It can be exhilarating or excruciating and many, many layers in between. In this crazy thing we call life we try our best to find our why, our way, a hero, inspiration, and meaning. We respect those who show great courage, and we learn much from the lessons they teach.
This is The Sunday Series.
“He’s still part of our daily lives, which is kind of cool. We’ve turned the tables from being unable to talk about it and overcome with grief, to being happy and even laugh when we talk about Larry.”
– Tami Bensky
The Sunday Series (41): Larry’s Ride
It was quite the ride. A ride which would leave an impression on so many that when it ended so abruptly the loss was devastating, the void so deep it created a virtual chasm in the lives of an entire community.
This is not the first time I’ve shared Larry Bensky’s story, but an event taking place today makes it a perfect topic for the Sunday Series. Larry was a friend I met later in life and to be honest I’m going to share some of the same sentiments I wrote about more than a year ago in this blog, but this time it’s much more about how you make the comeback, how Tami and the girls are moving forward, how today, Sunday, September 14th… Larry’s Ride continues. A journey into infinity and beyond.
Larry Bensky’s life ended on the back roads of Baltimore County on April 6th, 2010. Larry, an avid cyclist, loved to take afternoon and weekend rides and was always cautious and prepared. But when a driver coming up behind him on that fateful day in April was unprepared to give way, the lives of a close-knit family and the hearts of a community were dragged down into the same dark abyss.
That day a wife lost her husband, two little girls lost their Dad, parents lost a 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 and 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.
For a long time after his death smiles were hard to come by. Larry’s family and friends were stunned. His wife Tami, his daughters Gabi and Katelyn were to put it mildly, in shock. Larry was the love of Tami’s life — it seemed as if life could not go on without him. The feelings of loss were immeasurable, the emptiness seemed too big to overcome, the journey back from the abyss would be a long one.
Larry touched my life and in death touched me again. The day he died was a Tuesday. Just three days later the the Bensky family was supposed to come over to our house for dinner with some other friends. I can still remember sitting with my family at dinner 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 him at that moment, three days before our scheduled get-together, but I did. Now I know why. It was just a few minutes later when the house phone rang and our friend Adam Oberfeld broke the news, Larry was gone, hit and killed while riding his road bike that afternoon.
I’m here to tell you as sure as I feel it today, more than four 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.
From that moment I felt Larry had reached out to me, passed right through, made me think about him and shortly thereafter I was on a mission. Over the next year+ I reached out to Tami as much as possible through texts and e-mails trying to help her cope with a loss which was unimaginable and was draining the strength from her very soul. Every time she shared her heart-wrenching experiences of loss, I tried to fight back to somehow lift her spirits with messages of hope, messages about life, messages about perseverance, messages about taking it one step and one day at a time. I kept telling Tami one day, one day, she would be able to breathe again. All along I felt Larry with me, guiding me, asking me to reach out and to make sure his girls would be OK. You never get over it, you just get on with it. The ultimate goal: to keep moving forward.
Fast forward to today. This is the 5th annual Larry’s Ride, a ride for cyclists to come and take to the roads over four challenging routes, to raise money to help advance the advocacy efforts of Bike Maryland, a non-profit dedicated to promoting bicycling, increasing safety, improving conditions and providing a voice for all bicyclists in Maryland, (https://www.bikemaryland.org/). It was Tami and friends who came up with the idea for the event and it was Tami, who just days after Larry’s death, helped to push through legislation to create the 3-foot-rule for drivers when passing cyclists on the roads in Maryland.
And now it’s time…time which seemed to stand still after Larry was killed, but now moves along at a more normal pace for the Bensky family. “I guess we are doing great”, says Tami. “We still have all the family and friends supporting us as well as solid community support, our school and the Beth El congregation. What is cool is we are frequently talking about Larry. Just last night Kate was acting goofy and my mom came up to her and said to her “you are such your father’s daughter.” It was an innocent comment which just a few years earlier brought pain and an unbearable sense of loss, now it brings about laughter and warm memories.
When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure. Today Larry’s daughters, Gabi and Kate, as well as many of their friends will be cheering on other cyclists and the memory of their Dad as hundreds ride in his honor and cross the finish line at Larry’s Ride. In these five years the Ride has raised more than $100,000, a tribute to Tami’s dedication, along with a legion of friends and supporters to keep the event going and those who turn out to participate.
Larry Bensky did so many things for others, for family, for friends, for business associates. He shared his wisdom, his insight, his hard work, even dollars from his own pocket and the clothes off his back to help a friend in need. He was living proof of the words I recently heard – a day without doing something good is a day without truly living.
And I’m going to repeat something I read and shared when I first wrote about Larry more than a year ago on this blog, because it is not only powerful, but I believe helps to truly define the kind of man Larry was and the spirit he possessed. The passage is from a book titled Put Your Dream to the Test, by John Maxwell:
“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.”
I underlined the passage in that book and wrote one word next to it… Larry.
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker
The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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