Saturday, July 17, 2010

Letting go


Benjamin Shunkwiler

May 18, 1978 – July 10, 2010

I can’t count the number of times I have been greeted by this delightful smile over the years, but I can tell you it brightened my day every time.  Most days, the smile was accompanied by a “Hiiiiiii Beckie, how was your day?” And no matter how boring my story, he’d listen intently and make me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world.  

Ben and Jay

Ben was a mainstay around our house, my husband’s best friend and constant companion.  Hunting, fishing, concerts and campfires – you name it – Ben and Jay had more fun and experiences to pack into a lifetime.  Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall, they would travel to the great North – to them the greatest place on earth.  They were kindred spirits and much more like brothers than friends.  Ben looked up to Jay – and Jay got a huge kick out of Ben.  He often joked that whenever Ben walked in to the room, it became the “Ben Show,” because he lit up the room and made sure everyone had fun.  Everything he did was big and fun and full of energy.

We were so happy when Ben met Sara – he took no time at all to realize she was his dream girl and marry her.  In true Ben style, their wedding was a three-day weekend event in the north, where we had the pleasure of bonding with their families as they were joined together.  ry%3D400I’ve never met a couple so well suited for one another.  A Wisconsin native, Sara grew up loving the outdoors.  NYShe liked to fish AND don her camouflage, grab a book and hang out with Ben in his deer blind (while I stayed inside scrapbooking).   She grew to cherish his beloved cottage “John’s Buckhorn Lodge” as much as he did and took great care of it.

The four of us shared many happy times together.  Jay and Sara were the quiet ones and Ben and me the gabbers…so if you witnessed us at the dinner table, you would think Jay and Sara were watching a tennis match as they watched Ben and me “lobbing” comments back-and-forth. 

Yankee Stadium

We rang in every New Year together and enjoyed vacation time.  We went to New York the summer before last and had the time of our lives.  This photo was taken at a Yankees game – one of the last in the old stadium.  Ben was so proud that he scored the tickets for us.  After the game, we hung out at a neighborhood bar, sang and danced the night away with the Yankee and visiting Minnesota Twins fans.

BennyJust four months ago, Ben learned that he had Stage 4 Lymphoma.  Several large tumors were invading his body and the fight began.  He handled the news with grace and was determined to remain positive and beat this awful disease.  Always a well-informed man, he started exhaustive research about his cancer and how to fight it.  He kept everyone around him positive and hopeful that he could win the battle.  As time went by, the fight became harder and harder.  Hope never wavering as been became weaker.  His family and my husband rallied around him providing constant care and support.  

ry%3D4001Every morning, the first thing Jay would do is call, text or visit Ben and help him with anything he or Sara needed.  He wanted him to know he was there and would do anything for him.  They had a wonderful bond and watching their friendship while Ben fought for his life was heartwarming and inspiring.  The gift of true friendship is precious and rare and they were so blessed to have it.

Ben lost his battle last week and we are truly lost without him.  How do you let go of this 32-year-old bright light?  How does a wife let go of her husband of nearly 5 years?  How does a best friend let go of the buddy that was a part of best times of his life?  How do two sisters let go of their big brother?  And how do parents let go of their firstborn child?  It all seems unimaginable.  “Big Ben, Benny, The Kid – the guy described by his dad as someone who “attacked life” – How do you let go of him? 

The answer is, you never do.  We will carry him with us always and he will walk with us when we need him.  He will still make us laugh and always inspire us.  Ben’s smile has gone up to Heaven, but it is forever in our hearts.

Farewell for now, Benny.  We love you so. 

NY 5

1 comment:

EmKDee said...

A wonderful tribute, wonderfully written. Love you guys.