~ my family at the beach, dad in red shirt~
When I started my first blog back in June 07 it was mostly a way for me to deal with my grief over losing my little brother Robert. I had never blogged before and looking back over some of my early posts, they are quite silly. Through the first yearI worked through much of my grief and I moved on to other share other parts of my life through this blog. I really try to focus on good things here. I try to keep things light and cheerful even when I am struggling with other issues in my life, but yesterday I was brought back to a sorrowful place… I need to try to begin to understand my feelings of loss and desperation, and the overwhelming sadness that has once again returned. So please bear with me…
This post is for my dad~
Robert Joel Benn, Jr.
On the very same day my sister had her first baby, my father was killed a few hours later by a drunk driver in Austin, TX. He had just flown in that evening for work the next day. He picked up his rental car and was heading to his hotel. He never made it there.
here is what happened ~ you can listen to the video….
Apparently the wreckage was so bad, they could not identify him at first, they did not notify his wife until the next day at work – of all places. How horrible for her to recieve the news over the phone by a complete stranger when she was all alone.
(my dad with his wife Sherrie, & the girls- Katie & Peggy Sue)
My dad was a very kind and gentle man. He was not loud, he rarely raised his voice. In times of chaos he would remain calm. He was always on your side.
I remember growing up my mother would often say “Your dad always helps the underdog” or something to that effect.
I was not always certain why she would say that, but thinking back it is a very true statement. That is one way to describe my dad.
He always felt the need to help those who were in need or who were having a hard time. If someone was down, he would try to help them to help themself so they could find their way back up. He was a teacher, he always tried to find a way to encourage your to do your best. If you were sad, or stressed or mad he would find a way to make you feel better.
He was an encourager, he was an inspirator, he was empathetic and he would always try to get me to see the other side of a situation and he would ask me - what do you think you would do, if you were that person. He would ask me how do you think that other person feels? He would force you to examine an issue from all sides. He would always tell you that you could do whatever you set out to do.
I remember when I was 18 or 19 not long after I had graduated from high school, feeling that I was not smart enough to go to college, and I felt my parents did not really have the money to pay for me to go to school. Whether that was really true or not, I am not sure, but at the time this is what I believed. They just finished going through a stressful divorce and all I really wanted was to be on my own. I remember as I was working my first full time job that it did not take too long to feel a bit down and discouraged. I felt like I was going down a career path that I did not particularly want. While I was grateful for the opportunity it was not exactly what i wanted. I knew I wanted to do something I thought was important, something that I felt would matter in the bigger picture. I wanted to make a difference. You know, I wanted to “help” people. I began talk to my dad about my feelings (as he worked at the same company.) He began to encourage me, little by little I began to listen to him and to believe in what he was saying. I started very slowly one class at a time but eventually I reached my goal and I graduated from nursing school in May 1993. I made it because he believed in me (as well as my mom.) Now it is 16 almost 17 years later I am still a nurse. I know without a doubt I have provided care to people who were in great need, and I know I have made a difference in many lives. I know this because many have come back and told me so. Which obviously is very gratifying to me.
Thank you Dad. You believed in me and you knew I could do it even when I was very unsure. I don’t know if I ever actually told him thank you.
~Dad with Ginger~
When I was five yrs old my dad walked me to the bus stop on the first day of school with our dog Ginger. I remember getting on the bus and some mean boy said, “Cute dog but not a cute old man!” I was so mad and upset I am sure I cried because that boy said something mean about my dad. Of course I never said a word about that to him I did not want to hurt his feelings.. He probably would have just chuckled about it really.
~my dad with Sara 94~
I remember another time when my dad found out that my husband and I were preparing to pack up and move to Portland, OR with his 2 1/2 year old granddaughter he came dashing over to our house, he sat at our kitchen table and as he put his hand down on the table he set it in a little glob of jelly ( it had fallen off the toast my daughter had been eating) and he kind of shook his hand and as he looked down at he said without missing a beat, “Look if this is about money, I will give you whatever you need, you don’t have to go all the way to Oregon for money..”
It was very sweet. Of course we went to Portland, because we wanted to move there. It was a beautiful city and we have beautiful memories of our time there. My dad and his wife actually came out and visited us, and he LOVED it there. He really dug that city.
This morning as I was driving I remembered a time was really young maybe 2 or 3 -I remember we were either driving to my grandparents house or driving home from visiting them, I was so sleepy and I had laid my head on his chest while sitting in his lap as I began to fall alseep I remember listening to his voice while he talked. It was way down deep in his chest and it was musical It put me right to sleep. I clearly remember feeling very safe and warm at that time.
Some of my favorite sayings come from my dad..
“The waiting is the hardest part” (told to me by him as I waited for my turn to have my tonsils/adenoids out as I was the last of the 3 kids to take my turn, my mom had us all go at the same time!!)
I have told that to so many of my patients I don’t even know how many times it could be. I have empathized with my patients many a time as they waited scared for their procedure. I always think of him when I say that.
He also told me after my brother died, “It is always hardest on those left behind.” That is so true.
Of course I have many other wonderful memories but these few have crossed my mind today as I have been trying to absorb his loss.
My dad was devastated when my brother died and he was very sad for quite a long time. I know he held his grief close to his heart. He kept it inside himself. He withdrew for a time. Over this last year or so, he really seemed to find himself again. He seemed much more at peace and more content. He began a mid century modern redesign of his home, he dearly loved that time period. He sought out specific pieces of furniture that would fit and he drove all around to find them. In fact he drove to Chicago to purchase a chair, brought it home and said, “I wish I would have bought that other chair he had for sale, I am going back.” And he did, he drove right back up there and got that other chair all in a week’s worth of time. My dad was always working on something, he always had projects, he was always looking for his next interest. That sounds a little familiar actually..
The part that is hardest is that he was a road warrior, he spent years driving for his work. We moved to TN in 1979, so he could go to work for my uncle, and he drove back and forth each and every week. He drove all over Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. He traveled all the time and was always very safe.
He was laid off from his job in December and this was very hard on him. He loved to be busy and he loved his work. He had just started working for a Canadian company at the State of TN. Then they sent him to Austin, TX for another project. He was very happy to go. He was doing what he did best… however he never got the chance.
He was killed by a very senseless act of fear and despair. A young man thought it was better to run from the police and in the process killed my dad. He was observed throwing beer bottles/cans out of his Lincoln Navigator. My dad was t -boned and he never stood a chance. I fear you can see his blood on the front of that man’s Navigator. They will not release that man’s name… there is talk that he is influential or something of that sort. As much pain as all of these details cause, it is a small thing compared to our great loss. Edited to add: they did release the man’s name and it turns out he has 3 PRIOR convictions for driving while intoxicated. 3 are you kidding me? They have charged him with 1st degree murder.
I am praying for peace . I think the worst is knowing when I got into bed Monday night after having so much joy for my sister, about 10pm, at that very time my father was brutally killed and destroyed and I had no idea. I did not know. I could not feel it and that just saddens me so much.
I pray he felt no pain, and had no idea of what happened to him. I pray he knew what to do, and I pray my brother reached out his hand to him and said “Come on Dad, let’s go!”.. and I know that somehow the boys are back together again.
~(one of the few times we where ALL together as a family…(my dad is the one at the end..)~
One thing is true, my dad was very traditional, he loved his family and was very diligent in honoring his commitments to his parents, wife and family. I have many things left to talk to him about. I was not ready. Of course you never are.. I am praying for grace for myself and my family to get through this time. We really need that right now.
Please keep us in your thoughts and if you have made it this far. Thank you..