing the empty chair at a holiday dinner table, the weekly trip to the cemetery, the room that is still the same as it was that day, the box that is filled with special memories, the photos of a child that never gets any older, but the one true give away is that huge hole in our hearts. I never dreamed of, applied for, tried out for, or asked to be in this club, and I would not wish its membership on anyone. I pray everyday that no other parent has to pay the ultimate dues to become a member of my club.