Happy Birthday Benny

Missing this beautiful face on what should be his 9th birthday. This never gets easier. It just is.

Every year we do some sort of celebration for Benny’s birthday. Covid has obviously complicated this, but last year we did a mini cruise to the cemetery and it worked out great! So yesterday we did another cruise to celebrate this little man’s life with some of the old cars. He would have loved it!

Every year I am astounded by the number of people that show up to support our family. There are people that have been a part of our lives since Parker and I were dating, to new friends that have chosen to walk this path with us. It takes someone truly empathetic to join in this level of ‘real.’ And we are so thankful to have you on our lives.

I often wonder what Benny would be like as he got older. I wonder if he and Darcy would still have been thick as thieves as she enters her teenage years or would he just be an annoying little brother? I wonder if he’d play sports, or would he do dance or spend hours working on cars like his Dad? Would he enjoy school or would he have struggled? I can imagine a million different people he could be, but we’ll never know. And that’s really hard.

It’s hard to know how to celebrate a life so short. It is also extremely important though, for my other children. Darcy was so young when Benny passed and Perry and Fletch never knew him. It makes him real for them. It also allows me to celebrate my child almost like he’s here. I get to take all of that pre-birthday grief and anxiety and put it into something positive.

As we were driving into the cemetery, Adele’s haunting version of ‘To make you feel my love’ came on. We used the lyrics to this song in our wedding ceremony nearly 15 years ago. And let me tell you, we certainly felt the love yesterday. #nocoincidences

Thank you to everyone that came out yesterday to celebrate this crazy dude’s life. It was a beautiful day and it did my soul good to see so many of you that we haven’t over the last year. We are so thankful for our village or ‘Benny’s Bunchers’ that continualy support us.

The day ended with a rainbow over our house. Our hearts are full.❤️🌻❤️

Rainbow Guilt

I don’t know how to write this without it sounding horrible. Or totally confusing. Or just completely fucked up (excuse my French). It’s a rabbit hole I try to stay out of because once it starts, it’s hard to stop. And it’s laced with so much guilt.

Once Benny was born, Parker was done having children. I had had always wanted 3, but I was pretty set with being pregnant again and was happy with our little family. So I began to get rid of the baby gear, my way of acknowledging that  the baby factory was closed. I had always wanted to be younger when I had my kids because I had lost my own mom so early on in life. It was feeling like a good decision for us.

And then Benny died. Suddenly our little family became too small. Everything felt wrong. It is really hard to wrap your head around someone dying in an instant. I watched my Mom suffer from cancer for 2 years. As awful as that was, it made the end a tiny bit easier. What happened with Benny is completely illogical. I will never understand why he had to die. I will never try to find meaning in it. It just is.

I remember being in my room with Parker the night that Benny died. I remember looking at him and saying I wanted more kids. This was never to replace Benny. I just knew in that instant that I wasn’t done. I wanted Darcy to have more siblings. And Parker felt the same way. We were numb and terrified. The worst had just happened.

We waited almost a year. Then I miscarried. And I was angry. I stupidly believed (again) that more awful things couldn’t happen to me. How completely naive I was.

By some small miracle we had Fletcher and Perry. I know how very lucky we are to have them. Rainbows aren’t promised. 

So here in lies he rabbit hole. If Benny hadn’t died, would Perry and Fletcher cease to exist? It’s pretty awful, right? I’d give anything for Benny to still be here and make it all just a horrible nightmare. But how do P and F factor into that?

It’s kind of like, what came first, the chicken or the egg? I can circle the drain a bit if I think too hard about it. But honestly, none of it was ever my choice, it’s just how things happened. I guess there’s a romantic notion in thinking we can change the past.

I used to think about this constantly after Fletcher was born. And then I would feel guilty. Guilty because I would do anything to have Benny back. And then guilty because I would do anything to protect my new baby. It was this awful dance of guilt between the deceased and the living.

As Benny’s birthday comes closer, these are the things I think about. This is the ‘stuff’ it brings up. The missing just gets so hard sometimes.

My Grief Process – May Madness

I remember wondering after Benny passed how I would navigate through my grief. How would I handle all of the holidays without him? Could I survive his birthday?

Benny was born in May, a big month for birthdays in mine and my husband’s families. We start with Mother’s Day, which I had just finally stopped grieving once Darcy was born, throw a whole bunch of birthdays in there, including my father’s and Benny’s, and wrap it all up with the day my mom died. All of this happens within a span of 13 days or so. It. Is. A. Lot.

Every year around Benny’s birthday in May, we do a gathering at the cemetery and then something small for the kids back at the house. We sing happy birthday and share memories. I want to celebrate the fact that my son lived, not focus on his death. I have one child who barely remembers him and two children that have never met him. It’s complex and confusing and we muddle through this new world as best as we possibly can.

Every May I am sent into a tail spin. I will add as many projects to my ‘to do list’ as possible. I spend hours on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist looking for bargains that I can transform into something.

I need to keep my hands busy. I need to keep my mind clear. I just need to get through the next 13 or so days. I am in survival mode.

It’s as if I begin to notice everything around me that needs to be fixed. Oh, the cats destroyed the couch?

I got this! I just noticed that the kitchen looked very blah, looks too much like every other new house. Time to add a backsplash!

I’m desperately trying to fix my surroundings in an attempt to fix myself. It’s not possible. I cannot fix this.

No matter how much planning I do, no matter how much I think I have done, I will always add something to Benny’s celebration of life. In part it has become my way of still planning a party for my son, even though he is not here.

I try to find the perfect book to be read at the cemetery. I look for a creative craft for the kids to do in Benny’s memory. I am constantly looking for new ways to celebrate his life. Which is hard because it was so short.

Is all of this crazy? Sure. Do I need to put more pressure on myself to what is already a month heaped with emotional grief? Nope. But here’s the thing. This stuff, this trying to fix things, this need to plan a celebration of my son’s life, it helps. It helps me feel the tiniest bit like I can have control over something, anything in my chaotic life. I like keeping my hands busy and my mind focused. It’s like meditation to me. It gives me a chance to be truly present in the moment.

This is my process. This is how I have learned to make it through an emotionally charged month of ups and downs. My husband and kids have learned to take it all in stride and just accept that this is what I do. This is what I need. And for now it works. Maybe some day it won’t and that’s ok too.

There is no guidebook friends. There is nothing to make it all better. But if you can find something constructive to make it tolerable, you do you. Do what feels right.

Happy 7th Birthday

A little delayed…

Dear Bennett,

I cannot believe that you would have been 7 years old last May. I still picture you as a chubby and adventurous toddler. I’m at a loss at how to wrap my head around who you would be as a 7 year old.

I think of all of the first rights of passage that you have missed at this age. First day of school, first best friend, to name a few. It makes me so sad to think of all that you have been robbed of.

Every once in awhile I see a boy your age and I pause. I try very hard to see you, who you would be. It’s hard. There was a boy at the playground your age with your name right after your birthday. But I’m sure you already knew that.

If you were still here, you’d be enjoying your summer break and gearing up to enter second grade. That seems impossible to me. You’d probably play all kinds of sports and we wouldn’t know what to do with your fearlessness. My anxiety kicks into high gear just thinking about it.

It’s tough to watch your siblings grow and mature and only have those 18 months of memories with you. My mind cannot sometimes understand why that is. These 5 and a half years have really messed with my natural perspective on time.

It’s been rough. It’s hard to think of what it would be like because so much has changed. I have changed. When you died you took a piece of me with you and that’s ok. I wouldn’t want to be the same. I couldn’t be.

Keep sending those signs buddy and keep looking out for us. We need your love and guidance every day. Love you forever.

Love, Mom

Happy 6th Birthday Buddy

Benny Bear,

Wow. I cannot believe you would have been 6! A whole hand and 1 finger! You would have been nearing the end of Kindergarten. That just blows me away. You were so young when we lost you.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-29,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Of course I’m nearly a month late in writing to you. This year has been HARD. But you probably already know that. I’m just sitting here for the first time digesting the whole idea of a 6 year old you. I’m at a loss.

It used to be so easy to picture you older. I used to be able to paint the picture in my mind of who you would be and what you would look like. But you have so many siblings now. You are all so different and so similar. And seem to change from day to day.

Perry seems most like you. Super laid back and ready for the next adventure. She needs constant stimulation, good thing she has Fletch and Darcy to keep her entertained. I’m scared she will be like you as a toddler. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. And maybe a bit excited, you sure kept things interesting!

I love watching Darcy and Per as sister’s, but it makes me miss you that much more. I imagine you and Fletch would make me a bit crazy together. We were at a friend’s house recently where he was playing with another boy and oh the laughter! The crazy boy energy and rough and tumble time we spent made me long for you that much more. Fletch doesn’t even know what he’s missing, but it kills me.

We drive by the cemetery regularly now and Fletch always says hi to you and blows you a kiss. His heart is so big and if he can’t grow up knowing you, at least he will grow up with the idea of you.

The more time that passes, the further you get from me. The more my time with you felt like a dream. Or another life. I suppose it was. So much has changed. I’ve changed.

We did our yearly celebration for you. Darcy wrote a story all about you and read it to all of her friends. I was so proud of her. She’s struggling still, but we’re working on it. Day by day.

All of the kids painted kindness rocks to leave around for someone else to find some day.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-29,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

You’re still spreading smiles even though you’re not here.

Happy 6th Birthday buddy. Miss you like crazy.

Love,

Mommy