Several times a week we go by the cemetery where Bennett is. Parker and I started saying hi as we drive by and now Fletch says hi and blows him kisses. He’s a pretty great little brother.
Yes, I am behind on my 17 Days of Benny blogging, but there is just so much going on right now. We are ‘attempting’ to finish up some lingering projects around the house so that we have some options in the future. I have been busy with Parker and the business. I am now officially the treasurer for the North Atlantic Packards Club as well. Let the chaos begin.
Then comes Mother’s Day. Right in the middle of it all. Or perhaps just May in general. Last year sucked. I was in a terrible mood all day, staining countertops and just trying my damndest to ignore the whole awful thing. It was bad. I didn’t know how to handle missing my mom and my son.
This year I decided to try something different. We started the day with a yummy brunch with Parkers mom and then headed to the cemetary. It was completely packed! There were tons of people there, we couldn’t believe it. Darcy had brought Benny two pinwheels, so we cleaned up his toys a bit, visited and then walked around. We noticed that there was a new headstone in the baby garden, which killed me. They were twins that passed on Darcy’s birthday last year. It broke my heart.
Parker and I sat down on a bench as Darcy walked around. We were the only ones in the baby garden until another couple walked over and sat down by the twins. It broke my heart again. I watched this newly grieving couple cry for their children. I wanted to go over and hug the momma. I just sat there silently crying for them and everything they lost.
I sometimes forget that it’s ok to cry for us too. It did happen to us too and we’re allowed to be upset. I can’t use housework to cloak my grief forever. I sat there watching that couple, seeing us. I cried for all of us and it felt damn good.
We left shortly after to work in the yard, play in the sprinkler and pool, burn the Christmas tree and just spend the day together. It felt good. I felt like I honored Benny. The day wasn’t nearly as bad as last year.
My heart still misses Benny and my Mom terribly though. At the cemetary I was wishing that she was buried closer so that I could visit and Darcy could sense some physical connection. I hate that they’re not here, hate it everyday, but especially today. It’s comforting to know that they are together at least and that is something that I know with absolute certainty.
It’s time to share another story of weird ‘coincidences,’ of hope, which is quite interesting given the tile of this post. How I ever found hope in a cemetery is very strange indeed.
I never liked cemeteries, the eerie graves, the gates that scream ‘keep out!’ Maybe it’s too many Halloween stories, but I never felt comfortable in one. Even when my mom died, I didn’t find peace visiting her there. It was weird and uncomfortable. Maybe it was just all too real. It just wasn’t me, I didn’t feel her presence there, because I knew that she wasn’t.
Right after the accident happened and we were scrambling to pull together arrangements, our friends Sandy and Mike offered a burial plot for Benny. We hadn’t even wrapped our heads around what we wanted to do yet and the medical examiner hadn’t released Bennett yet. God it sounds so awful to say that, but it’s the truth. About a week or two after the accident we finally had to make a decision and we decided to cremate Benny. I’d never really given much thought to what I would want done with my body when I passed, never mind my 17 month old baby. It was just one more way to draw out having to make a decision, having to bury him, having to deal with the horror of it all. So he became dust and sat at the funeral home for several months.
I knew that I wanted to have him blown into glass, Parker wanted to take him on the Great Race down the East coast, but we had all the time in the world to figure that out now. It was a good breather from the chaos of the first few weeks. I was sitting with the therapist over the winter and talking about the cremation. We had no idea what to do with his remains and for the first time I realized I wanted to bury him. Sure we could scatter him, but where? ‘If I don’t bury him, it will be like he never existed, there will be no headstone, no place where he is physically.’ As I said this, my therapist teared up. I realized how sad that would truly be and that we needed to do something.
We talked about burying him on his birthday and quickly nixed that idea as I realized that we couldn’t explain to Darcy and friends that Benny was in a tiny box. We were having a hard enough time explaining the whole body/soul connection. Tara came over one Sunday to help me paint and we began planning and looking into cemeteries. I felt strongly that Benny was buried in the same place as Sandy and Mike, that they had some claim to him too. They are such a part of our lives, our children’s lives. They are family. So we figured we would start with Worcester County Memorial Park. That’s when Benny started to intervene again.
We started talking about this on Sunday, unbeknownst to Sandy who was meeting with Marie from WCMP on Monday. She had seen her at a home show and had made an appointment. On Monday, I received a text from Sandy saying that Marie would be contacting us. Great, I thought, one less thing to do. We met with Marie on Thursday and sat down to listen to our choices. Marie didn’t know our story, all that she knew was that we lost our son. They have a section at WCMP set aside for babies under 1. She said that they would make an exception and that Benny could be buried there if we wished. To be honest, the thought of even being confronted with a baby cemetery was too much. I was horrified. Given my feeling on cemeteries in general, this wasn’t a good start. We reviewed our options and headed over to the cemetery to take a look. I had it in my head that none of this mattered, I would never go, I hated these places.
On the ride out to Paxton, Parker’s landlord from the shop called. She and I talked for a moment, and then we lost service. I figured we would see her when we got back to the shop. We talked about the idea of the baby cemetery and what we wanted to do. It was an uncomfortable car ride as we both tried to keep it together.
To call WCMP a cemetery is unfair. It is a park as it’s name states. It is separated into gardens and there are no headstones, only monuments, so all that you see are the rolling hills surrounding you. It was absolutely breathtaking and peaceful. There is no fence, you can visit whenever you wish. We drove around, taking it all in and ended up at the office, right in front of the ‘Garden of Angels.’ I was surprised at how peaceful it all felt, how right. I mean it was sad, but not as depressing as I had anticipated. The monuments were decorated with flowers and toys and we looked at this space as something good for Darcy as well. Somewhere she could bring trucks and balls for her lost brother. We knew this was where we belonged in the future, but we left there still needing to think about Benny.
We got back to the shop and stopped in to chat with the landlord. To call her that seems silly, she is one of the nicest, caring people and we have always been friendly. She asked what we were doing in Paxton, because there’s really nothing out that way. Parker said we had some errands to run. Our landlord stopped, thought for a second and looked at us, ‘you were at the cemetery,’ she said, ‘my son is buried in the Garden of Angels.’ She too had lost a baby years ago, but we had no idea that he was there. We looked at each other and decided to take it as a sign that this is where Benny should go.
We bought our future plots and signed all of the paperwork. Part of it felt good to know that it’s all taken care of, that our family won’t have to deal with any of this when the time comes. We hemmed and hawed about Benny’s monument, but WCMP came through and was able to get ‘Captain Crazy’ added above his name. It was very appropriate for our little man. We also had a bear added, our ‘Benny Bear.’ They were putting a rush on the order and were miraculously able to get it in in very short order. We had expected it for May 17th, but were surprised when it was there on May 8th when we buried him.
I was talking to my new friend Sue one day after yoga. I had told her how we had started pulling together arrangements and that we would be burying Benny at WCMP. Sue got the same look as when I told her about the sunflowers. Her son that had passed was buried at WCMP too. This just felt so much like our boys were giving us a sign again. That was without a doubt when I knew that this was where Benny belonged. He wouldn’t be alone, not by a long shot.
When I look back at my post from May 17, this where we started about 6 weeks before. Things just came together and it was if Benny was orchestrating it all for us. I know in my heart of hearts that he has been there guiding us through it all. I would be a fool to take these signs for granted, so I’ll take them for what they are. We’re lucky, blessed that our little man is trying to help us tie up loose ends. I love you little guy.
Below are memories shared by family and friends on May 17. We are so blessed to have these people as a part of our lives.
“…the day you and Benny came over to meet Natalie after she was born. I remember Benny jumping on my couch with his socks on and talking about his chubby little feet and laughing about it. You had been telling me how much of a handful he was being that day but at my house he was being perfectly fine and I was teasing you that you made it all up! He was beautiful that day, playing with Nathan’s toys and being silly, a completely adorable little boy and its the memory I always think of when I think of him. We miss him every day but I love thinking of him and remembering that fresh little smile.” Michele
“…when Parker and I were driving around for the breast cancer walk and timed everything so the kids could nap, but Benny was the only one not to nap in the car… he waited till we were out of the car to try and nap… This coming from the kid who tried to sleep on cement with scores of people around at Parker’s open house!” Uncle Chris
“My last memory of Benny was right before Halloween. I brought a large pumpkin to carve, but he didn’t seem interested in that, but was with the Halloween sponge pieces I brought over to make pumpkin designs on paper. He then sat on the organ bench and showed Nana what a rock star he was, bobbing his head up and down with the music until he bumped his head on the keys! He cried a little, but he was brave and then headed outside with Darcy. I pulled him and Darcy around the yard in the wagon. I was the engineer (woo, woo) and made stops around the yard. He decided to get off at the swing station. He jumped on the swing on his belly (as nana was saying to be careful, no one listened) He swung so high and was laughing so loud. He was fearless!! It was a great day and a day I will always remember.” Nana
“…being mesmerized by a slinkie, shoving Cheerios into his mouth, bouncing in Kassidy’s chair and trying to climb up our stairs, chasing our cats on Halloween!” Jessika
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!
When they first told me my due date with Benny, I was terrified that he would be born on the day that my mom died those 15 years earlier. His due date was May 18th and my mom died on May 25th. It just all seemed so wrong.
As luck would have it, he was born on May 17, exactly 1 day before his due date, just like his sister. The question is, how do I navigate May now? With all of these awful reminders about the people that I love that are gone? Over the last few years I have finally made it through May in ok spirits, what the hell do I do now? I feel as if I’m navigating through a minefield.
As luck would have it too, several family and friends celebrate birthdays in May. What do I have left to celebrate? Everything that has been taken from me?