From the mouths of babes…

From the mouths of babes…

I have often said it’s the surprises, the little thing that people send to me, the messages, the pictures and the visits that keep me going. What I am about to tell is just another one of the little surprizes that made me smile. Kelli’s grandson has been visiting us from Las Vegas for the past two weeks. He is six years old now and he meet Jarrett and Lindsay for the first time when Kelli and I got married, he was just a baby at the time. When he was four he made his first visit for any length of time.

golf cart

Jarrett and Lindsay, enjoyed the time they had with him that summer. They played games with him, Jarrett would wrestle with him, and the three of them would jump on the golf cart and go on a “Pokemon” hunt. Vinny was here for a month so Jarrett and Lindsay got to spend quite a bit of time with him. When Vinny came back last year he never asked about Lindsay, but we were prepared to talk to him in case he did. When Kelli would mention her name he would just look down and not say anything. So in my heart I knew he knew she was no longer with us. This year was pretty much the same. He and Jarrett spent a lot of time together playing video games and wrestling around on the floor, he never stopped laughing. A few days ago I was at work and received a text form Kelli, I very rarely stop long enough to look at my phone at work but for some reason that day I did. It was a text from Kelli telling me about a conversation she and Vinny had about Lindsay. All around our house we have several reminders of Lindsay. We have pictures, awards, I have her cheer jacket in a shadow box frame, books and various other mementos. There are many “Donate Life” and “Lindsay M Benton Foundation” references as well, especially in the room Vinny was sleeping in that we also use as an office. Kelli and I own a small business and Kelli and Vinny spent some time there over the past few weeks. In the warehouse that houses our business we have a display for the “Lindsay M. Benton Foundation” and also “Donate Life.” So now Vinny has seen all of this in two locations. Below is the text I received and it will explain why I have given you all the previous information.

text

What a profound statement from a six year old. He does not need a pin or a label, he just remembers her. Psalm 8:2A is a perfect reference to the statement Vinny made, “From the mouths of babes and infants you have established strength.” That text and that one small surprise gave me the strength to make it one more day.

From the mouths of babes, I believe that is enough said.

At the end of the day…

At the end of the day…

Did you ever notice when we look at certain things there are no words needed to understand? This world has turned into a world of logo’s, meme’s and eye catching “hooks” for people, products and wears. I can be in the middle of Time Square and see a swoosh on a sign and know that Nike is sold in that store. If I see a MK I know it is a Michael Kors store and so on. I know what bathroom to go to by the shape of the person on the sign. There are symbols that tell you which way to go, how to get there and how long it will take. Universal signs that span continents for all to understand. Everything and everybody has some kind of label. It could be race, sexuality, intelligence, religion, or any number of things that cause other people to see us in certain way. It is almost like we need to categorize everything, we can not just see it for what it is. I spent all day yesterday with a part of my family enjoying the pool and the beautiful sunshine. It is so nice when there is no judgement, no categorization, and people can enjoy each other for who they are. Not that I don’t think of Lindsay every day, it is days like yesterday I think of her even more. She would have enjoyed it so much. All the stories, the laughter, the swimming, the sunning, and the food. That girl did love to eat. Yesterday, was a good day. There are so many people in this world that live their life for “things, possessions, stuff, money.” We I was younger I thought the same way, the more I had or the more I could get  the better off I would be. Money, and possessions meant power, popularity, and it meant security. In my opinion so many people today are stepping on the people that matter as they try to climb their way to the top. They are forgetting the people that held out their hand to help them take that first step on the ladder. Later in life those same people being to realize the ladder has no end, there is always another position, another person to step on, another life to effect. When they see that the pot of gold is not at the end of the rainbow or the rise to power left them cold and alone they begin to look at that climb to the top. They look long and hard, all the way down to the bottom of that ladder they fought so hard to climb and there is their family. The family that never forgot them, never left their side, the family that loves them. Grief, in its own way, has this same ladder. Each rung of this ladder has its own pain, its own loneliness, its own depression. Some rungs try as parents keep all sorts of memorability from our children on all the activities and their school accomplishments. We keep their clothes from the day they were born and the trip home from the hospital. The pictures, we take millions of pictures, and thank God we do. We have drawers full of cards, colored pictures, drawing and movie tickets. In my case when you lose a child you display a lot of these so you can remember. So we can remember every day the one we lost, but I also have as many reminders of my son. Grief can destroy your for love for life and and the will to carry on. The ladder of grief never ends, it will allow you to climb forever, step after heart wrenching step. When the day comes and you realize you can’t go on, you are tired of climbing, when the last bit of desire has left your body you look down, you look toward the people that are there to catch you when you fall, your family. Yesterday was a “catch me day.” Yesterday made me realize, even more, that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, when the lights dim and and you are about to close your eyes, family and friends are all that truly matter.

 

 

 

Watch Me…

Watch Me…

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 lmbf logoTournament 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 lindsaymbentonfoundation@gmail.com and we will gladly email them to you!

 

Blink of an Eye…

Blink of an Eye…

Sometimes in the middle of a work day, with all the stress, the deadlines, the questions, the decisions, the responsibilities, handling an enormous array of personalities, equipment failures, lack of staff and computer glitches I have to stop and breathe. I have to take a step back before the weight of my job crushes me into submission. After years of dealing with all these issues on a daily basis I begin to get burnt out, I begin to wear down, I begin to question my life choices. I begin to wonder, “What is it that keeps me going back day after day.” What is it that keeps me waking up at 1:45 a.m. to face another day filled with landmines. What is it that keeps me walking up those steps, through that door and taking on the many challenges of the day, everyday. The only answer I can come up with is responsibly. I must admit, it is not the love of the job. I have a responsibility, number one, to my family and the company I work for. I have a wonderful, beautiful, very loving family, one I love very much and it is my responsibility to provide for them, keep a roof over there heads and food on the table. Also in today’s world, the all important medical coverage. I work for a company that is known world wide and has been good to me, especially when Lindsay passed away. I work for a company that at 2:30 in the morning I can formulate plan “A”, but by 5:30 the same morning I could be starting on plan “S”. Is this poor planning on my part, no. It is the constantly changing circumstances that create organized chaos that has to be handled in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes in the middle of the work day, with all the stress, pain, heartache, what if’s, emptiness, loneliness, sorrow and handling untold emotions I have to stop and catch my breath. I have to take a step back before the weight of grief crushes me into submission. After a year and ten months of dealing with these issues on an daily, sometimes, hourly basis I begin to shut down, I close off the world, I begin to question all the choices I have made as a father. I begin to wonder,”What keeps me going?” What keeps me from going insane everyday when I wake up at that ungodly hour and I think of Lindsay, I think of Jarrett, Kelli, Aylssa, Andrew and Michael. What keeps me waking up everyday, what keeps me breathing in and out, what keeps my broken heart from shattering. The only answer I can come up with is responsibility. A responsibility to be a good husband, a good father and step father and to continue to say my daughters name everyday, Lindsay. To continue her legacy through sharing her story, to help lead a foundation built on her name and to maintain the awareness of all the good that has come from such a horrible tragedy. I am a part of a family that loves me very much and has been my support system throughout the lost of my daughter, Lindsay. I live in a world that at 2:30 in the morning I am good, I am solid and I have every emotion under control, but by 5:30 the same day I could be a wreck, a pile of infinite emotions, not knowing how I am going to take my next breath. Is this poor planning on my part, no. It is the constantly changing circumstances that create organized chaos in my head and heart that can not be handled, in the blink of an eye.
The parallel lines that run between everyday life and a life with grief are so close, yet universes apart. Your job will be there tomorrow, but your child will not. All the stress and aggravation will be there next week, but your child will not. All the benefits and raises will be there next year, but your child will not. Come Friday you will have two days to regroup, recuperate and relax, but on Monday your child will still not be here. At some point, in the life of a grieving father, these parallel lines will cross and there will be a collision, there will be all the heartache, pain, stress and aggravation all rolled up into a single moment in time. At that time you can not be afraid or ashamed to let all those emotion’s out. Cry if you need to cry, scream if you need to scream, laugh if you need to laugh, but let it out. Take responsibility for your family, take responsibility for your life, take responsibility for the memory and legacy of your lost child, because at any time, just like your child, it could be gone, in the blink of an eye.

How Do You Do It?

How Do You Do It?

First let me say, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there. I myself am the proud father of two wonderful children, Jarrett and Lindsay. Jarrett is still with us and I am so proud of all he has accomplished and all he is yet to do. My Lindsay girl is spending Father’s Day with here eternal Father, but I know she is smiling down on her earthly dad.

Settle in somewhere comfortable because this is a long one. I am sorry but I have a lot to share and it takes a lot of words to do it. 

I have had numerous people ask me “How do you do it? How do you get up every morning and carry on? How do you make it through each day?” There are so many answers to these questions, so many reasons why, and behind every answer there is a person, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance and sometimes a perfect stranger. It seems that everyday someone says or does something that keeps me going. Whether it be a hug, a smile or just a look, it always seems to come just at the right time. It could be the smallest of gestures or the grandest act of kindness. 

This blog will make number fifty-two, a full year. I have been writing to help relieve the weight of grief, to do my best to explain what a father goes through when he loses a child, and hopefully, help someone who has been dealing with the loss of a child. In this blog I want to share some of the kindness, some words of encouragement and the little surprises that keep me going. Whether it was a long hand written letter, or a picture with the smallest of reminders in the background so many things have helped me get up every morning. So many things have changed in my life, I see the world with very different eyes and feel with a softer heart. I watch videos of “America’s Got Talent,” and I cry each and every time there is a “Golden Buzzer.” I am not sure if its tears of happiness for the contestant or sadness over the fact that their dreams are coming true and Lindsay’s never will. When you lose a child your entire emotional world changes. You cry at things you never would have before, you smile at the smallest sign of kindness, and you wonder, you always wonder, “What if?” It has been 656 since Lindsay left us and it has been 656 days of struggle. You may not see it when you see me smile or hear me laugh, you may not see it when you see me enjoying life, but the struggle is there, it is always there. The struggle lives in a place I try so hard not to reveal, but when it reaches flood levels I have to open the levy and let it flow freely. I need to release the pain and the hurt that fuels the daily pain of losing a child. As I said, I want to share a big part of what keeps me going, what I turn to when grief starts to over power my heart, and the joy that comes from each word, each thought and each photograph.

We received so many wonderful cards of encouragement, love and sympathy when Lindsay passed away. The came from family, friends, neighbors and many from people we did not know. I have keep each and every one of those cards and letters and on the days I feel I need some help, I feel I need to close those flood gates I pull them out, I read them and I know everything will be okay.

The photo on the right are all hand written letters from cheer teams that met Lindsay at state competitions. The top right are mounds of cards and letters we received. The bottom right is one of the many cards we received from complete strangers telling us how Lindsay had touched their lives. This is how I make it through everyday.

 

There was one very special card with a photo enclosed. It was from my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jimmy. The photo is of my uncle Jimmy holding Lindsay her first Christmas.Uncle Jimmy We were at their house for our traditional Christmas eve party and Ms. Lindsay was being very fussy. My uncle Jimmy held her and she calmed right down. He held her for most of the night and she was quite happy with that. We had a memory tree at Lindsay’s service and this was my uncles memory of her.

 

Speaking of the memory tree, I would like to share just a few of the beautiful words written by visitors to Lindsay’s service. This idea was given to us and set up by a complete stranger who lives in Compass Pointe who came to our home to speak to us, she too had lost a child.

It is also the little surprises that get me through the day. The small simple things that I never knew about that find their way to my heart. The first photo below is from a video taken by Haleigh, a friend of Lindsay’s, in her dorm room. I was watching the video and noticed a small white canvass hanging on her wall. On that canvas where just the words “Love Lindsay” with Lindsay’s signature heart. This was from the a birthday card Lindsay sent to Haleigh before she passed away. The second photo is from an exchange student that meet Lindsay at church. She had the logo from the foundation tattooed in memory of Lindsay. The third is of two amazing friends of Lindsay’s, Sierra and Rebecca. We try our best to stay in touch with as many of Lindsay’s friends as possible. Sierra sent this to Kellie, Lindsay’s mom. The last two photo’s, are a drawing of roses that Lindsay drew and gave to Heather, her best friend. On Heather’s eighteenth birthday she had it tattooed on her back in memory of Lindsay.

 

What can I say about Wilmington Christian Academy? Every time I walk on that campus I can feel Lindsay with me. The entire academy has been so supportive and loving through out every day since Lindsay has been gone. When I am there I truly feel like part of a family. They continue to help us with the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer and Art Fund as well as the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship.

The top two photographs are of Heather Reynolds, the 2017 recipient and Amanda Fisher,  the 2018 recipient of the Lindsay M. Benton Cheer Scholarship. The bottom two photographs are of two pieces of Lindsay art work that the school had framed for us. 

 

When Jarrett got the tattoo of Lindsay’s EKG with her actual signature it was a mix bag of emotions.JB tatoo 1 On the one hand my little boy had grown up to be a man. Not saying getting a tattoo in any way makes you a man, just stating the fact that he was eighteen. On the other hand my little boy was still my little boy. He did this for his sister, he wanted to be able to tell anyone that asked about it that, “This was my sister.” He wanted to honor her, and in my eyes he did just that.

These are the things that get me through the day. Looking back and remembering all the things that people have done to remember Lindsay. There are so many wonderful memories and so many people that have honored her that it would take weeks to mention them all. I want to mention one more. North Carolina Azalea Festival Scholarship Pageant. Lindsay competed in the pageant in 2016 and they did a beautiful job of remembering and honoring her in 2017.

The photo below is of a friend of Lindsay’s she met at the Azalea Pageant. I can remember like it was yesterday the two of them holding hands on stage as the results were called out.  This is what she sent to us. 

St. Pats“I am currently in New York. We walked inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and I lit a candle for the memory of Lindsay. Thought I would share this with you.”

 

Last year the STICU at NHRMC was renovated and all the rooms were changed. Someone room numbervery special called me and asked if I would like to have the plate from Lindsay’s room. It still amazes me at the heart and soul of some people. The fact that they would even think to ask means to world to me.

 

This blog has been my way to share my grief, share my love, and share what I have learned as a grieving father. It has helped me to ease the pain, it has helped me to carry on, and it has helped me to see life in a totally different light. It has been read in thirty five different countries and reached thousands of people. My hope is that is has helped the readers as much as it has helped me. I would like to share some of the comments I have received on this blog. I am not doing this for my own self satisfaction or gratification but to show how many good people there are in this world grieving, how many people are hurting, and how many people walk the same walk I do everyday. 

“You don’t know me, nor you, I, but thank you. I do understand exactly what you mean. We have had to bury not one, but two, children. Our only children, 3 years apart from each other, exactly 3 years + 3 days. You’re right, there is nothing normal about it. However, there is a new normal for us, but every grieving parent must figure that out on their own time, and not be told. I also wrote a sort of how-to blog on caring for a grieving parent, but it was definitely not as well written as yours. Thank you for putting into words the thoughts I couldn’t. ♡♡♡”

“I truly get goosebumps when I read your blog. It is so similar to the loss of my 17 yr old daughter. She also saved 2 lives. One small, bump on the right side of her head resulting in a tbi. Her right side was broken in many places. We are coming upon the second year of her accident Aug 28th and her death Aug. 30th. Lots of anxiety. I know you all are feeling the same. God Bless you.”

“My thoughts and prayers go out to you and thanks for writing this, I hope it helps you. We too lost our 20- year- old daughter 6 months ago so I can relate to everything you say! God bless you and comfort you.”

“I was suggested this blog via my cousin. I am not certain whether this put up is written by means of him as nobody else recognize such distinct approximately my problem. You are amazing! Thank you!”

“Brad, when I learned about the accident, my heart broke for you and your family. I am so glad that T***** M**** shared this post. I have been blessed by reading it. I have not lost a child, so I can’t say that I understand, but I did lose a much younger sister to a car accident when she was sixteen. You are right about the “Thousand Little Things”. Her accident was 39 years ago, and I still have those moments. God bless you and your family as you continue this journey through your grief.”

“Thank you Brad, for sharing such a personal part of yourself and for enlightening many of how precious time with loved ones is. I mourn for your Lindsay too, and I never met her. She touched me forever. Peace be with you.”

“Reading your words reminds me to be more present with my 7-year-old. Thank you for sharing.”

“Tears and heartache for your loss. Thank you for sharing your soul and your experience. I know Lindsay is so proud of you and her loving family and friends. I will probably always ask why her Lord?…such an amazing young lady…she sure did make her mark in this life, she lives on in so many hearts. Prayers for you and Kelli, Kellie and Jarrett. May God give you strength and comfort day by day.”

“I had the privilege to pray with her every night last summer at camp and it’s amazing how God sends you people that share the same struggle and testimony! I don’t know if it will be any comfort or not but talking to her and praying with her was a such blessing to me because it helped show me why God allowed somethings in my life to happen in order to help girls just like her through the same things and that Gods hand is truly guiding my every step. When I tell you, she was different than most campers that I minister to I really mean it because I gave her a letter that I carry around in my bible that my best friend wrote me in a hard time and I gave her my number to call me whenever she needed someone to just listen. I saw some of myself in her and just talking to her and hearing her heart I have no doubt that she knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior and that one day we will see her again! God bless you! I will keep you and your family in my prayers!”

“The courage and strength that you continue to show daily are amazing. I read your words and feel so grateful that you have the grace to write them. I pray that you continue and hope that the process brings you some peace. I know for me personally it has been very enlightening. Thank you.”

“I know you don’t need to hear this, or maybe even want to hear it, but I am so proud of you. Thank you for striving to help others navigate what you are going through. Love you man.”

“I did not personally know your Lindsay but know her now through her strong mamma Kellie. She is a beautiful soul and has joined my daughter Erika also from a car accident. I will be following your blog. Thank you so much for writing.”

“I can never thank you enough for sharing the personal and intimate journey you and your family have been on. It is taking me several tries to get through today’s as my eyes won’t stop leaking and my heart is breaking. Please don’t ever stop sharing with us. Hugs and gratitude to you!!”

“You probably don’t know me, but I was a friend of Lindsay’s. I wasn’t told about what happened until December of 2016. I wanted to reach out and give my condolences or do something for you guys but I didn’t know how or what to do and never really processed any of it well. I pray for you and your family still. I also wanted to tell you that she was one of the best people that I knew. She genuinely cared about her friends,and was one of my favorite people to just talk to. She touched my life and made it much better every time we interacted. She was a blessing. This post just reminded me of her and you guys and I wants to tell you that she was an increasingly person.”

tree

We are almost there, the end. I could not finish this blog without the people who have never left my side. My wife, Kelli. This amazing woman has been with me every step of this journey. She has seen the struggle, she has seen the pain, and she has seen the tears. She has stepped up and she has stepped back, she has been my voice when I needed a break. She has been the one I could lean on and truly express how I was felling. She has never wavered, she has been my rock, and she continues to be my support. I could never in a million life times express how much I love her and thank her. 

My family. I could not have asked for a better support group. My mom and dad have been there no matter the conversation or the lack there of. They are the foundation on which I have built my life. My brother, one of the most solid men I know, was by my side from the day after Lindsay’s accident until the day he absolutely had to return home. Kathy, Kelli’s mom, was always there everyday with a hug. My niece, nephews, step daughter and step son were here for me but most importantly for Jarrett. I could never thank them enough for all of their love and support.

Lindsay’s mom, Kellie and her husband Brett. We all pulled together to support each other, and make it trough the most horrific thing that could ever happen to parents. We stood together when times where the hardest and still today we lean on each other for support. Kellie’s parents, family and friends, thank you for your support then and now.

The doctors and nurses at New Hanover Regional Hospital. I could never thank them for all they did for Lindsay. The care, the compassion and the communication they had with us. I am still in contact with some of these wonderful people and hope they will continue to be a part of my life.

Each and everyone of you, the readers of this blog. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words and for your kind and generous support of the Foundation that carries Lindsay’s name. You keep me writing and sharing my heart.

Lindsay’s friends that continue to surprise us with photos, stories and love for our family. 

My son Jarrett, one of the strongest young men I know. He asked to speak at his sisters funeral and he did a beautiful job. He told his story of his sister and the love he had for her. He was so proud of her and her strength. I could not have been prouder of him for standing there, composed and confident in front of over 800 people during the most emotional time of his life. I love ya son.

My God, my faith and my belief that one day I will see my daughter again. That I will see her smile, I will see her hair, I will see those all important eyelashes, I will hear that laugh, and I will tell her thank you for being my daughter. Thank you for the seventeen years you gave us back on earth. Thank you for all the lives you saved and all the lives you touch. Thank you for being Lindsay.

So the answer to the question…well, there is no real one answer. It is a continual struggle, a day by day battle to combat grief and all its sorrow and fear. It is waking up everyday thinking about what I have lost, but also, everything I have to be thankful for. It is the love of family and friends and the many blessing of life. It is the triumph that has come from such a tragedy. But if I had to give one conclusive answer it would be Lindsay.instagrm 2 She keeps me going, she gives me strength, and she gives me sanity. I guess we knew each other pretty well.

 

 

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. 

 

Masterpiece…

Masterpiece…

First things first. I want to thank Kelli for stepping in for me last week. This blog is very important to me and I truly appreciate her sharing her thoughts.  Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. I am back up and running, not very fast, but running.

 

“The colors that we use to paint the pathways of life, tell a vivid story of what was and what is yet to be. The infinite array of hue that covers our past manifests itself to an eclectic pallet of chroma to create our future. Try and let everyday be a prism of happiness.”      –Brad Benton

 
Sometimes I run across something I wrote a long time ago that means something totally  different than the day I wrote it. I guess the meaning could change daily based upon the trials and tribulations faced, or the happiness and joy we find in a moment. In it’s most basic form the passage I wrote above was for me to learn from my past, apply it to today and create a brighter future. I could write a blog about the things I have learned from my past, the joy, the pain, the decisions, good and bad, the life lessons my parents taught me that did not register until later in life.  The list could go on forever, but the one thing I have learned in the most recent past is there are still good people here on this earth, and most importantly, in our lives. I would never attempt to list all the good people that have come into my life since Lindsay passed away. One thing I have realized is most of the people were already there. They are your friends, your family, the ones that randomly send you a picture, or a message when they stop by to visit Lindsay. To sit with her and share a smile, a laugh and a tear. They are the ones that remember her birthday, remember how hard it is for me to hear the words graduation, prom, and wedding and not think of her. There are good people in this world and I am thankful to call them my friends.
If, in your mind, you have painted your future with your family in place, college degree and or a great job, married, children, your grandchildren, then you have painted the picture that every parent dreams of. The pride you would have displaying this beautiful original painting in your home. Your child or children and their many accomplishments, their battles won and their dreams full filled. Now take whatever medium you need for the paint you have used to create this wonderful painting of your future and erase it because nothing ever stays the same. Every year or two you will need to recreate this dream painting that hangs so carefully in the gallery of your mind. Everyone will get older, everyone will grow, whether tall or wide, hair colors will change, wrinkles will need to be added, spouses need to be added. Everyone and everything changes. Now imagine you are repainting and there is someone that hasn’t changed, someone who hasn’t gotten any older, grown any taller or their hair color is still the same. Someone who will never get wrinkles or ever have a spouse. That someone is a child lost. It makes no difference which one, because honestly you have no choice when it comes to losing a child so early in their life. There is no picking, one day they are there and the next they are not. It is not planned, it is not on the list of things to do, it is not a thought in your head when you are in the middle of mindfully creating this parental work of art. One does not replace the other because they are two totally different people. You love them all equally, you raise them all in the same environment, you teach them all you know. Not once did you ever think you would be leaving a blank spot on your canvas. Although the spot may not be blank it will never change, it will never grow, it will never age. This spot will forever be in the past. There is no paint, no color that will ever change this part of your painting. The only thing that can change this image, is you. You can take this horrific loss and turn it into good. Tell people the story of your lost child. Speak their name, honor their memory and always carry their heart in yours.   
Soak your brush into that vast array of color from your past, and be the artist that paints your future, one that goes far beyond the tragedy, trials and tribulations of today. You and only you can move, mix and manipulate the colors of the past to ensure a masterpiece for tomorrow, a masterpiece for you, your family and for your lost child.