We are approaching six months since Benjamin died, and every day I am learning new lessons. Some days I cannot move, and some days I find it easy to feel joy, to see beauty in a way I never saw it before. Most days I wonder what is real, and how time can be such an illusionist. And still, every single day, I fantasize about golden curls walking around the corner, like nothing ever happened.

Today, I was busy preparing for tomorrow’s trip to Wisconsin, which begins a vacation centered around picking Banyan up from Camp Highlands. I knew that his absence these last three weeks would be huge. It was the first time I’ve lived in a house without children for over thirteen years. I filled the silence, out of intention and necessity, with music and hard work. The result: what was once a room for two sweet, delicious little boys, is now a room for one wonderful, deserving adolescent. It is a space of his own, that honors his brother, but that allows him to grow into the man that awaits.

One of the final errands I had to check off of my list found me in a retail store. A little boy was hiding among the racks, and he popped out like a firework to garner the attention of his indifferent mother. She didn’t react. His face fell. “I wanted to surprise you,” he said. She replied, too quickly, “Well, don’t.” The resilience that accompanies children of his age toughened him, and he paused. “Can I surprise you again?” he asked, carefully. “No,” was the curt, cold response.

After nearly six months, I have honed the ability to grieve privately; to carry the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes to a secluded place. But this boy’s little voice and this mother’s apathy was too much for me. I wondered how many moments of Benji’s life I wasted with such distraction and numbness. I hoped that the moments I gave my focus and love to his hopeful, eager face far outweighed moments in which I did not. But mostly, I longed for one more surprise. One more chance to show him how much I appreciated his existence. The nearness of him. Him. 

I decided to put these thoughts here, tonight, because many kind folks have asked about my writing recently. (First of all, I acknowledge completely that I am not a very good friend right now. I find that I have nearly zero mental capacity to give. It makes my appreciation that much deeper for those who have stuck with me through these strange weeks, months, years. Thank you.) I have been writing quite a bit, but privately. Fragments of something I hope will take shape into a long form piece of work. I invested in a writing workshop for the fall, with a teacher I know and admire, to keep me accountable to this goal. Regardless of the end result, I know that disciplined writing is a means to a certain kind of salvation for me. Through some bit of magic, during the process of writing it out, I find the gratitude. I find the joy. I continue.

I look forward to our trip up north, into the woods that Banyan has learned so well. I look forward to seeing his sweet face, to reuniting with his real, human body. I’m so thankful he’s here.

Taking a trip like this feels different now. Excursions away from home immediately after Benjamin died made me feel achingly guilty. As if I was leaving him behind. Now, I enter these days with a certain spark. I feel like we are taking him with us. Where there is love, there is our boy. So there we go.

22 thoughts on “Surprises.

  1. I felt so complete reading your beautiful writing tonight. I miss Benjamin and all that he was and still is. Thank you for keeping him close.

  2. So glad to hear from you. This is of course the thing the parents around you were gifted from Benji’s death, the awareness that none of it is a given, and to make the most of the moments we have, and to try to be awake to what is around us. I honor the brave work you did transforming the bedroom, what a great use of the time you had this summer. Always glad to read what you write. Much love, hope Wisconsin is great.

    1. It’s true. I keep this awareness so much more at the forefront, enabling me to keep giving more and more and more to my children, and thank you, I am so grateful for what you’ve shared with us.

  3. Laura, you are giving a great deal to your friends and the circle of supporters. It’s a deeper and more meaningful giving so it feels very different, but it is very much appreciated. Thank you

  4. Laura dear,

    I am so glad you are continuing with your writing and will be taking a writing workshop. Writing is one of your many gifts, which you have and give to others lucky enough to be your friends.

  5. So wonderful to read your words this morning. Love is being sent your way and will wrap around you on your travels. XOXO

  6. Happy to hear from you. You are handling your grief as beautifully as you have handled all the many events that led to it. Your community has learned from you.
    Life is just a long “mountain bike” ride – lots of ups and downs. You come off as a real winner;-)
    Love, Marcy

  7. After everything you have gone through and are still going through, you have always been an amazing friend. Love you forever ♥️

  8. I have missed your writing and this post feels like such a magnificent gift today – thank you for reminding me what is truly important …

  9. So wonderful to hear from you again Laura. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate every moment, no matter how distracting life is. Have a sweet reunion with Banyan and a relaxing, enjoyable vacation.

  10. I share the same sentiment as so many who have commented–it is a true gift and a joy to hear your voice and read your words. Safe travels, friend.

  11. Laura, your words always touch my heart. I feel your joy at life, in the loved ones you have near you, and your absolute bone crushing heart ache at Benji’s passing. Your writing is a brief glimpse through a window that far fewer parents should ever have to experience. Your words make the pain less for you as it helps us in the community support you as you walk this long path. I just wish I could do more for you. Your family and Benji are never far from my thoughts. Namaste.

  12. I love your bravery at putting your stories down, and sharing them. That moment in the store witnessing the little boy’s joy and then crushing disappointment is a huge reminder to me to slow down. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work!

  13. Every post you write moves me deeply. I have never met you and I did not know Benjamin but somehow I still think of you both often. Thank you for sharing your journey. Your words speak into my heart, and I am so appreciative of that.

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