Sometimes life will stop and teach you a lesson, sometimes it stops your heart.
There’s been something I’ve been thinking about for most of this week and was going to post this over at the caringbridge.org website on my wife Debbie’s page, (search debbiebrodinsky @ caringbridge.org), then decided it didn’t belong there, because it’s not just about Deb.
We have learned a lesson this past year, and this week begins the march of milestones between diagnosis of breast cancer, (April 13th 2012) and the one-year anniversary of her being cancer-free, (May 10th 2012), albeit after a tremendous sacrifice to give up both breasts and rid herself of the cancer. Yes, life taught us the lesson of sacrifice, and how cancer forces you to make a decision, something must be sacrificed, a piece of your body, poisonous chemotherapy and radiation sessions, medication with life-altering side effects, or simply your life. Deb chose to give up a piece of herself, to gain what we hope will be everlasting freedom from having to look over her shoulder, worrying if cancer could return.
On the pages of caringbridge.org I have often used music and references to songs to try and convey how I feel about the whole thing… and how much I love and respect Debbie and her courage for making the supreme sacrifice. I’ve said it on this blog before, music runs through the very fabric of our lives. A song can mark time, enhance experience and create emotion. So what do you do when the music of your life stops? Cold.
This weekend marks three years since Larry Bensky, a good friend, was tragically killed while riding his bike on the back roads of Baltimore County. That day a wife lost her husband, two little girls lost their Dad, parents lost their son, an entire community lost a man of integrity, faith and fortitude. Larry made his way through life with determination, drive and tremendous intelligence. He was a good soul, who always did what was right. He loved his family, provided for them, supported them emotionally, financially and unconditionally. He was smart, savvy, and completely unselfish. He loved to talk, to ask questions, to constantly search for answers, and to smile. It’s what I remember best about him, that smile.
To spend time explaining all the great things about Larry Bensky would fill all the pages of this blog. He was only 44-years-old when a driver collided with his bike and time stood still for the Bensky family. The music of their lives was silenced. Larry brought a spirit to the hearts and minds of his family, and of all who knew him, which as in a way, indescribable. Now that spirit, that song of life was no more. They were simply, and seemingly for a time without purpose, left to survive. I can only imagine the sense of loss that happened so abruptly, so without warning. Imagine squeezing your heart so hard that all the life simply drips out of it, but it must keep beating, or compressing your lungs so tightly you can’t breathe, but at the same time being forced to take a breath, or your brain expanding inside your skull until you feel like it’s going to explode, yet you must find a way to think. Life as we know it, incomprehensibly, maddeningly difficult to face.
Larry touched my life and in death touched me again. The day he died was a Tuesday. That Friday, the Bensky family was supposed to come over our house for dinner with some other friends. I can still remember at dinner with my family that fateful Tuesday evening, I turned to Debbie to tell her I needed to call Larry and tell him to bring his wine decanter. The get-togethers with his family and others, always meant some wine tasting and more. I don’t know why I thought of it at that moment, three days before the party, but I did. Now I know why he crossed my mind. It was just a few minutes later, when the house phone rang and our friend Adam Oberfeld broke the news, Larry was dead.
I’m here to tell you, as sure as I feel it today, three years later, his spirit passed right through that screened-in porch where my family was having dinner that evening. It was the reason I suddenly thought about him and minutes later, learned of his passing. The eulogy his wife Tammy gave at his funeral will long be remembered, I still don’t know how she got up and found the strength to do it. But I know she wanted to make sure everyone there knew what a special person Larry was. Message received.
From that point, because I felt Larry had reached out to me, passed right through, I in turn reached out to Tammy as much as possible through texts, e-mails and messages of hope, messages of life, messages about perseverance, messages about taking it one step and one day at a time. All along I felt Larry with me, guiding me, asking me to watch out and to make sure his girls would be ok. I wanted to help Tammy and the girls in whatever way I could to keep moving forward. Easier said than done. A wife had buried her husband, two young girls buried their father, parents buried their son. The pain was immeasurable. Life had turned its cruelest of tricks and left a trail, no, an ocean of despair in its wake.
The saying is so true: you never get over it, you just get on with it. They also say time heals all wounds. Sometimes though words have power, they fall short. Then again, without the power of words, hope is lost. However hope found its way into my heart this past Saturday, April 6th, 2013. I posted a note on the In Memory Of Larry Bensky Facebook page on Saturday morning, and then exactly one hour later I saw Tammy’s post in tribute to her husband:
“Three years…hard to believe. The girls and I miss Larry every day. We are blessed with special people in our lives who allow us to not only get through our days but to be happy, feel loved and look forward to the future. Didn’t think that was possible three years ago…thanks to all those special people…I love and appreciate you all.”
Never tell me words don’t make a difference. Reading those words, for me, started the music playing again. Three years. A message from the love of his life filled with gratitude, strength and vision of the future. If my eyes could see music, that was it. Beautiful. A new beginning, with a sincere and loving appreciation of what a special man had meant to everyone who had the privilege to know him.
As I move forward with this blog, and get back to the message of dreams and accomplishing what your heart tells you you must, I will end with this. I am just finishing up a book called Put Your Dream to the Test, by John Maxwell. I’ve marked that book up so much with underlining and stars and other notes, but on page 207, there’s a line in there that I want to share:
“A rare minority of people are able to hold closely to their dream to make a difference and are willing to give up everything to make that dream come true. Of people like that, it will never be said that when they died, it was as though they never lived.”
In the margin, next to those lines in my book, I scribbled one word: Larry.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.