Tomorrow..

Tomorrow..

Tomorrow has always been a small sign of hope, something to possibly look forward to. For example, the sun will come up tomorrow, tomorrow is going to be a better day, there is always tomorrow, you never know what tomorrow may bring. Well for me I know what tomorrow brings, it brings sadness, and grief. I know it’s not going to be a better day, and the sun, it will not be shinning very bright in my life. One year ago tomorrow was one of the best days of my life and one of the worst all wrapped up into one. One year ago tomorrow was the day Lindsay was involved in her accident. One year ago tomorrow I spent the afternoon with my daughter, laughing, talking and exploring her future. One year ago tomorrow my world came crashing down.

One year ago tomorrow started with Lindsay stomping down the stairs and twirling as she came through her bedroom door. “Hey dad, can I go to the pool for a while?” Mind you she was already in her bathing suit and cover up with her phone and ear buds in tow, heading to the laundry room for a towel and sun screen, almost as if she knew I was going to say yes, and of course I did. “Dad is it okay if I go to dinner with Drew this evening? I haven’t seen her much this summer and she is heading off to school soon.” I said yes once again. That yes is one of many “What If” moments.  You see, Lindsay had been out with her friends on Friday and spent the night with a friend on Saturday. Sunday morning I had a conversation with my wife, telling her I was going to tell Lindsay she had to go to dinner with us that night, she had been off every night so far this weekend. When Lindsay asked the question “Can I go to dinner tonight?” it hit me, a conversation Lindsay and I had earlier that summer. I had told Lindsay “This is it, your last summer before starting your senior year, have fun, go out with your friends, really enjoy yourself, so, I said “Yes.” I look back now and think “What if I had said no.” That one three letter word torments me every day. With that, she headed out the door, jumped in her car, turned up Beyoncé, I am sure, while heading to pool. A few minutes past, long enough for her to make it to the pool, and I text her and asked “Is it crowded up there?” and her reply was “No, head on up.” I said to Kelli “Let’s take a ride up to the pool, Lindsay said it’s not crowded.”  So we suited up, jumped in the golf cart and off we went. When we arrived at the pool it was packed, people were everywhere. First thing I did was scan the pool sides for Ms. Lindsay, and then I spotted her. She was at the end of the pool, right in the middle, laid back with her hair flowing in the breeze and wearing those white sunglasses. I made a bee line to her chair, stood at the end and said “I thought you said it wasn’t crowded up here.” She slowly sat up, tipped her sunglasses down, smiled and said “I lied.” You see my daughter knew me better than I thought. She knew if she had said it was crowed I would not have gone. I have never been happier that she lied that day. Had I not gone up to the pool I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. But who knows what the future holds, you never think of the worst, you never imagine your daughter being involved in a severe accident. It’s almost as if she knew, almost as if she wanted to spend time with me, so she lied about all the people. We had a wonderful time that afternoon. We talked about so many things, college, medical school and my least favorite subject, boys. I have never been happier or prouder when Lindsay sat straight up in her chair and said “I am not going to date until I am 35, I have too much to accomplish and I don’t need that nonsense in my life.” It was a very hot day and I was in the pool leaning on the side. I was making fake, made up gang signs with my fingers and Lindsay was sitting there shaking her head. Little did I know she was being very sneaky and taking pictures of me. I would not find this out until later, and I could not have found out at a better time. Being old, Kelli and I had enough of the pool and the heat, so we headed back to the house to get ready for dinner. Lindsay came in while I was in the shower and she headed up to get ready for her dinner with Drew. As Kelli and I were leaving I opened Lindsay’s door and yelled upstairs, “Lindsay Lou we are heading out. What time are you leaving?” She yelled down “Around six.” I replied “Okay, be careful and make wise choices (the phrase “make wise choices” was an ongoing “joke” in our house, I still say it to her friends when I see them.)  Remember tomorrow is the first day of school so be home early. Love ya girl.” “Yes sir, love you too.” That was it, the last time I would ever hear Lindsay’s voice.

Kelli and I were leaving our neighborhood having the same conversation we have every time we go out to eat, “Where are we going?” We settled on a pizza place in Leland. We arrived and had just sat down when my phone rang, it was Kellie, Lindsay’s mom. All I heard was crying and I was able to make out three words, accident, blood and Compass Pointe. We jumped up and ran to the truck. I was trying to convince myself everything was okay and we were going to find Lindsay with a small cut and a fender bender. As we approached the accident the ambulance passed us on the other side of the highway. My heart fell to my stomach, and my mind was swirling. When we arrived at the accident Kelli jumped out of the truck before I could get it stopped. The officer just kept telling her “Ma’am, please get back in your vehicle and go to the hospital as fast as you can.” I looked around until I could find Lindsay’s car, I wish to God I would have never seen it. We jumped back in the truck and speed to the hospital as fast as we could. When we arrived, I jumped out of the truck and Kelli got behind the wheel to find a parking space. I went straight to the information desk and started asking about Lindsay, they had no answers. I have to be honest, the first few minutes in the emergency room were a blur. You are zooming in on every doctor, nurse, and volunteer looking for some kind of news. Kellie and Brett arrived shortly after we did and we all stood together waiting. Jarrett was at work and I had to call him to let him know. I begged him to take his time getting there and to please drive carefully. While we were waiting Patrolman Strangman handed me Lindsay’s phone, it was locked and I had no idea what the password was. Then I remembered I had a random number saved in my notes on my phone, I tried it and it opened her phone. The first thing I thought to do was text Drew and let her know what happened. I thought of her sitting there waiting on Lindsay and I could see where she had been texting Lindsay to find out why she was late. If any of you know Drew she is one of the sweetest spirits on earth. Her and Lindsay spend many nights solving all the world’s problems and a few of their own. As soon I as I heard back from Drew, Lindsay’s phone died.

When we finally saw a doctor it was a surgeon, a young surgeon, and he had the news we so afraid to hear. “If we do not operate on your daughter right now she has no chance of survival.” Kellie and I both said go, please do what you have to do to try and save her. We went to the surgical waiting area scared, nervous, and unsure of what was going to happen. Kellie and I meet Dr. Huffmon and he explained what was going to happen during the surgery and he was gone. This was a time of never-ending worry. We prayed together, alone and with strangers for Lindsay and the doctors. The longer we waited the more the anxiousness would eat away at us. The past and the future flashed before our eyes like a movie playing in slow motion. Finally, Dr. Huffmon came out of surgery to talk to us. He said she had survived the surgery and the next 48 hours would be very crucial with a low chance of survival. That was all we needed to cling to hope, because hope was all we had. We made our way back to the STICU waiting area and there were so many people there. Many of them were friends of Lindsay’s and they were so supportive and caring. You would find this group of friends, this group of teenagers in a circle holding hands lifting Lindsay up in prayer. It was the sweetest most humbling sight I have ever seen. As we began to talk to some of Lindsay’s friends we told them about the day and what we had been doing. How we had been hanging out at the pool and what a good time we had. A young lady, Sydney, spoke up and said “She posted a picture of you in the pool. She snapchatted it and for some reason I took a screenshot of it. Would you like to see it?” I said “Of course.” I could not believe what I saw. Remember, earlier, when I wrote Lindsay was sneaking pictures, well this was it. In a million years, I could never thank Sydney enough for saving that picture, you have no idea what it meant to me. It was not so much the picture but, what she wrote on the picture. “When will your dad ever be this cool” She thought I was cool, me, her dad, I was cool. That brought me up from the lowest moment in my life, my seventeen-year-old daughter thought I was cool. We began to hear from other friends with other pictures, snapchats and Instagram quotes. The things that Lindsay posted about us but never told us. I don’t remember if we found this quote or if someone showed it to us, either way it was amazing. “I never knew my mom could be my best friend.” For Kellie to read this, filled her heart, because she never knew that Lindsay felt this way. On this night, one of many long nights to come, these friends of Lindsay’s were a beacon of light. My personal thanks to each of you for being there. As the night went on I began to think about these friends of Lindsay’s, some have been friends since the first grade, and what they were dealing with. They were about to start their senior year without their friend, someone they loved, looked up to and truly cared about. I knew it was going to be difficult for them to start the year with such tragedy, but yet they were there for us. To hug us, to tell us they were sorry and to pray with us. These are truly amazing friends. We realized the hour was getting late and told them they needed to head home because tomorrow was the first day of school. We hugged as many as we could and they were gone. We went in to visit Lindsay one more time and to tell her goodnight before trying to lay down and get some sleep. Sleep, a very difficult thing to do when you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

All of these memories will be my day, our day tomorrow. I don’t think we will be concerned about a solar eclipse, we will be remembering our tomorrow, the day that totally eclipsed our lives.

These Days…

These Days…

 

Last Monday night my wife, myself, Lindsay’s mom and stepfather had dinner with one of the nicest young ladies I have ever had the privilege to meet. Monday night was probably the last meal we will all have together before she heads off to college to pursue a career in L and H 1nursing. This young lady has, over the past several years, earned my respect through her morals, self-respect and her love and appreciation for life. She is self-confident, polite and wise beyond her years. Patrick, Cheryl and Grandma, you have done an amazing job raising this young lady and you should be so proud of her and all she has accomplished in her life. I am so happy that Ms. Heather Reynolds was Lindsay’s best friend. Lindsay had numerous friends, great friends, friends of all kinds, friends of all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I don’t think Lindsay saw color, size or religion when she looked at a person, I believe she saw their heart. Heather was her best friend and I can understand why, she has a good heart. They went together like biscuits and molasses, like handbags and high heels. I enjoyed spending time with Heather when she would come over to spend the night or the weekend with Lindsay. Her and Lindsay would lay around the house andL and H 5 watch TV. They would also do the normal 17 year-old things like solve all the worlds problems, gossip, and whisper real low when they were talking  about boys or making fun of us. They may head to the pool or gym for a “work out.” Whatever it was, it was together.

While I sat there last Monday night talking to Heather about heading off the college, packing and what classes she was taking I could not help but think of Lindsay. It was ironic that we were eating at “On the Border,” because on the border is where you always seem to be when grief is involved. I am so happy and proud of Heather but on the other L and H 3side of the border I am sad because Lindsay should have been there with us. We should have been talking about Lindsay’s classes, when we were leaving to take her to Chapel Hill, and my least favorite topic, boyfriends. Lindsay Lou and Heatherford should have been planning where they were going to meet each other if they had a free weekend while at ECU and UNC. Planning out their final week of the summer here at home to maximize their beach time, eating at the Bowl and singing Queen B to the top of their lungs. I know Heather misses her “Tall Person” but I know in my heart that Lindsay is looking out for her “Baby Hands.”wp-image--982952409

Who would have ever imagined that when Lindsay drew these roses for Heather, that one day, she would be keeping them with her forever. Thank you Heather for being my Lindsay Girl’s best friend and for hanging out with this old guy and his family every now and then.

I don’t need a holiday, birthday, a dinner or an anniversary to miss Lindsay, I don’t need a special day to remind me she is gone, and I don’t need them to remind me to grieve. There have been very few days over the past eleven plus months that I have not shed a tear for Lindsay. It could be a picture, a song, or some movie, a movie that a year ago I would have been laughing at but now watch through a whole different set of eyes. A grieving fathers eyes. I missed her yesterday, I miss her today and you can believe I will miss her tomorrow. I believe, we begin to dread these milestones because we feel we should be sadder, feel more pain, or have grief loom a little heavier in our hearts. There are days I feel the heaviness of grief a little more, but it could be next Tuesday or last Wednesday, it could be any day.  These special days or significant days do hurt a little more because you are always thinking, “what if,” “why her,” and “if I had only.” As far as missing her it’s the same every day, it’s the worst feeling in the world, but grief comes in somewhat unsuspectingly and you really never know when its going to take you out at the knees. On August 28th she will be gone one year and I, we, have been through a lot of these days.

All of the significant days were hard but, Christmas was by far the worst for me.  Did I miss Lindsay last Christmas, more than anyone will ever know. She was the one that always pushed me and Kelli to put the tree up and get the decorations out. She was our Christmas spirit elf. She truly loved Christmas, our tree, not so much. She said our tree was pathetic. She always loved a big, full live Christmas tree. Our tree is flat on one side so you can push it up against a wall to save floor space. I can remember her and Heather standing there looking at the tree and both of them, in harmony said “That tree is pathetic y’all” and they stood there shaking their heads. Do I miss that, yes I do. To be honest I never want to forget it. I started thinking about Christmas right after Thanksgiving last year. What am I going to do? Am I going to stay here or leave? Do I want it to be just me, Kelli and Jarrett or house full of family? Are we even going to decorate? I was also thinking of Jarrett and what he was feeling, what he may want to do. You always have people telling you what they think you should do, what they did in their time of grief, and what they think is the right decision. I thought long and hard about every one of these questions and here is what I decided to do. I stayed right here in my own home, home where I was comfortable, where I remember Lindsay opening up her first iPhone and the look of sheer surprise on her face. The Michael Korrs watch that lit up her eyes with such joy. So many good memories of Lindsay and Jarrett. That is one of the reasons I stayed home but not the main reason. The main reason for me wanting to stay at home was it did not matter where I laid my head on Christmas Eve, when I woke up on Christmas morning Lindsay would not be there. It did not matter if I was at home or in the Bahamas, Lindsay would not be there. Waking up in a strange place would have been just one more reminder that Lindsay was not there. Waking up I would have thought “Why am I here?”, and the answer would have been quite clear, because Lindsay is not here. I wanted to wake up in our home so I could walk over to that pathetic tree and tell Lindsay Merry Christmas and that I loved and missed her. I wanted to be close to our very own Christmas spirit. Home is were your heart is, home is where all your love is, home is where all your memories are, home is where Christmas is for me. I wanted to look at that chair and see her sitting there anxiously waiting for the presents to be passed out. I wanted to look at the couch and see her and Mary wrapped up watching a Christmas movie on TV or dancing all over the house to 14046003_10202080124760999_6820948461817444752_nChristmas music. I want to remember her saying ” Y’all, what time are we eating?” Was it hard? Sure it was, it hurt like nothing I have ever felt before, but I was home. Home where I could smile before a tear would slide down my cheek, home where I could let my memories run free, home right where I needed to be.

I wanted the house full of family and friends for love and support, and it was. My brothers family changed their entire plans for Christmas to be there. I wanted to feel her, I wanted to see her in my minds eye and I wanted to hear Lindsay’s name spoken out loud, I wanted to know she was not forgotten. I wanted to hear stories being told of Christmas’ past and I wanted to hear laughter, I had to hear laughter. Laughter is grief’s kryptonite and I needed it to get me through the day. I needed family there to remind me what it was like to be happy, to smile, and how much we all love each other and Lindsay.

These days, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the day school starts, graduation day prom night, wedding days and so many more, are all hard on a parent that has lost a child because they will never be the same. These days you always feel like you are “on the border.”

 

A Graduate, a Smile and Another Hero…

A Graduate, a Smile and Another Hero…

A Graduate.

Today was a very proud day for me and my family. Our son, Jarrett Bradford Benton, graduated from Cape Fear Community College. I personally have never been prouder of Jarrett, and the man he has become. As I sat in my seat at the Wilson Center on the campus of CFCC beside my wife, I looked up and down our aisle. On my right was my ex-father in law and beside him my ex-brother in-law. Beside my wife was my mother, and beside her were two of Jarrett’s new grandparents. Sitting next to them was my ex-wife and her husband and beside them was my ex-mother in law. I thought, this is what puts the “function” in our dysfunctional family. The love of our children, grandchildren and the love of family. Is it always a dysfunctional life of butterflies and unicorns, absolutely not but we make it work, for the love our children. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, our village is small and it sometimes has an inter-tribal skirmish, but at the end of the day a peace treaty is signed, and once again the village is at peace for the love of their children. The tears began as soon as the first graduate started walking across the stage to take their seat. We all waited in anticipation to see Jarrett walk across that stage and there he was, cap, gown, shirt, tie and sideburns. It was a beautiful commencement ceremony with a wonderful and thoughtful farewell to the graduates from the president of CFCC. Now it was time for the distribution of diplomas and announcements of accomplishments. We sat, anxiously waiting to hear Jarrett’s name one more time. When it came time and the M.C. announced “Jarrett B. Benton degree in Fine Arts” my heart almost exploded with love and pride. My mind was in somewhat of disbelief , how was this young man with an accumulative GPA of 3.5 or above actually walking across this stage when only yesterday he was beginning to crawl? How could he be doing this, he was just 4 years old and we were going fishing down at Uncle Spencer’s pond.J and Me fishing This young man who at one time found it hard to tell the waitress at a restaurant what he wanted to order, will now get on any stage at any time and perform stand-up comedy, play drums like a rock star and sing karaoke with the best of them. How could my little man have become a grown man in the blink of an eye. I really don’t know, but I will tell you this, I am scared to death to blink again. As I walked out of the auditorium I could not wait to put my arms around him, tell him I love him and how proud I was to be his dad. He has a very short break and then its back to school at UNCW where he will continue his studies in the Fine Arts.  I truly cannot wait to see what life’s journey has in store for Jarrett. As his father I pray for a life of happiness, love and success, and a good job wouldn’t hurt. Not in any way am I trying to take away from Jarrett’s day and all he has accomplished, but as were taking pictures I thought for a second there is always going to be someone missing from these pictures. Son, I know in my heart that your little sister is so proud of you, and she now knows, you have got it together.

 

 

A Smile.

Where do I begin, oh yeah, “Dad so you were born in Brunswick County right?” Of course, my response was “Yes ma’am I sure was, and proud of it, why do you ask?” What she responded with was the last thing I ever thought I would hear coming out of my precious little baby girl’s mouth. “Well if you’re from Brunswick County then you should be proficient at shot gunning a beer, right?” This was Lindsay, never afraid to ask anybody anything at any time. I case you were wondering my answer was, no.

 

 

Another Hero.

When I first meet Jesse Bessette, with Oleander Memorial Gardens, needless to say, I was not in a very good place. We had just lost Lindsay and we had just finished planning her funeral. The next step in this horrific process was finding the perfect place for Lindsay. Her mother and I both agreed, without hesitation, Lindsay had to be laid to rest at Oleander Memorial Gardens. It was as close to the beach as we could get her and she had to be under one of the lovely moss draped oak trees. We made an appointment with Jesse shortly after leaving the funeral home for later that afternoon. Once we arrive we knew exactly where we wanted her to be. It is a beautiful spot on the north-west side of the cemetery, as close to the ocean as possible and under two very large oak trees. Jesse made this as easy as possible for us. We told him what we wanted and he made it happen. The site we picked was in question on whether or not we could have a memorial bench, something we so badly wanted. Jesse took charge. He measured and re-measured until he made it happen. He walked us through every step, and all the while he was crying right along with us. Jesse also has a way to put a smile on your face, he has the uncanny ability to tell a good joke right at the most opportune time. He made me smile through the tears. If you recall there was a tropical storm the day of Lindsay’s funeral, and I woke that morning with the horrible fear of water, water puddled right where Lindsay was to be. I could not get it out of my head, the fear of Lindsay being laid to rest in water was killing me inside.  As the day progressed my thoughts turned to other things and the service ahead. At the end of Lindsay’s service, the pastor announced there would not be a graveside service due to the weather and the fear crept right back in. We were able to have a small service in the mausoleum close to Lindsay’s site and a fair amount of people were able to attend. The pastor said a final prayer and as he said amen there was the loudest clap of thunder I have ever heard in my life. We all believe it was Lindsay saying Amen. After the service in the mausoleum, our family went back to the church for a meal they had so graciously prepared for us. I was sitting at the end of a table eating and talking to Kelli and some other family members when in walked a man drenched to the bone. It was Jesse. He was so wet you could hear him when he walked. He walked straight to my side knelt down and said “Everything was dry, there was no water. She is good”. Those words will never leave my memory. All my fears and worries about this were put to rest by a stranger that now I call my friend. Jesse did not have to come to the church, he could have simply gone home to get out of his soaking wet clothes and never mentioned this to me again. I just could not get over the fact that he took the time and went out of way to do something he did not have to do. As he stood to leave there was a small puddle of water where he had knelt and I could see him shiver from the coldness of the room. He walked out of that building on that devastating day, a day where my world was lost, a true hero. Jesse, I know I have told you a hundred times, but I have to tell once more, Thank you my friend.

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The Poem…

The Poem…

The light is always burning, turning, waiting for your return,

As the storm raged waves crash hard against my memory.

A ship lost at sea is the feeling in my heart.

My compass is askew and my course uncertain.

The mooring docks are empty, as empty as my soul.

For in my heart and soul lives a giant hole, sinking, a downward spiral.

As hard as I can I am trying to stay afloat, but every day the hole grows.

With every sunrise, a new day, a new hope that the hole will grow smaller.

The complexity of grief is a sinking vessel, with the never-ending hope of rescue.

-Brad Benton, Lindsay’s dad.

 

I wrote this poem not long after Lindsay passed away. The main reason I wrote it is fairly apparent, but for some reason the thought of a lighthouse, an angry sea and a boat lost and in destress stayed on my mind. The interpretation of this poem can be as vast as the number of people that read it with many different end results. In the words below you will read what I was feeling.

The turning and burning light represents a beacon for when you have lost your way. Lost, like so many after the loss of a child. The light is beckoning for you to return, to return to what you knew before, return to a safe harbor of love, a harbor of family and friends, a harbor of dreams yet to come true and dreams lost.

My memory stands firm and acts as the foundation of the light house. A foundation that must keep the lighthouse from crumbling so all can see. A foundation that must keep the memories alive as it takes the pounding of each wave of grief, sorrow and pain and then return it back to the sea. A foundation that must forever stand strong and true.

Any parent that has lived through the death of a child knows the feeling of being lost at sea. There are no bearings, no landmarks, no manuals and nothing to guide you but your own heart, and it is broken. This is a loss like no other on earth. The feeling of helplessness is your sail and the winds of hope have stopped blowing. The tides churn your emotions with a constant raising and falling.

My compass is askew with no true north, no true direction. I do not know which way to turn to find my way. My course of healing is uncertain. The time limit on grief does not exist nor is it laid out like a chart to guide you to a final destination. A compass not only gives you direction, it gives you hope and security, but when your compass is askew you feel as if all hope is lost.

The mooring docks represent my soul and the emptiness it feels as the storm fed seas seem to take the breath from my body, like a slow descent into the abyss. With the seas raging, all the vessels, like my hopes and dreams, have loosened their lines and drifted away, unsure of ever returning.

When you lose a child, you lose a part of your heart and soul, there is a large hole where they once lived. Missing this part of your heart puts you in a downward spiral that seems to never end. With every waking day, you try so hard to move on, but grief holds you down like an anchor. The hole in your heart and soul feels as if it will never mend.

The complexity of grief, there have been volumes written on grief and its many levels and forms. All I can tell you is every day, it is there. Some days not as bad as others, but it’s always there. It’s like an ant at a picnic or that obnoxious relative at the annual family reunion, it’s always there. I do feel like a ship sinking, calling mayday over life’s airwaves. You are always looking for that one thing that will bring you back, back from so many hurtful places, so many fears, so many tears. You are always hoping for that one thing to rescue you, but it never comes. In my own heart and mind, I believe I have to rescue myself. I have to pull myself up by the proverbial boot strap and face each day, knowing that her face will be the first one I see when I leave this world. Knowing that when I see her face, it will be smiling. Smiling because she now knows why I said “no” so many times. Knowing I did love her unconditionally, no matter what she said or did. Knowing I did trust her and knowing I tried to be the best dad I knew how to be. I know in my heart, Lindsay would not want me to stop. She would not want me to stop living, stop working, stop being a father to Jarrett or a husband to Kelli, a son, a brother or an uncle. I believe she knows how much I loved her when she was here, how much I still love her and how much I will always love her. I believe grief is what you make it, it can rule your life or you can rule it. This is a direct quote from Ms. Lindsay Benton while she was speaking to a young man on the phone. “I have enough people in my life telling me what to do, I don’t need you doing it too.” Well grief, I don’t need you telling me how much I miss my daughter, how long I’m supposed to hurt or cry, or how hard it’s going to be to carry on, because I already know, forever. I want to believe that every time Lindsay looks down from heaven she will see that lighthouse with its light still burning, and know that it’s foundation will forever stand strong.

 

As I was completing this blog I happened to look at the date on my computer, July 28th, eleven months she has been gone. It still does not seem real to me, it still feels like a movie or something that happened to another family. Not a day goes by when I get a text I think for a split second, maybe. I still expect the garage door or the door going up stairs to come flying open at any time. I still try to make myself believe she is just staying at her moms for a few days and she will be home tomorrow or maybe the next day. My mind always thinks tomorrow, but my heart knows, never.

I miss you girly girl, dad.

Fears…

Fears…

I know we all have fears, some more than others. Some have very little fears and others live their life in fear. Before Lindsay passed away I had many fears, most concerning both her and Jarrett. I now look at fear in a totally different manner. You often hear people say “I am afraid of dying.” There are two ways you can look at that statement. Are they afraid of the act of dying or afraid of how they are going to die? I am not really afraid of dying, my fear falls in the how am I going to pass away category. I actually have 2 major fears in this area, one is being burned to death and the other is passing while being alone. Ever since Lindsay passed away I have found it very hard to be alone. I used to love having my alone time, but now, not so much. Being alone gives me too much time to think about all my fears and worries.

Trust, to me, is the cure of all fears. I have to trust that I am not going to be alone when I pass or pass in a fiery blaze. Trust relieves all fears, and trust is what I have in my children. I remember having a very long conversation with Lindsay about trust and curfews. In her mind, her curfew was a direct result of how much I trusted her, wrong. Her curfew was a rule set in my house based upon what time I thought she should be home. I told her if I did not trust her, she would never leave the house. I trusted her, it was the billions of other people out there I didn’t trust. The lack of trust in those people manifested fear in my mind, fear for her safety. Now anyone that is a parent has a whole different set of fears for their children. The vast expanse of the millions of things that could happen to your children is sometimes overwhelming. A parent’s fear begins for their children before they are even born. Are they going to be healthy, are they going to sleep through the night, are they going to hate me one day? I am going to say yes, to that last one. They will at some point in their lives, but once they are old enough to trust that you have their best interest at heart they will love you again, I promise.

As you can tell from the beginning of this blog I believe trust relieves fear. When your child has been in a horrible accident and her life is in the hands of doctors, surgeons and nurses whom you have no relationship with, whom do you trust? To start with, you trust God, I know for a fact He was with Lindsay, the doctors, her surgeon and nurses. There were so many signs of God’s presence the entire week in the hospital. Did trusting God subside all my fears? I hate to admit it, but no. When I reached the hospital it was mainly the fear of the unknown. How bad was she hurt, can I see her, will I ever see her, and will she be okay? The fears increased with every moment that passed when there was no news of her condition. After we spoke to the surgeon, a nurse and the chaplain the fears escalated. Her injuries were beyond serious, it was a severe head trauma, it was broken bones down her entire left side, every bone with the exception of her ribs. Her ribs, how were they not broken? This was the first sign I needed to trust God, and I had no idea until later in the week. We were all led down a maze of halls heading to the surgical waiting room and the fears were there as well. What I am about to tell is known by only a few people, it is something I have not shared before. The volunteer that was leading myself, my wife and my mother to the waiting area got lost in that maze of hallways. He said we needed to turn around and go back to the emergency room and start over. Now on top of the fear and anxiety was anger. I needed to get to the waiting area to speak to the surgeon with Lindsay’s mom, I could not miss that conversation. Here is where my heart sank. As I turned to walk back down this long hallway I saw a doctor dressed in scrubs and a stretcher being pushed very hastily. I thought could it be?  I pushed myself as tight as I could against the wall to give them room, the doctor walked by and I could see the seriousness in his face, and the intensity in his step. Then I looked at the stretcher and there was my little girl. It was so surreal; it was like I was in a very bad movie. The image of her being rolled down that hall is one that is burnt in my memory forever. As soon as I saw her face the entire scenario turned into slow motion, I just wanted to reach out and touch her hand as she went by.  She looked like she was sleeping so peacefully, her hair was lying on the sheets almost as if she had placed it that way herself. She looked just like the young lady I had left only hours before. There was only a small cut on the left side of her face right above her eye. Fear, yes, I was engulfed in it. Trust, nowhere to place it.

When your child comes out of surgery and the prognosis is not one you want to hear, the fear begins to eat away at you. It is gut wrenching, it keeps you awake at night, it turns your world upside down. As the night wore on we began to have a familiarity with Lindsay’s nurse’s and a somewhat calmness came over me. I was beginning to trust them. After meetings with her surgeon I began to trust him as well. I was trusting my daughter’s life to people I did not even know, but something in my heart was leading me to do so. The fear was easing up until I tried to close my eyes that night and it all came rushing back. At this point my biggest fear was, was Lindsay in pain, did she feel the collision, did she sit and suffer until the first responders arrived? It was literally killing me on the inside. Did my Lindsay Lou feel any pain, how was it I was not there to protect her? I don’t know if you have read any of my other blogs or heard any of my speeches, but that surgeon I was beginning to trust was Dr. George Huffmon. As I have said before Dr. Huffmon was a God send in my life. I asked him a question directly in a meeting the day after Lindsay’s accident. My exact words were “I am afraid she felt pain, I have to know, was she in pain?” With tears in his eyes he said, “Mr. Benton, I can assure you 100% she did not feel any pain.”  I can say with all my heart it was a relief, that fear was put away, I trusted this surgeon, this man of faith, this father. I was talking to Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, the next day and we were both burdened with the same fear. Was Lindsay alone? We had both prayed about this and asked God for an answer. We started our day like we had the day before, spending time with Lindsay before we went to the cafeteria and tried to eat something. We had made our way back to the STICU waiting room and I received a message on my phone. Our phones were constantly buzzing, vibrating or ringing so I did not rush to look at this new message. After a while I picked up my phone and there was a message from a retired 82nd Airbourne medic. She began to tell me how she was on her way back to Fayetteville NC from Wilmington when she saw Lindsay’s accident. She said she did not hesitate; she went straight to her car to be with her. This lady, this soldier, this stranger was willing to stop and help. She told us there was already 3 other gentlemen at the car with Lindsay. Another fear put to rest, another prayer answered. We did not know or hear from the other three gentlemen that day. We had no idea who they were or how to contact them to tell them thank you for being there with Lindsay. What happened next is another example of God’s hand.  I don’t remember the exact day, but we received a message from a woman that lives in Compass Pointe, our neighborhood. Her name is Carolyn and her husband is Rock and they touched our hearts. Carolyn told of how they were coming home and were turning into Compass Pointe when they actually heard the crash of Lindsay’s accident. They stopped and Rock went straight to Lindsay’s car. This hero of a man climbed through the back window of Lindsay’s car and held my daughters head until the paramedics arrived. He spoke to hear and told her the ambulance was on its way, help was on the way. He held my daughter’s head and talked to her, this person I have never meet, this man whom I had never crossed paths with, stopped to help, stopped to help my daughter. I had the privilege of meeting Rock and Carolyn shortly after Lindsay passed away. I can say there were tears, and there were hugs. Rock said to us “I hope you don’t mind but I told Lindsay when the ambulance arrived that you guys were there too.” This wonderful person was apologizing for what he had told Lindsay. Telling her that we had arrived to possibly, miraculously, somehow get through to her. My heart was full and yet it was breaking. We were, and still are, blessed with so many good people in our lives.

As the week continued our fears turned to a place none of us wanted to be. After multiple meetings, and endless tests, the fear of making some of the most devastating decisions a parent would have to make were ours to bare. No amount of trust can remove this fear, the fear of losing your daughter. It was at this time we were introduced to Carolina Donor Services and Family Coordinator Rodney Pilson. In my past blogs, I have told the story of how Lindsay’s dream was to be a trauma surgeon and save lives. As her family, we had no choice but to help her fulfill her dreams. As we met with Rodney and he explained the entire donor process a whole new set of fears rolled in. We shortly found Rodney was a man of honor, a man of sincerity and a man of faith. It did not take long to learn he was a man I could trust. I entrusted Rodney with the integrity of my daughter as he accompanied her into the operating room, as he helped her fulfill her dream of saving lives.

If you remember, I mentioned earlier that I saw God at work and didn’t even know it.  It was later that night I realized why God keep her ribs intact, why they were the only bones not broken. I believe in my heart God knew Lindsay’s dream and saved her ribs to protect her gifts of life. The gifts she gave to save three lives. A wonderful wife and mother of two is smiling a little brighter today, two middle age gentlemen, one in Tennessee and one in North Carolina are living a better life today because of the dream of a seventeen-year-old young lady. Never have I seen or been a part of such an unselfish gift, a gift of life.

Fear can be the manifestation of our own lack of trust in God and the human race. I have lived through the most devastating tragedy a parent can live through, and the amount of kindness and love I have found in people has restored my trust and faith in humanity.

Trust in God and the people that love and care for you and even a few strangers, and your fears will be put at ease.

A Thousand Little Things…

A Thousand Little Things…

 

I remember watching a movie once, I can’t remember the name, but there was a scene when the characters asked each other what their best and worst days were. My best days, October 28, 1996 and September 29, 1998. These two days brought me more joy than I could ever imagine or deserve. These are the days my children were born. What a miracle to see your children come into this world. This small, reddish wrinkled skinned tiny little person was now here. I remember the day my son was born like it was yesterday. I remember the entire 12 hours his mother was in labor. I remember sitting in a room still trying to decide what we were going to name him, but what I remember the most was the realization that we were taking him home with us. I don’t know why that took me by surprise when the nurse came in and told us when we would be leaving, but it did.  We were now parents, we now have a child that is 100% dependent on his mother and I. That same realization does not leave you when your second child is born. The day my daughter was born I had the same joyous feeling in my heart, but there was something a little different, this was my daughter.  As much as every parent denies it, there is a different set of rules, a different way of trying to look at her world through your eyes. You feel like your son will learn how to handle and defend himself, he is going to be a man one day, and men are strong and courageous. I am in no way saying that women are not strong or courageous, but this was my little girl. In my eyes, she was this small fragile flower that was going to need her father’s protection and guidance for her entire life. My son has grown into what I call a fine young man. He has learned to handle situations and take care of them on his own. He has such a loving, caring and giving heart, it is a part of his nature, that is who he is. I am very proud of who he has become and what he has accomplished. I am most proud of his determination to follow his dreams. Now Lindsay, she was my girl, the one I thought would forever need my support and guidance. It was my job to be standing at the door when her first date arrived to intimidate the young man. Little did I know, it was not me he would be intimidated by, it was my 5 foot 10 inch, “I really don’t need you in my life dude”, little girl. Somewhere, somehow and right in front of my eyes, this fragile little flower had grown into a strong, self-confident, resolute, unyielding young woman. She had a passion for life and living it her way, and I was proud. My only worry now was how long was she going to need her dad, her old man, the bothersome long arm of the law that did not let her do everything she wanted to do. As the days and years pass and your children grow, the roles somehow reverse. They become your source of strength, support and guidance.

These are my children, and they are my best days.

Now, I have had what I thought were my worst days, and some were pretty bad, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt my worst day was August 28th, 2016. Not only is a dad supposed to protect and provide for his children, his job also includes fixing everything. Bicycles, flat tires, dolls with their heads and arms pulled off, games, science projects and even broken hearts. It is the most helpless feeling in the world when you walk into a hospital room and your daughter is lying there so still, tubes and wires everywhere. All you want to do is reach down and fix her, make it all better, scoop her up and take her home where she is supposed to be, debating the latest political issue with you at dinner. It is a feeling that makes you feel less of a man, less of a father. Why can’t I fix her, why can’t I tell her to get up, why is she not giving me that look of “You have no clue Dad.” Not only is it the most helpless feeling in the world, you feel lost. You don’t know what to do, where to go or what to say. Do I climb into bed and never climb out, do I dive into a bottle and try to drown all this hurt and pain? Do I just give up on life and wander aimlessly hoping, praying that something, someone will pull me back from this devastation? As a man you have to be strong, you have to push all those thoughts out of your mind. You are the leader, the one who takes charge. But as a dad, you are one who fixes everything and I could not fix Lindsay, I could not fix her. It took the grace of God and my entire family to start the mending of my shattered heart. Is it mending? Yes. Will it ever be whole again? Maybe. Will it ever be normal again? Never, and here’s why…It’s a thousand little things that take you back there.

It’s a thousand little things that take you back to a place that you don’t want to be, but in some crazy, unexplainable way, you’re glad you’re there. They grab you by surprise and then you have to stop for a minute and breathe. Stop and try to find the joy and the happiness that once filled that particular memory. Most of the time I find myself smiling through the tears because I see her laughing or giving me the look like I have no idea what I am talking about.  Don’t misunderstand, the big things like birthdays, holidays, graduations, proms and weddings are heart wrenching, but they don’t happen on a daily basis. You have time to prepare for these days, mentally and emotionally. For me it’s a Beyoncé song that catches your ear as you are eating dinner in a restaurant. It’s the cell phone bill that the data usage is not pushing the limit. It’s a white Toyota Corolla with a young lady driving and music blasting out of the windows. It’s when I hear someone say “What’s for dinner?” That was the first thing she would say when she walked through the door from school.  When I hear a cabinet or microwave door slam shut. When I see an elephant walking on TV or at a zoo. Let me explain that one. When Lindsay walked she would shake the entire house and I always said to her “Girl, you walk as loud as an elephant.” When I walk past Forever 21 in the mall and see a young girl browsing through the piles of jewelry like they were real diamonds. Every time I pass an Insomnia Cookie store. Oh, did that girl love Insomnia Cookies. It’s when I am sitting at home and I can see a beautiful sunset through the front doors. She would come running down the stairs with her camera in her hand to capture it. It’s the text messages you go back and read over and over again hoping to find one you haven’t read. The Instagram post you had no idea she posted where she said something nice about you.

It’s the thousands of pictures that are on her phone that you look at every day trying to find that one little thing that you missed the day before. When I am looking through the channel guide on the television and I see “Say Yes to The Dress” or “Love and Hip Hop.” I can see her so vividly watching those shows, all 5’10” curled up in a chair, wrapped in her fuzzy pink blanket, a half empty bottle of water and an empty paper plate sitting on the end table. Sometimes Heather, her best friend, would be stretched out on the couch saying “Hello Bradford.” I try not to see all the crumbs Lindsay would leave behind. When I see this in my mind’s eye I smile before a tear or two runs down my cheek. It’s the drawer you open and are surprised to find a bobby bin, a brush, or a hair band. A picture you stuck in the back of a drawer thinking “I will put that in a frame someday.” It’s the day after your birthday and you go to put all your cards in the “card safe” and there is one peeking out from the bottom that say’s “Happy Birthday Daddy.” It’s a lady bug crawling ever so slowly on my truck, flying away when I try to catch it. It’s a butterfly fluttering with the flow of the breeze never knowing which way it will go.  It’s the portfolio you open looking for some important papers and find a drawing she did for Father’s Day. It’s the socks I put on every day when I go to work. Her last Father’s Day gift to me was a “sock bouquet,” I thought that was most ingenious. When I hear or see and ambulance flying down the road with its lights flashing and sirens wailing. Every day, when I pull out of my neighborhood and look at that spot, the spot where her car was sitting. The list grows every day because, there are always little things.

 

I am not going to lie to you and say I have no regret because I do, there is always regret. One of the few regrets I have is telling her no and not letting her do everything she wanted to do. As her father, I was trying to teach her life lessons never realizing her life would be so short. Regret, to me, is thinking back and saying “what if, why didn’t I, if only I had.” I only have a few of those in my memory and they are between me and Lindsay and I know, one day, we will work them out. One of the “Big” little things that has helped me throughout the past 10 plus months is knowing we had a good, healthy relationship. The reason I touched on regret was so I could say this, pick up the phone, send a text, get in the car, or look at the person sitting right beside you. Be kind, be nice, be respectful and always love one another. Because you never know if the day may come when you will be thinking of “A Thousand Little Things.”

A Few Heroes Behind the Scene

A Few Heroes Behind the Scene

Webster’s dictionary defines a hero as:  an illustrious warrior, a person admired for achievements, noble qualities, one who shows great courage and Lindsay Benton. I added the last one because I am a little partial.

Lindsay was a hero in many ways and she touched so many lives, but I want to tell you about Lindsay’s heroes. Our heroes. The amazing people that touched our hearts during the most traumatic week of our lives. Her surgeon, her doctors, her nurses, the NC Highway Patrol, Carolina Donor Services, her janitor, the angels that were with her at the accident, the numerous family members and friends, and all our newly adopted children better known as Lindsay’s friends. Below are just a few of the people I consider heroes, there are so many more and they will be brought to light in future blogs.

Her surgeon, Dr. George Huffmon, I cannot put into word what this man means to me. He is, for a lack of better words, my hero. If you added all the time that we spent together it would total maybe two hours. Those hours have meant more to me than anything, I would like to share an excerpt of a speech I gave at the NHCRMC Symposium for Trauma and every other speech I have given since:

Her surgeon, Dr. George Huffmon, apart from my own father and brother, is one of the greatest men I have ever met. In one of the first meetings we had with Dr. Huffmon as a family, he told us had Lindsay been his age or my age he would have never operated, but she was a 17-year-old young lady and she needed every possible opportunity to survive. There were so many things he did not have to tell us, so many things he did not have to do, but the one thing he did do was give us one more week with Lindsay.  A week in which we could talk to, touch, reminisce with and tell our little girl goodbye. Dr. Huffmon in every meeting talked to me like one father to another, not just as a number on a chart. I could see in his eyes and in his tears that Lindsay had touched his heart.

Dr. Huffmon is a true hero, he saves and mends lives. Although he could not save Lindsay, he did all man could do for her. He did save my faith in humanity. He showed me there are good, loving, compassionate, faithful people in the medical field. The sincerity and faith he showed though his words and through his tears proved to me what kind of man he is. He was the person I looked to for guidance when it came to the well-being of Lindsay. I believed every word he said concerning Lindsay’s diagnoses. I trusted him with my daughter’s life and my heart. He was there when my family needed him the most, even if what he was telling us was not what we wanted to hear. He made a devastating situation somewhat bearable. Dr. Huffmom is a man of integrity, honor, and compassion. He is a surgeon, a doctor, a husband, a father and a true man of faith. I believe this is what makes him a true hero.

Due to her age, Lindsay had two pediatric trauma doctors, Dr. Stoiko and Dr. Smith. I cannot tell you what these two men did for me while Lindsay was in the hospital and the weeks and months after. They both were men of integrity, hope and medicine. They always had a smile and an uplifting word to share with us. Dr. Smith was in attendance when I gave my first speech about Lindsay’s story at the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Trauma Symposium. I remember seeing him after the speech and with tears in his eyes he told me, “That was wonderful.” I could not have asked for more, that was all I needed to hear. Dr. Stoiko, just the mention of his name brings a smile to my face. Dr. Stoiko had a youthful bounce in step and a slight bit of mischievousness in his smile. Just his presents in a room lifted us up. Even Dr. Stokio’s wife, a nurse, would reach out to my wife daily through messenger with words of encouragement and prayer. Being a doctor, you have to tell patients and family’s news they do not want to hear, but Dr. Stokio, and Dr. Smith did this with true compassion and understanding. These two men have my utmost respect and will forever be in my thoughts.

Deani, Elizabeth, Mike, Paul, Cari and Neta. If there is a level above and beyond hero, that is where these individuals fall. These were Lindsay’s nurses, caregivers, family counselors, liaisons, and the best huggers in the world. Deani and Elizabeth were with Lindsay during the day and Mike, Paul and Cari were her nurses at night. Not once did we walk into Lindsay room that they were not there with a smile and encouraging word. They laughed with us, they cried with us, they listened to Beyoncé with us and they prayed with us. The integrity and care of my daughter was never questioned. These nurses are super human. On a daily basis, they work thirteen to fourteen hours, they deal with death, they inform families of their worst nightmares and are there to hold them as they cry in pain. We will never forget Mike, Paul or Cari for the love and care they gave Lindsay. There dedication to her comfort and wellbeing went far beyond what their job title describes.

There was a special connection, a bond, with Deani and Elizabeth. If there ever was a manual written on how to handle situations such as ours, these two heroes would be on the cover. These two nurses were our wealth of knowledge, our source of power to make it through one more day, our consolers when we knew the outcome was not what we had been praying for. If you ever cross paths with these ladies you will see and feel the passion they have for their patients, the patients family and their job. They may also tell you a story of how a beautiful 17-year-old girl changed their lives. How the love and compassion that her family showed to them and to each other brought a new perspective to their life. These two ladies hold a very special place in my entire family’s heart and we will never forget them. Actually, we stay in touch with Deani and Elizabeth, and I would like to tell you were they are today.

Deani has recently left the STICU at NHRMC to follow her heart. She is now in Texas attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to earn her degree in Old Testament with an undergrad in Biblical Studies. I wish her all the best, no one deserves it more.

Elizabeth has also left the STICU for a new position at Novant Hospital in Charlotte NC. Since arriving at Novant Elizabeth has been a part of a live podcast which covers the many trials and heartaches of being a nurse. She is also in the process of starting a Neuro ICU support group, which was inspired by her experience with Lindsay. I wish her all the best on her new endeavors.

Neta, another very special person in our lives at the hospital and our life today. This amazing lady is in charge of the nursing staff at the STICU and keeps that unit going. She is a manager, a peacekeeper, and a calm voice of reason when reason has left your world. Neta continues to be a major presence and contributor as my family continues Lindsay’s legacy through the Lindsay M. Benton Foundation and the importance of organ donation and registration.

My wife and I were standing in Lindsay’s room one morning and it was not a very good morning, Lindsay had a rough night and we were heading to that unhappy place in our hearts. The janitor came in and started doing his daily cleaning. We both looked at each other as to say “You can’t wait five minutes, you can’t leave us alone with Lindsay, you have to come in right now.” He continued with his duties, sweeping, dusting, and emptying the trash cans, very quietly and respectfully. We both thought “Finally he is finished” as he started out of the room. When he reached the door he stopped, turned to us and said “I want you to know I am praying for her. What is her name?” We told him Lindsay, and replied “Now I know who I am praying for, thank you.” There was always somebody or something that pulled us up from the darkest valley when we least expected it, at that moment that janitor was a hero to me.

NC Highway Patrol State Troopers Strangman and Ransom, first responders at Lindsay’s accident, met us in the emergency room when we arrived. They were very professional, considerate, and showed the utmost respect when they spoke to Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, and myself. They were genuinely concerned for Lindsay’s condition as well as our family. After we spoke and all the legalities were take care of both troopers shook my hand and wished us well. I thought this was the last time I would see these men, but I was wrong. The next day I saw Troopers Strangman and Ransom walking down the hall toward the STICU waiting room area. The first thought that popped in my mind was “This is not good, why are they here?” Very anxiously I waited for them to arrive at the end of the hall. They both shook my hand and said “How is Lindsay doing and how are you doing?” I had to stop for a minute and register their question.  I explained to them what was going on with Lindsay and how bad her condition was. They both, with sincerity rarely seen said “We will keep her and your family in your thoughts and prayers.” These gentlemen did not have to come by, their job was completed the day before. Every day, for a week, one, if not both, of the NC Troopers would stop by and check on Lindsay and my family, always asking if there was anything they could do for us. Trooper Strangman stopped by on what I believe was the third day after Lindsay accident to let me know where Lindsay’s car was towed so we could get her possessions. I told him I saw her car at the accident and I never wanted to see it again, and I assured him her mother never wanted to see it again as well. This was Trooper Strangman’s response “Saying that, if you will give me your permission, I will go by and remove her belongings for you. I will also remove her licenses plate and bring it to you.” I was amazed by this, I could not believe this NC.State Trooper would take time out of his day to do this for us. Later that week the trooper’s First Sergeant, Sergeant Pope, stopped by to visit us and check on Lindsay. He, too, was so uplifting. His faith was amazing, his words inspiring, and again he did not have to take the time to visit us. Trooper Stangman visited us on his day off, yes, his day off. I was standing outside the waiting room door and I saw this tall gentleman walking down the hall with a young lady on his arm. I have to admit I did not recognize him out of uniform. He walked up to me and said “This is my girlfriend and I had to bring her by to meet you and your family, because you have been such an inspiration to me.” This is one more example of good people doing good things. Another example of someone pulling you out of that place your mind takes you when your world is falling apart.

One more thing about these amazing men. Still to this day, they check on me. They still ask if there is anything they can do for me. These men are truly two of North Carolina’s finest. God’s continued blessings on them for what they do for all of us, every day.

As we stood as a family in the front of Northside Baptist Church the evening of September 1st for Lindsay’s Visitation, we had no idea the outpouring of love we were about to witness. Over one thousand people came through the doors of the church and so very patiently waited in line to speak to each of us. Among all these amazing people were a few of her nurse’s, one of her doctors, friends, family, classmates of Lindsay’s and strangers. These strangers felt a calling to come and support us because they themselves had lost a child, now these strangers were part of our life. There was a friend Lindsay had met at the National Youth Leadership Forum for Medicine UNC-Chapel Hill the summer of 2016. This young man traveled 8 hours to show his love and support. He told us a story of how Lindsay had changed his life at the forum. How she had shown him compassion and invited him to join her group when he was alone. He was drawn to Wilmington by his love for Lindsay and her friendship.  There were cheer teams from North Carolina and Virginia, young ladies that had meet Lindsay during the many tournaments she had competed in with her squad from Wilmington Christian Academy. The evening was long, but the love and kindness shown to us goes far beyond any word other than “heroes.”

It is now September 2nd, a day I was dreading, the day we were laying my daughter to rest. We woke up that morning facing the hardest thing any parent could ever face along with the added stress of tropical storm Hermine bearing down on us. It was a solemn morning and my wife and I spoke very few words, we knew what was ahead of us.  As we drove to the church the weather became even more intense. My family gathered in a separate room as we prepared to enter the church sanctuary for Lindsay’s service. When the time came for us to walk into the church, there were over 800 people sitting and standing to show their love, support and respect to this amazing young lady. Over 800 people that could have very easily stayed home because of the storm. My heart filled with an emotion I have never felt. I could not believe that all these people had travel through a tropical storm to be here, to say good bye to Lindsay. The service was beautiful and it was Lindsay’s service. There were songs from Beyoncé playing as the multitude of people found their seats. Pastors Kenny Chinn and Chris Wroten delivered a love filled message of Lindsay’s life and how she lived it, her way.

I know there were so many more heroes during that week and the weeks to follow. I cannot list or remember everyone’s name, but I know you were there and you were a hero. Lindsay’s cousins, step brother and sister are among the many that were behind the scene heroes. Andrew, Aaron, Mary, Nichols, Ethan, Michael and Alyssa, they all were there for us, and Lindsay, in so many different ways. They traveled from Las Vegas, Raleigh, New York and Durham to be with her before she passed and after she left us. Some had to return home before her service and it literally broke their heart, but I know they were there in spirit. Alyssa, this sweet young lady lives in Long Island New York, one of Lindsay’s favorite places. We had discussed, and made arrangements for, Lindsay to spend the weekend with Alyssa in New York for her 18th birthday, but she never made it.

These last two are very personal to me.

Jarrett Benton, my son, was, and still is, a hero. I remember in the hospital he told me “Dad, all she ever wanted to do was turn eighteen. Can we have a party for her on her birthday?” With a smile on my face and tears in my eyes I said, “Son, we can have a blowout.” He was at the hospital day and night except when he had to go to school for something he could not miss. He would sit with Lindsay for hours hold her hand and just talk to her. He wanted so badly for her to sit up and just argue with him. After Lindsay passed away he came to his mother and I to ask if he could speak at Lindsay’s service. Kellie and I discussed it, we were concerned that he may not be able to get through it, but we agreed to let Jarrett speak. This young man stood at Lindsay’s service and in front of over 800 people, and told his story of Lindsay. He told a beautiful story of himself and his sister in his own words. He wanted everyone to know that Lindsay was his sister, that he loved her and was so proud of her. He spoke of their childhood and growing up, he spoke of how they had grown apart and how over the year before Lindsay passed away, they had grown closer than before.  They began to confide in each other and lean on each other. They were becoming a brother and sister again, they were becoming friends.  This young man made us smile, he made us laugh, he made us cry but most of all, he made Lindsay proud. I love you son.

There is a saying that goes “Behind every great man, is a great woman.” I have a little different version of that statement and it goes like this “Beside every great man, is a great woman and behind him is his brother.”

My brother, Brian Benton, has been my big brother my entire life, I know, that is rather obvious. Not only has he been my big brother because of age, he has been my big brother in life. He has always supported me in every way, and during Lindsay’s passing it was no different. He was here from the day after her accident, and stayed until he felt comfortable leaving us. He was my right arm, my mediator and my liaison. Anything I needed done was done, no questions asked. He made phone calls, made appointments and took notes at the meetings he set up. He washed dishes and took out the trash; there was nothing he was not willing to do for us. There was one thing I asked him to do, something that I just could not fathom doing myself. After speaking to Lindsay’s mom, I asked him to write Lindsay’s obituary for us. Brian, without hesitation, very humbly agreed to write my daughter’s story. He poured his heart into every word, and it was beautiful. It was short but told a story of this beautiful young lady and her dreams of saving lives. I can never thank him for all he did for me during the most heartbreaking time of my life, but brothers have a bond that goes far beyond any spoken word.

Sometime I feel like the luckiest man in the world to have all these amazing people in my life, but the word lucky is far overshadowed by the reason they were there. Thank you to each and every person that was there for us, you are MY definition of true heroes.

me and L on couch

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