Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thinking day…

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big stretch

Tonight on my way home from work I talked to one of my very favorite people…my mom! She is great in so many ways that I cannot begin to name them. Love you mom! Anyhow, she told me that the girls scouts were having “thinking day” on Sunday and that she was going to do a craft with them. Thinking day. Huh. I think that’s funny. But also, weirdly perfect, because that has been my day. My brain has been very full of thinking about Bennie. Now, I think about him everyday, for certain. But today, I thought about him a LOT. He filled my brain up so much that I had to spend part of my day organizing pictures of him just so that my eyes could be filled with him, just like my head. I supposed there are reasons. First, we formalized our Benton’s Hope foundation today. That felt good. It felt powerful. It felt strong. It also felt a little sad. And a little melancholy. But mostly good. OK. I can handle mostly good. In doing that, in signing those papers, the thing that has been in our heads is now real, tangible, happening. As Sean looked excitedly in my eyes and said in the office where we were signing, “It’s starting!”. It was the most sparkle I’ve seen in those eyes since September. THAT makes it good, no matter what else happens. I love that sparkle. I have missed it. It’s good to see it again.

I am pushing my way through to my own sparkle. It’s taking me a little longer, I think. I have many really good, big, wonderful things to be happy about right now. I am blessed by them. I want so badly to embrace them and fill my heart up with them and smile a toothy grin and laugh. I really do want that…I miss that, like I miss the sparkle. That free, unadulterated, arms in the air kind of joy. I guess my grief gets in the way, stopping me from feeling it because I feel guilty for being TOO happy, TOO glad…like I shouldn’t because how can I be without Bennie? Now, I know in my head that I need to let that go…to understand that BECAUSE of Bennie I should feel that joy. He taught it to me. But somehow, I can’t quite do it. Not quite. I will get there sometime. For those who know me, they know I am impatient…I want things to happen when I want them to happen and in the order I want them to happen…I am my father’s daughter in that way, there is no use denying it. So, when they don’t fall in line, I get frustrated. And twitchy. And mad. I know this about myself. It is probably one of my weaker traits. But, oh well, there it is so I embrace it and know that sometimes I just have to be that way. OK. Today, in my thinking day, I thought, “Hey, why should I have to be so patient? Huh? Why should I have to wait and wade through all this grief stuff? Why can’t I just decide to be happy and be happy, already? I think I should be able to do that. I do!” And then, the truth kicked in and I thought, “Well, maybe not. Maybe you do have to work through it. Maybe you do have to figure out some forgiveness and some pain before that pure joy can come back.” Now, I don’t LIKE this. Not at all. Nope. It makes me scrunch up my face, just like my dad…and just like Bennie. We all have that face…even him, so little and sweet. I kind of love that, actually. That we share that mad face. It’s good. It’s a connection. I didn’t see it on him often. But when I did, boy I knew we were in for it and had just better do something to make him stop the scrunching. So, I guess I will think about him some more and think about my frustrations and think about my joy and know that we’re in it together, he and I. I knew it, all along. We are a good team, that little red head and I…even through the tough stuff.

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Love

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Today was busy. That hectic kind of busy at the end of which you take a breath and think, “whew…well I am glad THAT day is done!”. Nothing bad. Just full. There are moments in these overflowing days that I stop and think, “I wonder how this day would have been different if Bennie were here with me.” I suppose that will always be a thought in the back of my mind. I find that kind of comforting now…the idea of him. I think that is a good thing…that the pain of loss, while not gone, has allowed me to keep him alive in my heart, in my mind. This can never replace him in my arms, but boy it sure does help. I think of him now and most of the time, I smile instead of cry. Or I cry and smile at the same time. It’s a good thing.

Anyhow, when I finally got home after nearly 12 hours away, I realized that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I have always, even in my single years, really liked this day. It is a day full of kindness and a day full of love. Sometimes that love is for your family. Sometimes for your friends. Often for strangers, who are just a little more compassionate and just a little more present for those few 24 hours. Of course there are those who use it as a day to celebrate their independence and sometimes to rally around how horrible that person is that has broken their heart. OK. To each their own. But for me, Valentine’s Day has always been a moment to recognize the heaping amounts of love I have been blessed with in my life. I like that…not that I need a holiday to do it, but it does make me pause and that is not bad. Once I met Sean, I loved the day even more. I know how very lucky I am to have found him, my one person out of millions, who makes my life better every day because he is in it. He is a romantic, though don’t tell him I told you. He writes beautiful letters and cards. He buys flowers. He can always make me laugh. He plans dates and still surprises me, even in our 12th year together. That’s a pretty good deal. I know it. And I love him more everyday.

All of these ramblings about love and Valentine’s got me to thinking about how the way I understand love has changed this year. I have always thought that I had a pretty big capacity for love…for full hearted, big and small gesture, unabashed, arms in the air kinds of love. As a person with a history focused life, I am not so sure I have ever “learned” from my lost loves in terms of becoming closed off or embittered. In fact, I really think that those lost loves have, in the end, led me to be MORE open to those around me. I found my first lifetime love at birth when I met my grandpa Charlie. Now, I loved all my grandparents, without question. They were beautiful and good people, each one of them. But gramp and I, we had something special. We had that instant, I know what you are thinking, I understand what makes you tick kind of love that is a rarity in life. He taught me, through words and actions, that love is the most important thing. He and grandma walked hand in hand every day for 56 years. The affection between them was palpable. They acted like teenagers. It was sweet. His love for other people, even those who most people couldn’t find the capacity to love, always made me aware of the fact that we are ALL worthy of the love of another. This was a God driven love. It was an amazing gift and lesson. Gramp lived while we walked this earth. He was fully involved in whatever he was doing. He laughed hard, he sang and whistled loud even if he couldn’t carry a tune, he got mad and then was done with it, he loved to play even when he was 90…he maintained that childlike joy in life that I have only rarely seen in anyone else. He was my heart. He was my support. He was my light. On Valentine’s Day, I think about how he loved peanut brittle and grandma’s mocha cakes and scalding hot coffee that he always diluted with half a cup of tap water. I think about the standing Tuesday morning phone calls that happened the first week I left home and for nearly 10 years after. I think about how he would say, “Hi there, how’s my girl?” and then listen for 5 minutes or 5 hours. What a gift, that time, that advice, that listening. I hope I can give someone even half of those things in my lifetime.

I was 23 when I met the 2nd love of my life. Turns out that a wedding reception and a tux are all it takes. 😉 A few phone calls and a few days later, we went on our first date. It was 18 hours long. I didn’t want it to end. I knew there was something special there, on that first day. I am still that way. I am still excited to see him when I wake up, even on the worst days. I still get a big cheesy smile on my face when he calls me. During this year, at our hardest moments, I remember standing in his arms and thinking, well at least if we have to face these unthinkable things we can face them together. The comfort of that understanding holds me up still now. I know for many, loss can drive them apart. For us, it has made us closer yet. Which is an amazing thing. I give thanks every day for this partner in my life…this steady, strong, beautiful soul that I get to call my husband. I am lucky. For certain.

I was 34 when I met the 3rd love of my life. He had been hanging around for a while, making me lose sleep. He was just a little guy but boy, he knocked me off my feet for how much and how instantly I loved him. His life made me understand that that capacity for love I’d talked about before and thought I had? Well, it was a lie. Because suddenly, my capacity for love grew 100 fold. I loved every single moment he was in my life, even the hard ones. He made me understand that love, literally, wins. Always. Without question or thought. If we could love eachother in that open, vulnerable, heartfilling, headswamping, soul filling kind of way, just think of what our world would be. Even if I can try to love the people in my life that way, think of what the world will be. I can do that. I can. Even the hard ones. Like gramp loved. Like Sean loves me. Like I loved Bennie. On this Valentines Day, I will listen to the Beatles and take to heart that “All You Need is Love” and I will think of the morning I spent holding Bennie and feeling him breathe and grab my fingers and talking to him about the Fab 4 and how his face scrunched up at Ringo and how really, even though I thought I was teaching him, he was teaching me. To love the world. To help spread that love because of him. That’s a pretty awesome Valentine if I do say so.

Connection(s)

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As we have moved through the months following Benton’s loss, one thing that has been a constant blessing has been connection(s). We were gifted with an amazing, life altering connection with our son. Thinking back on his life and the challenges that were presented to us, the one thing I will be forever grateful for is the fact that I knew Bennie better in 25 days than I know people I have known my whole life. That intensity of focus, of being in the moment, of sitting by a hospital bed and not being able to touch and hold and feel…those were, in many ways, such beautiful moments. I really looked…I really listened…I really took joy in small things, like the grip of his fingers or the opening and closing of his eyes. Even before we knew what was going on with him, I was fully engaged in my son’s life. Each breath was literally precious. That connection, which only deepened when we finally got to hold him, was an astounding gift. One I will hold close to my heart forever.

Bennie’s blessing of connection has continued, even after he couldn’t be with us here on earth anymore. We have met some phenomenal people who have gone through this thing no one should, just like us. Each of their stories is different. Each of their reactions and responses is different. But, the universal among them all is that whole-hearted understanding of the value of connecting with LIFE. That the LIVING of their children’s lives was so much more important than the loss. The loss, of course, changes everything. Every moment, every thought, every breath, every day. Forever. But, in the end, the LIFE of that child was what really changed them, and us. That capacity to be vulnerable, to love without thought or boundary, to be engaged in the present moment and open to all that life brings you…THAT is what makes these people amazing and strong. I would never wish membership in this ‘club’ on anyone. It’s not an easy road, this one we are all on. But let me tell you, Bennie has led us to find the very heart of humanity in these fellow grief warriors. I would never have met them without Bennie. I would never have known that my life and my point of view was shared by others in a way that no one else could understand. Bennie has brought me closer to many people in my life…friends who have only gotten better, family who has loved in a new way. His loss has also pushed some holes into connections in unexpected ways. Those moments are hard. But, his LIFE, oh that has created bridges and paths and journeys that I had never considered before. So today, I am thankful and humbled by the fact that one little 8 pound dude can be such a force. Thanks buddy. I am sure lucky to be your mom.

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