One of my first thoughts after Benny had passed was his birthday. Ohhhh, his birthday. How would we get through that day? Just the thought would throw me into hysterics. My child should be getting older, not feeling further away.
I told Parker that I wanted to do another memorial on his birthday. Why not, I figured, the day is going to suck anyway. We figured we would bury him on his birthday. When I really sat down and talked it through though, that wasn’t a possibility. I mean, how could we explain to Darcy that Benny was in a tiny box? She was having a hard enough time with the whole soul/body concept anyway. This service was supposed to be for the kids and the last thing I wanted to do was further confuse them. That’s why we buried him, just me and Parker on May 8th.
So I sat down with Sandy, Tara and Parker and we talked it through. Suddenly, what we were picturing as ‘awful’ became ‘hopeful’. That probably sounds wrong, but here’s the thing, when someone dies suddenly, you rarely have the time to think about how you want them to be remembered. You’re knee deep in pain and just want to get through the service. You don’t really get the chance to say what you might want/need to because you’re so in shock.
I remember Benny’s first Memorial service, it was beautiful and Pastor Aaron did a great job. I just about sobbed through the whole thing because it all seemed so surreal. I hadn’t truly wrapped my head around any of it and honestly, it just hurt too damn bad. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to be alive without him. It hurt to think and it hurt to remember him. It was a celebration of life, but so bitter to me, still so unfair.
We showed up on May 17 to a gathering of family and friends. Some of these people have always stood by us and some we have become closer with through this tragedy. No matter how we are connected to these folks, the love that was shown at that cemetery was amazing.
My friend Chris brought a train table for the kids ‘to play with Benny,’ and set it up close to his grave. He then began to speak about Benny. He said that he didn’t know Benny to be much of a crier, but rather he was always happy, always smiling. He said that today was a tough day and cry if you have to, but leave with a smile in your heart, because that’s what Benny would have wanted. We had to wait as 50+ motorcycles lead a procession out of the cemetery in the midst of Chris’ speech. I smiled, as Benny would have loved it.
We shared our favorite Benny memories (more on that later) and most were funny. When Sandy began to speak my heart ached for all that she lost with us that day. It was such a beautiful tribute to such a beautiful soul. Tara read ‘The Invisible String’ and the kids sat amongst the babies graves in the Garden of the Angels and in that moment there was such peace. It reminded me of the day that Benny was born and we were bombarded with most of these children at the hospital. My neighbors 2 year old daughter sat and stroked Darcy’s hair so lovingly during the story. It was as if Benny were there trying to soothe her.
We came back to the house and walked the loop around Bjorklund in our Benny’s Bunch shirts. We picked up a few new folks and there had to be at least 100 if not more people involved. We walked across the street to the church where the kids all got balloons and sharpies and wrote messages to Bennett. We sang Happy Birthday before we let the balloons go. It was a very tough moment, singing to my son even though he wasn’t there, realizing that he would never grow older, but forever be just shy of 18 months. It tore us apart, but we got through and watched as the balloon floated up and away, over Worcester, up to Benny.
I have to write this down because I don’t ever want to forget. This day, that was supposed to be so terrible turned into something so beautiful. We are so blessed to have amazing, caring people in our lives. It was filled with love and I was able to remember that even though his life was fleeting, I got to have him, he was mine. I love you so much Benny Bear and will forever miss you!