A memory of Joe

Barbara Benson

Joe was my stepson. I first met him when he had just turned 4. It was just after Christmas. It wasn't obvious to the casual observer that Joe had severe learning disabilities. At that age he was just a loving, affectionate little boy with big brown eyes and a shy smile. I am unable to have children of my own, and Joe and his brother Chris filled a place in my heart that I thought was going to remain empty. After years of weekly visitation, when Joe was 15 he and his brother moved in with his Dad and I full time. That piece of my heart that Joe had was ripped out on February 23, 1993. I got a phone call at work that he had been rushed to the local hospital after collaping at school during a gym class. I picked up his father at work and rushed to the hospital. By the time we got there he was gone. He had just turned 20 years old. No one has yet to give a concrete explanation of what caused his death.

He had myatonic dystrophy (one of the many forms of muscular dystrophy) but was fine when he left for school that morning. I would like to share part of the euology written and delivered by his aunt's sister.

On the outside Joey was like and unlike a million other kids, but on the inside he was different. There was something about Joey Benson that made all of us want to listen to what he said - spend time with him at a cookout or watch him dance a family party. He had his own magic. He couldn't get enough of life or anything else he loved. I'm told he watched the movie "The Lost Boys" at least one hundred times and played the songs from "Beaches" over and over. There was something in him we couldn't resist. I think it was because he was not afraid to have the wonder of a child ... to see with his heart, as well as his gentle brown eyes.

In a world where children don't stay innocent too long - Joey remained innocent and sweet ... showed us all a piece of God. He also showed the kids at camp where he was a counselor by his kindness on field trips or helping them find lost clothes in the locker room. He showed his friends at the Special Olympics when he carried the torch or won medals with them. He showed his family by giving his love quietly and pulling us all into his heart because he is God's special angel.

They say as we grow older we lose the ability to believe in angels. Well ... Joey won't let us do that. From now on we'll all be able to believe in angels because we have met one. He may have been an angel with a large appetite who carried around cassettes and loved amusement rides. He may have been an angel with big sneakers and a child's face. He may even have been an angel who for some reason cheered on Hulk Hogan, but none of us could deny that we have been touched by the power of love from an angel.

Jesus said "Unless you become like little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" I believe Joey was welcomed with open arms and with special love ... as God's special angel. And don't doubt for one minute that God loves Joey so much that when you hear thunder from now on ... it is Joey Benson turning up the boom box of heaven.

I still miss Joe deeply, although the tears have mostly dried. I feel that by reading this post you have come to know him a little also. I would welcome any mail from people who have suffered a similar loss.

Barbara Benson


If you wish to write Barbara you can find her at:bbenson@draper.com
mail welcome


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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW