Ben was born in 1973 almost 2 years after I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had been given one year to get pregnant before I had to have a hysterectomy. My doctor, knowing how much I wanted a second child, had done a temporary procedure, then had me come in for Pap Smears every 6 weeks. If anything had shown up on any of them, I would have had to have an immediate hysterectomy.
Ben was born with the cord around his neck and they had to work fast to save him. He was also severely jaundiced and had to go "under the lights" most of his stay in the hospital. We used to laugh so when we saw him as they put on the protective goggles and he would lay there with one leg propped up over the other like he was sunbathing at the beach. He was considered by me and everyone else to be my "miracle baby".
He was a really easy baby - even slept through the night from the first night we were home from the hospital. But he was never very demonstrative with his affection and had to be bribed for a hug or a kiss.
As he got to toddler stage his perfectionism first began showing itself. Every time he would try to do something new we could see him getting upset when he couldn't do it perfectly the first time he tried.
When he became school age, I didn't know what to do. My daughter had been attending a private school that had a "free school" philosophy and I knew this would be the best atmosphere for him because of the perfectionism but I couldn't afford tuition for 2, plus I felt they weren't meeting Becky's needs. I kept thinking that I could do as well, if not better, teaching them at home.
One night the spring before Ben was due to begin school I heard John Holt (author of several books on education) talking about home schooling on the radio. The next day I called his office for more information and we were on our way. We home schooled from the time Ben was Kindergarten age through 8th grade.
Again his perfectionism came out terribly. I'd be working with him on something and if he couldn't get it the first time he would get so angry, clench his fists and stomp out of the room. I would just leave him alone and when he was ready - sometimes not for weeks - he would come back and we'd begin again. By the time we stopped home schooling I had managed to get him to ease up on himself some so that he wouldn't get so upset if he couldn't do everything perfectly.
Ben had been drawing since he could hold a pen or pencil and was really good at it so I had him taking art lessons. Becky had been taking piano lessons and he decided to try that too and enjoyed it. Later he decided he wanted to play drums. He had a few lessons on that but mostly just taught himself.
He had a radio program on the high school radio station, as Becky had a few years before, and I was always so impressed with how at ease and mature he sounded on the radio. He and Don did one program together, "Yours, Mine and Ours" which had each of them play his music: for Ben, Rock & Roll; for Don, Jazz and then music they both enjoyed.
He was also into fly-fishing and Don had taught him how to tie his own flies which he was extremely proficient at.
Ben's biggest love was writing. He wrote stories before he could write himself and he would dictate them to me. Then he began writing and illustrating stories himself. In the second grade he wrote and illustrated a sequel to "The Call of the Wild". Some of his later writings were as insightful as any adult's would be. This was his goal - to become a writer - and I feel sure he would have been a good one. (Mostly Steven King type writing.)
The spring before Ben died he gave a speech on Youth Sunday at our church about "The Importance of Understanding" which he had written and brought to me for suggestions. It was so beautiful that I read it with tears in my eyes and said not to change a thing. He then said, there was no way he was going to give it; someone else could read it. When he went to rehearsal and read it there, telling them he wasn't going to read it at the service, they insisted that he had to - so he did.
However he was never satisfied with any of this beautiful work he did. When we would praise him, he would say, "You have to say that, you're my parents".
The spring before he would have started high school he decided that as he had never been to school perhaps he should try it. Most of the teachers didn't know that he had been home schooled and when I went to the first conference with them they were amazed at how well he was doing. He attended school for one year. and I could see that old perfectionism coming back with a vengeance.
At the end of the year he decided not to return but he was so burned out that he did no "school work" that year. I couldn't force him because it was against my philosophy to do that, plus I felt he needed the time to recuperate from the time in school.
The following spring he came to me and said he felt that the only way he was going to do any schoolwork was to go back to school. I think it was the only argument we ever had. I did not want him to go back. I had seen what that one year had done to him. Finally I said that if he felt strongly enough to make the arrangements himself, then that was what he should do - never thinking that he would.
But he did. As the summer went on he began to get nervous about going back - afraid that he wouldn't remember things from his first year. I told him that they usually reviewed the work and that it would come back and if he wanted extra help I would help him.
So he went back to school the Wednesday after Labor Day. That weekend we happened to be having supper alone and we talked about school. He seemed more at ease and said that yes, he remembered more than he had expected to and they had reviewed material and it seemed to be going OK.
The following Wednesday I helped him with some homework and he asked me to get out some materials we had used in home schooling as he thought they would be helpful - which I did. He was up late, as usual, doing homework and was working on it when I went to bed and later when Don came home.
The next morning I woke up with a strange headache and the feeling that something was very wrong. Don (my husband) called right after I got up and asked if I knew why Ben would have gone to school without his books. I had no idea. I went through the house and out to the barn to see if he was there. But I wouldn't go up in the barn attic - I had the feeling he had hanged himself there. I don't know where that feeling came from.
Don came home from work and we tried to figure out what was going on. A couple of friends called from school to see if he was sick so we knew he wasn't there. Later the school called to see where he was and Don said we didn't know.
Don had to go see a customer and while he was gone the police drove into the yard. I said "Is this about my son?" They didn't answer at first, but asked to see a sample of his handwriting. I showed them his homework papers and one said, "That's it."
Then they had me sit down and told me that someone had hanged himself from the swing set in the park across the street. They had thought it was a boy from another town who had been reported missing but it wasn't him. They showed me a picture of Ben lying on the ground to identify him. Of course, it was Ben. He had a note in his pocket but no identification.
I just sat in the rocking chair in my kitchen rocking back and forth, not saying much except to answer their questions. Don called while they were there and they answered the phone and told him to come home, there was a problem. There were two men there and one had to go back to the station so the other drove him, expecting to be back at the house before Don got home.
(I now wonder why they left me alone. When Don died they insisted that someone come to be with me in the house while they did what they had to outside.)
However, Don came back before the policeman returned. He walked in and said, "Where's Ben?" I couldn't answer and then he asked, "He's alive, isn't he?" I couldn't answer that either and just shook my head. He just went crazy, stomping through the house, banging on walls, screaming. I still just sat and rocked. It was almost as if I wasn't surprised at what had happened.
After he died I learned how much Ben was looked up to by his peers; how people at the church respected him (they said that although he never said much, when he did everyone paid attention because what he did say was so astute), how everyone was so impressed with him. So many quoted a line from the song "Starry Night" in their cards and notes to me after he died, "This world was never meant for one as beautiful as (him)".
Less than two years after Ben died, my husband, Don, also died of suicide. At that time I was seriously considering it myself. I felt that I was never going to get over losing Ben and that the people around me would be better off if I weren't here. When Don did it I felt I couldn't leave the legacy of their whole family being wiped out by suicide to my daughter and granddaughter.
A few years later I met a woman who does channeling (speaking for an entity) who gave me some information about Ben. I was told that before he was born, he had wanted only to experience the birth process and intended to die at birth. (This explained the cord around his neck and the work they had to do to save him.) But, at the time of his birth he and I made a subconscious agreement that he would stay for a while. This entity was amazed that Ben had stayed here as long as he did.
Love and peace,
Mom of Ben
Wife of Don