I've been thinking a lot lately about my Great Aunt Bennie. We named baby Ben in honor of her. She died almost 10 years ago, though it seems like only yesterday. Now that I have my own little Bennie in the house, it's almost impossible not to think of her on a daily basis.
Aunt Ben was one of the most important and influencial people in my life. I suppose she sort of filled the role of a third grandmother to me... but she was truly more of a best girlfriend, in spite of the sixty or so years difference in our age.
I admired Aunt Ben for so many reasons. To start, she went to college when it wasn't common for a woman to do so, and she became a teacher - a special education teacher. She was married for over 70 years to my Great Uncle Govie. She was smart, kind, brave, faithful, loving, quick-witted, and funny. Throughout my highschool years, she and I would have long phone conversations, and if I was struggling with something in school - be it social or academic - she was certain to have a helpful answer.
Aunt Ben had only one child, a little boy named Paul. He died suddenly when he was 12 years old. She spoke of him rarely. Now being a mother myself, I can't imagine the sadness that must have always remained with her. When things with Ben get hard, I can't help but wish she were here to talk to now...her years of experience, wisdom, and love to share with me.
Knowing the dedication that Aunt Ben had for special needs children, it seems so ironic to me that her namesake is himself a special needs child. It also feels ironic that Ben is, in his own way, already a teacher just as Aunt Ben once was. While caring for baby Ben, he has taught me patience, courage, faith, and determination. He has taught me that smiles can be found when I least expect them. Joy can be found in the smallest victories. Hope isn't just a desperate wish from a sad heart, but instead it is a conscious decision to remain strong and remain open to the possibility for success and unexpected triumph.
Looking at both my children, I feel Aunt Ben's presence. When I think of her, I can imagine her cheering us on... offering supportive words... being in awe of Sarah, and being Ben's biggest fan. I'm so proud to have named my special boy after her, and I know that in spirit, she is quite proud as well. What a blessing for me to have the honor of knowing them both.