Thank you for sticking with me through this crazy story, friends. I know some of it is hard to read (and was hard to write, and even harder to share) and I hope above all that it connects us. Each and every one of us has experienced loss and grief. And while those stories are all so deeply personal, the grief experience really is universal. I am excited to share today's chapter...I think this is one of the coolest parts of this story! Be sure to catch up with previous chapters before reading on.
At the risk of sounding creepy, I will admit to checking out the social media accounts of Ben’s family. I was so grateful to his sister for thinking to message me. I wasn’t connected to anyone else in his circle, and if she hadn’t let me know about the accident, I don’t know how or when I would have found out. As a result of my creeping, I learned that Ben’s family was open to receiving letters and messages from anyone who wanted to tell them about who Ben was to them. He had completely changed his life around in the months prior to his death, and his family wanted to hear from others about the person he had worked so hard to become.
I decided to write a letter to them to tell them my experience with Ben. It was very healing for me to write this letter. I was very careful to be honest, but I did not want to give them the wrong idea about our relationship. I also hoped that I wouldn’t come across as some crazy secret admirer popping up out of the woodwork as they were trying to process it all and grieve their beloved son and brother. I spent a couple days adding to the letter and editing it. I probably read it over a hundred times and even asked Tiffany to read it before I was ready to send it. When I was certain that I had an appropriate balance of honesty and sensitivity, I sent it to Ben’s Mom and Sister.
The next few weeks are a blur in my memory. Knowing myself and how I process, I think they were filled with a lot of sleep, tears, avoiding people, mindless activities and poor dietary choices. I was struggling. As has happened in the past during difficult times, I hadn’t done much writing. I’d had an idea for a few lines of a song months prior and had scribbled them down on a scrap of paper somewhere. I hadn’t known how to write the song when Ben was still around. Writing it would have been admitting that we would never find a way to be together, and though I knew it deep down, I always wanted to hold onto a tiny shred of hope, no matter how impossible.
Was it the right thing at the wrong time
Or the wrong thing at the right time
I guess the bottom line
Is that the stars never quite aligned. *
I sat down at my piano one day and wrote the rest of the song. I decided to post a little piece of it on Instagram on the one year anniversary of meeting Ben. I wrestled quite a bit with the idea of posting it, as I didn’t want it to seem attention seeking. That was not my intention. I just wanted to honour Ben in some way and acknowledge the impact he’d had on my life.
Shortly after posting that portion of the song, his sister commented on it, and then I received a message from his Mom. She asked if she could give me a call. Not long after I replied with my phone number, I got a call from her and nervously answered. I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed she had read my letter and just wanted to connect.
She had not received the letter, most likely because we were not connected on Facebook. She had decided to reach out to me, without knowing that I was also trying to reach out to her. I think I started to cry within about ten seconds of answering the phone. She sounded just like I thought she would - warm and authentic and loving. She said “I can’t believe I’m actually talking to you” and the tears began, even though I did not yet know why she was saying that. Truth be told, I didn’t think she knew who I was. I quickly learned that she did know who I was and in fact, she had known about me for quite some time.
I could barely respond as she said “I think it’s time I told you what Ben said to us about you”. She proceeded to tell me all the wonderful, amazing things he had said when he told his family about meeting me. I won’t share all of the things that she told me. I would prefer to save them to cherish myself, but suffice it to say that it was everything I had ever wanted a man to say to me and about me. And how very bittersweet. To have confirmation that he and I felt the same way for each other was so wonderful and validating. I had spent so many months trying to convince myself that it was crazy, that it was all in my head, that maybe he had feelings for me, but not the deep feelings I was trying not to have for him.
I was crying so hard as she told me all of this that I could barely catch my breath, let alone respond. All I remember being able to get out was “Wow”. Over and over again, only that word. And when she had finished and I found the strength to respond, all I could say to her was that I felt the same for him. I could hear the emotion in her voice - the same mixture of things I was feeling - as she called to her daughter, Ben’s sister, and said “she felt the same!”. I also had the chance to talk to his sister. I mentioned something about my letter at some point in the conversation and it was then that I learned that they had not received it. This made what Ben’s Mom said to me even more amazing. I had assumed that reading my letter that revealed my feelings for Ben had prompted her to want to share those things with me, when in fact she had no idea any of what I had said because she hadn’t even seen it! When we found this out I said “If I had known when I was writing the letter what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so careful about what I said!” and we had a good laugh.
* These lines ended up starting the whole "Letters to Ben" EP. You can hear them in the song "right thing, wrong time" Click here to listen