My son Ben was a quiet and gentle man but a man of action. He had packed 75 years of life into his 25 years before he was killed. Here is a little snapshot: volunteer webmaster at university, paid trainer of the student trainers, played rugby and won the student bake off with his famous cheesecake. In high school, he had started a web design business when he wasn’t racing mountain bikes. On spring break he was off renovating a church in the slums. He graduated with a degree in Computer Science and was an IT Manager and computer programmer, but his passion became Africa.
He was a vital part of a band of friends, the Safari Six, who toured east Africa as a post-graduation trip. They spent three months there climbing Kilimanjaro, camping out in the Serengeti and rafting down the White Nile. But the most pivotal time was in Rwanda. The Safari Six stayed with the missionary family of one of the guys, lending muscle power to building their church campus.
They toured the Rwanda genocide sites and Ben was very moved by the tragedy of 800,000 people massacred in 100 days. A couple of years later, when Rich and Jeff started a school there to raise up leaders post-genocide, Ben loved the idea of rebuilding a nation and threw himself into it. He was on their board from the start. With his degree in Computer Science and experience as a IT Manager, he set up all the computer systems and websites as one devoted tech guy.
He lived in Rwanda, on-site, in 2005 sorting out the challenges of computer technology in the third world, assisting with a film shoot, as well as pouring concrete and playing soceer with the kids. Then he toured East Africa and Europe with friends and came back to live in Vancouver.
Right after he died, I flew to Calgary and stayed with my daughter and her husband for almost a month. It was tremendously healing and I am so very grateful to them. When I got back to Ontario, I avoided going to his grave. Finally, after about 8 weeks, I got up the courage to face it.
I was torn between wanting to "visit" him, in his last resting place but dreaded facing the reality of him being in a grave. I stopped at the florist first, and the handsome and simple white roses drew me. I did not know that that white roses mean, “everlasting love, stronger then death”.
I drove along the cemetery road trying to find his “spot” as I called it, "grave" was too harsh a word. I only remembered it from the day of the funeral when everything was a blur. I could have gone to the cemetery office but telling them I can't find my son was just too weird. I meandered around and I recalled it was under a little purple tree but there were a quite a few of those. I noticed a 6 ft. mound of dirt under one, and walked over. The temporary marker read Ben Farrant, my son.
Beside it, there was a single red rose. A tear of gratitude ran down my cheek, I smiled. I don't know who brought it but it was very comforting that someone else was here remembering him too.
I stood there for a while taking in the horrible reality of the scene. My mind went blank and I could not think of what I should do or say, I was in "numb mode" again. The body protects itself from emotional overload by breaking the emotional circuit. I leaned over and tenderly placed the roses on the mound of dirt. What I really wanted to do was to reach through all the dirt, and through the casket, right to his body and hug him tight. I sat down on the grass beside the mound, as though to get as close as possible to him and then the dam of tears broke loose.
I wept as I talked to him. I explained that I picked the white roses because I knew he liked things that were ‘elegant’. I told him that he wasn't supposed to die and how wrong it was. I discussed the details with him as though he could hear me. I also told God, with some real anger, that he wasn't supposed to let this happen.
The pain dissipated after a while and I took in the beautiful grounds, overlooking 16 Mile Creek. It was time to go home. I stood at his grave, “Ben I don’t know how to do this, how to say goodbye to you in a grave. You shouldn't even be here. I don’t know if you can hear me but it feels like you can. And I hope you like the roses.”
I walked back to my car and stopped. Turning back to the grave, with tears, I said, “Ben, I can't do this. It so hard to walk away. How do I go home and leave you here? My heart hurts so much to say goodbye. I miss you so, so much. I will come again, but I just don’t know how I can leave you behind. ” That’s when I felt it. The weight of a his big hand on my shoulder. Then I heard a voice in my head that was as loud and as sure as Ben’s spoken voice, “Mom, it’s okay, you can go home now. Don’t feel bad, don’t worry”. I looked around, no one was there, at least no one that I could see. I recalled in the bible, Hebrews 12:1 “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us . . . run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Wow! Grateful tears ran down my face. They are so much closer than I thought!
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