dear ben

Dear Ben,

Ryan asked the other day why we don’t have Christmas stockings. I deflected the question because I don’t know how to tell him…”I just can’t.” It’s too much. Hang a stocking for you and it goes unfilled, don’t hang a stocking for you and it feels too visually cruel. So we just don’t have them. (I’m sure it is something he will take up with this therapist someday, amidst a long list of topics.) Otherwise it looks as if you were just here. Your tree is up, your house is displayed, the polar express Santa sits on our couch. It is bright and festive. Yet the weight of this season and your approaching anniversary is palpable. Holding these two extremes is a challenge that doesn’t seem to get easier with time.

This year there is additional emotional complexity with the closing of BTF. I wonder if you know. I wonder what you think about our decision. When we started BTF we had no idea what we were doing. We just knew that we couldn’t let cancer take you from us and be quiet. For us, this work has always been about advocating against your suffering. It has been about not letting your death be in vain. It has been about keeping your fierce spirit alive. It’s been about…trying to still be your parents.

In doing this work over the past five years we’ve heard every cliché from “we took lemons and made lemonade” to “we turned tragedy into triumph”. I don’t subscribe to any of these because a) they are stupid and b) they make us seem somehow more selfless or saintly than we are. Lord knows I am not Mother Mary. Given the choice to save the world or save you – I would have chosen you (not that she had a choice). I am that selfish. Perhaps it is because seven years later it I still find it in moments physically impossible to be separated from you. There are still days, like the one you may have witnessed last week, where I long for you so badly I feel as if I am going mentally insane. We were not meant to bury our children.

Yet in your absence, or because of your absence I should say, so many good things and people have come into our life. Your death, and our subsequent choice to start BTF, brought us new friends and amazing colleagues. Without you dying we would have never worked with Kendall, Courtney, Jodie, Ray, Austin or Harry. We would not have watched the creation of our Eastside Chapter, met the wonderful women of Boise nor seen the start of Callie’s Coffee. We wouldn’t have partnered with Dr. Jensen and his team, nor witnessed such incredible scientific research milestones. The Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer would simply be a building we drove past on the way to I-5.

I don’t believe for one moment that you died so that all of this would happen. I fiercely resent that theological and naive implication. Furthermore I would give all of it back in a second to have you here and fill your stocking. I wonder what you would like, what would make you excited, what you would be interested in. I wish I could hear your ten-year-old thoughts for I know they would be wise. You were always older than your age.

Therefore as we approach the end of 2015 and this chapter, I find myself missing you acutely and deeply grateful for all that has happened since you left; the true definition of bittersweet.

Speaking of sweets, we made our gingerbread house last week. Ryan’s theme this year was definitely “the more the better” – both in design and consumption. I wasn’t too far behind him in terms of intake unfortunately. As it turns out when you are in your 40’s you can’t eat a whole bag of spice drops. #earthlyproblems

Ben, we love you. We miss you everyday. We hope you are proud of the work we have done.