Happy Birthday my sweet baby boy. I love and miss you. The years pass, but…
Excerpt, The Gift of Ben, Chapter 17
I entered the bedroom where there had once been breathing and laughter, but which was now only an empty reservoir of our lives. His pajamas, white with an alligator near the hem, green around the shoulders, lay crumpled on the bed where Kyle had changed him the day before. Still fresh from a lazy boy’s night sleep, seemingly waiting to be worn again. There would be a Ben, to come home, to slip them on. I retched the fragments of my life and fell onto the bed, burying his pajamas into my body.
With a gasp of sorrow, I grabbed the pajamas and rammed them against my nose as I inhaled his scent.
“Oh my god! I can still smell him! I don’t understand. I can smell him!” I screamed toward my mother as she walked hesitantly closer, choking back tears.
“What do I do? I need to keep his smell; I can’t lose it! It’s all I have left!” Shaking, a screaming wail of grief and shock.
“Honey,” she stopped walking.
“If I put them in a Ziploc bag, they’ll start to smell like plastic! So what do I do, physically, to keep the smell?”
“You should just let them be for now,” she stated.
Grief quickly turned to fury as I raced out of the bedroom and through the house, still holding his pajamas to my nose, tears merging with the remaining atoms of him. Visions popped in and out of my head. Kyle was holding him yesterday morning in our bathroom. He wore these wrinkled pajamas.
“This is all I have left,” I howled, trying to lay my eyes on everything else around the house that was Ben. Books strewn in the living room, basketball goal in the sunroom, balls lying silent and forlorn, bouncy house in the dining room.
I made my way down our hallway until my parents stopped me. With no physical outlet for my pain, I could only scream.
“I hate him.” My body shook with the words. “My son is dead, and I don’t get him back. I just want to let them hang him out to dry. The police, let them have him.”
I saw a tear trembling on her cheek, and as she drew me closer, I collapsed into her shoulder with stifled sobs. In this dream within a dream, the only truth I knew was that the pajamas I held in my hands were real. They would not be worn again, and now there was only a space where he once was and a visceral need of a mother to hold him again. As I untangled my body from the web of her arms, I felt only a pain beyond sensation. A slow disgorging of all of me. I expected to see the pieces of me tumble out onto our hardwood floors, but as I looked down, I found nothing but skin and bones, muscles of hands pulled taut. I was still holding tightly to his alligator pajamas. A silent suffocation.
I do not want to be a part of this club. I was recently connected with a former colleague, who lost her beloved ten-year-old daughter, Gracie, in November 2022 in a tragic car accident. It is a shared pain, as if we are connected by something greater than ourselves. A single string of grief and torment, hers much fresher than mine, the trembling of hearts yearning and searching for something they can no longer have. The pain after Ben's death was visceral, like the pull of gravity of one body into the next. In the moments after finding out he was gone, I stood in the hospital hallway:
As I took my seat in one of the blue plastic chairs lining the hallway, I noticed a new sensation growing in my chest. The pain born from a heart existing outside the body. It was not even a heart. It was more. It was part of Ben, and Ben was gone. It had torn through the fabric of space and time, was floating aimlessly in another world, already searching for something it could no longer have. As I sat in silence, I knew. That was what it meant to love another.
My friend describes the concept of entropy. "Entropy doesn't care about goals or aspirations. It cares about structure and order in the world, and while this world is in constant motion and people have moved on, my world is paused." I heard the same words from others, "life moves on whether we want it to or not, Lindsey," they said. My world existed on the spinning axis of the Earth, the sun rising and falling in daily succession, while I stood still.
My mind and heart are constantly remembering Ben and waiting for the day I will see him again. He is always around me, in the shudder of leaves in the spring air, the chirping birds as I write, the sliver of sun sliding through the trees. My life is moving on, but my heart will always stand still, searching for that which it can only have in the heaven above, around, gliding through us each day. So, my friend, struggle through, write, grieve, rely on those who hold you dear. It may last years, until eternity, but there are others in this club that can assure you, time does heal and you will survive. You will see her again, and it will be magnificent.