THE BEREAVED FATHER – published 20/6/2020 Irish Times
Benji Bennett (49), an author and publisher, is Dad to Harry (19), Robbie (13) and Molly (12). He is also dad to Adam, who died in 2007 from an undiagnosed brain tumour aged 4. He, his children and wife, Jackie, live in Dublin.
“Adam was a unique little boy, a real head-turner, complemented with giddiness and lovely charm. Three days before August 13th, he complained of a headache, and after a couple of nights we brought him to the hospital. After a seizure, he went unconscious. It was a really weird experience – it wasn’t a trauma like a car crash or a fall. It was very calm. When Adam went unconscious I was still thinking, ‘he’ll be fine.’
“The doctors brought him in for a scan and I never let go of his hand. The one memory I have of that moment was seeing the doctors watching the monitor, and the looks on their faces. They said that the tumour was the size of a tennis ball and that there wasn’t much hope for him. You can’t accept news like that, it’s like thinking about how big the universe is. You can’t comprehend it. I went down to the chapel in Beaumont, got on my knees and prayed, ‘don’t take him.’
“We lay down beside him, rubbed his head, sang to him. He had no top on, and my first instinct was to rip open my shirt and hold him. I knew it was the last time I’d feel his skin so warm, and I had to have that. I remember thinking, ‘not enough people know my boy.’ I thought I’d have the rest of my life to show him off, and to see him play rugby and think, ‘that’s my boy.’ That’s why I wrote the [Adam’s Cloud series of] books, because the world needs to know about Adam.
When you lose a child, some men will go, ‘I don’t want to talk about this, the pain is too much, I need to banish it’
“Not everyone knows the importance of spending time with your children and I’m glad we knew that. We told Adam we loved him every day, and any time he asked to kick a ball about, we did it. We are closer as a family: when there’s a row we do our best to make sure it doesn’t go on too long. That’s the essence of everything that has gone on since.
“When you lose a child, some men will go, ‘I don’t want to talk about this, the pain is too much, I need to banish it.’ Some turn to the drink, others want to climb Mount Everest. Their reaction is not a measure of how much they loved their child – it’s just where their mental strength brings them. My experience is like a switch. Some moments you feel that we will be positive and celebrate Adam, and live and laugh for him. Other times, you may feel you’ll never be able to survive. If you can get help early on, you can turn your switch to the positive.”
Written by Tanya Sweeney
The Adam’s Cloud series of books are at www.adamscloud.com