Imagination, connection, and collaboration drive my teaching, art making, and life. This blog documents happenings in and out of the studio: travel, food, art making, teaching, and the life of my international and dual-language cat, Sir Rigby. 🎉 Go. Make. Fun.
28 March 2015
Time . . .
I remember when my cat died in 2010. She had been my cat for 18 years. I acquired her when the mall pet store in Denton, Texas had turned her down, claiming she was too small (she was smaller than—at the time—a cordless phone). I named her Sam. She moved with me every time I moved. She met all of my boyfriends. She witnessed all of my roommates, my time studying, my late nights coming home. She went through everything that I went through. When she passed away, not only did I lose a part of me. But I lost a substantial time in my life. She was my connection to my formative years as a young adult.
Today is the first day that I did not cry. I teared up for a second, but I did not have a full-on cry. I’m not bragging, by any means. I’m just stating the facts, like you would the weather. “Today it was rainy.”
The last 35 days of my life have been the hardest 35 days of my life ever. Losing Ben has been really, really difficult (on everyone that knew him). Primarily we all worried about the details surrounding the event: the timeline, the reasons, the directions left for the ambulance, the positive upswing he seemed to be on, all of the plans that he and I had made together, leaving his boys.
Fixating on those details has agonized my grief even more. I can’t seem to shake the visuals in my head and the unanswered questions.
People have so graciously reached out to me. People I have not seen in years, since high school. They’ve told me stories about Ben, and wished me a quick healing and peace. It’s a weird place to be in. Sadness does not fit my lifestyle. Anyone who knows me, knows this. But Ben was my person. I loved talking to him and being around him and writing to him. We shared everything with each other, even things we may not have ever shared with anyone else. He was my best friend and the love of my life. Can you imagine meeting such an amazing person?
It makes all of the “I’m so sorry for you loss’s” not seem to carry enough weight. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiments, I do. It’s just that I’ve dated a ton of people in my life. I finally found the right one, and now he’s gone. Ben was not a perfect person, as we all know. None of us are. But he was absolutely perfect for me.
Ben’s mother gave me a wooden heart that he made in wood shop. I guess in high school. I held it during the memorial service and sleep with it under my pillow. Lately I’ve been walking around with it in my coat pocket. It’s smooth, like a well worn pebble you might find along a riverbed or near the ocean. So it’s calming to hold in my hand, and it makes me think about Ben and his attention to detail and craft.
I’ve set up an educational grant in his name through the Men of Nehemiah (MON) organization that he was so active with. It’s called the Benjamin John Educational Allowance. It will help subsidize educational costs for MON graduates. When Ben left us, he had been working on researching various certification programs. And he loved to learn things. I can’t think of a better way to give back, both as an honor to Ben and a thank you gift for all that MON did for him. He loved that organization with all of his might.
I’ve been reading passages from the Bible that his mother has been recommending to me. I know it seems like a stretch for me . . . And believe you me, it is. But that’s what this experience has done for me. It has made me reach out for things that I might not normally reach out to. I’ve never been this sad before, or felt this lost. The pain is so great that it physically hurts. I have nowhere else to turn. Ben gave me a monogrammed Bible for Christmas. I have no doubt in my mind that he knew that I would use it one day. He didn’t even balk at the expression on my face when I opened it--a strange mix of "WTF?" and “oh, um, thanks”. He knew it would come in handy. He was confident, and he was right.
According to his mother, Ben’s verse is Deuteronomy 33:12. “About Benjamin he said, “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.””
I think about the day of his memorial service. Most people dressed in black. The Men of Nehemiah sang in his honor, tears streaming down their faces. Ben’s fire service memorabilia laid out on tables. A slideshow of images of him as a baby, a kid, a teenager, and a dad. People somberly mingling. On this same day, I had two different friends get married. Another friend had a baby shower. And somewhere in the world, a baby was born. The day that we all said goodbye to Ben was the same day that made so many other people jump for joy. Life is funny that way.
I wonder if people have forgotten already. About Ben or his amazing life . . . It’s been 7 days since his memorial service. Did everyone who came to give their condolences go back to their normal lives after attending his service? If they did, how were they able to do that?
Sometimes I check my phone to make sure I haven’t missed a text or a message from him. I keep thinking that he’ll come back. Miraculously, he will return and things will go back to normal and be good again. It’s hard to go from talking to someone all day long every day for 8 months, to losing them completely. Surely he’ll call. “There’s been a mistake,” he’ll say.
I’ve even turned into a bit of an eccentric . . . Taking out my phone, opening my photos to an image of Ben, setting the phone next to me on a bench or table . . . Like he’s there with me. I know it’s weird, but I just need this time. I don’t know how everyone else was able to let go so quickly, and get back to their regular lives. I need this time.
I have not forgotten Ben. I will never forget Ben. From here on out, every time someone mentions 2014 or 2015 or high school or elementary school or firefighters or christianity or love or sugar gliders or ice cream or Plano or Texas or Facebook or Singapore, I will feel a twinge of pain in my belly, a sinking in my heart, and welling up in my eyes.