Fight for Preemies Day – Benjamin’s Eulogy

As I’ve noted earlier, we buried Benjamin with the plush turtle we had bought for him on our cruise that summer and the blanket we bought for him a day earlier. The night before the funeral, I wrote a poem/eulogy for him. I only had time to write out one copy longhand, and so I did not put it into his little styrofoam casket with him even though I felt a little guilty about it, because I had a feeling that someday I would want to publish it. As it turns out, that day is today: Bloggers Unite to Fight for Preemies Day.

Join me in the Fight for Preemies!Today, we post to mobilize people to help fight prematurity. Every year, 13 million babies are born prematurely worldwide. One million of them die. Many survivors are left with major disabilities. While Benjamin (born at 22 weeks) was one of the unlucky preemies, our second son (born at 28 weeks) was much luckier. While The Kid has severe asthma, impaired vision and other minor issues, he is mentally and emotionally gifted. He is physically talented, as well, being a wonderful dancer. But we need to shrink the number of babies being born prematurely, and to help make sure that those who are born too soon have a future more like The Kid and less like Benjamin.

The March of Dimes has made tremendous strides in fighting prematurity and for helping premature babies to survive. It was treatment regimens and therapies developed through the March of Dimes that helped The Kid to survive. You can help by supporting the March of Dimes. Just click one of the links on the right-hand side of this page. If you’re viewing this post with an RSS reader and don’t see the right-hand side of the page, you can click here to donate to my March of Dimes fundraising campaign or here to donate generically to the March of Dimes.

I hadn’t even read this poem/eulogy since I read it at the funeral until I typed it in to post on the blog. It’s funny how some of the little points had escaped my memory over the last 18 years. Now I choose to share those memories with you. If they move you, please help other preemies to survive. Meanwhile, grab a few tissues. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Hello Benjamin.

I am your father.

I wrote this last night
because there are some things
that I need to say to you
before I say goodbye to you.

Your mother and I
always loved you
and will always love you
more than words could ever say.

We were so looking forward
to meeting you, and
getting to know you.

You were so anxious to meet us
that you forgot to wait
to grow the lungs
you needed to breathe.

You came to join us,
but you weren’t ready yet.
Five minutes later,
you had to move along.

We weren’t prepared to say “hello”
let alone “goodbye,”
but “hello” and “goodbye”
must be said.

I saw you when you first
came into the world.
It looked like you were
waving your arm at me.

Be the time we were
able to hold you,
you were already gone.

Your mother says you
look like me.
I’m not so sure,
but she’s usually right.

You looked so perfect in my arms.
You really are a beautiful boy.
Your little body was so
exquisite, yet fragile,
and the little triangle bruise
on your nose was the cutest thing.

We had so many plans
and hopes and dreams for you,
but they will never come to be.

The strangest things
make me think of you.
A book I planned to read to you…
A park we were going to play in…
Some of my old things that I was going to give to you…
Even the construction that I hoped would be complete
before the time I expected to be rushing to the
hospital to meet you.

Your mother and I bought a turtle
for you when we first
found out you were
on your way to meet us.

We thought about putting it away
for your first brother or sister
to come along.

But we decided that you should have it
to take with you into that
great unknown that you enter.

Please remember that it carries with it
all the love and care we used
when we picked it out.

You were born, you lived, you died.
Many dreams died with you.

You will eventually have brothers and sisters
who will never know you,
but your mother and I
will tell them about you,
and about the love that surrounded you.

They will also be loved greatly,
but you are special.

You are our first-born son.

Your brief life also did
another wonderful thing.

It brought your mother and father,
and all your relatives
even closer together,
and also helped your parents
realize what wonderful friends they have.

We weren’t even ready for “hello”
but now we must say “goodbye.”

Your life was short,
but you had time enough to give.

We will always love you.

Goodbye, Benjamin.

Goodbye, my son.

Sleep peacefully.

I love you.

Love,
Daddy

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5 Responses to Fight for Preemies Day – Benjamin’s Eulogy

  1. MoDBarb says:

    You were right….I needed tissues. Your poem in memory of your son truly touched me. Even thought it has been 18 years, I am moved by the way you honored him. Your courage and strength in continuing to fight for Preemies everywhere is truly remarkable. On behalf of the March of Dimes, thank you….Thank You….for all you do in helping us in the fight against prematurity. We fight for Preemies everywhere…because they shouldn’t have to.

  2. John Friedman says:

    Mark,

    Today I join you in remembering Fred and mourning his passing. I know that I only met him at your wedding, but the stories of him over the years gave me a good measure of the man. He was an inspiration and gave hope to so many, not merely for living with HIV/AIDS for so long, but what he did with his life. His legacy lives on in the hearts, minds and souls of those he touched. He made life better for people he met, and those he never met. A tremendous personal accomplishment.

    Today I read for the first time – and became aware for the first time – of the poem you wrote for Benjamin. Wow. Tissues is right my friend. It hardly seems possible that it was 18 years ago … Like Fred, his time on Earth was unfairly cut short. But, like his great-Uncle, Benjamin’s legacy is in the awareness and money you have helped raise over the years that have helped fuel the medical advances that allowed his younger brother to live the life that he is today.

    With much love,
    John, Karen and Alex

  3. ModBev says:

    Mark, you told me all along that this would be a tearful post and you were right (reached for the tissues mid-way through.) Thank you for sharing this. I hope it will help others who have been in your shoes.

  4. Mark says:

    Thanks, John. I know that you would have been at Benjamin’s funeral if you could have. But we were all still really just getting started, and trying to stay employed so that we could pay the bills was still of paramount importance. We saw you soon enough afterward, and after more than 28 years I’m still glad to consider you my closest friend that I’m not married to. 🙂 Love back to all of you guys, and we’ll see you soon.

  5. Mark says:

    Barb and Bev, thanks for stopping by again. As you say, Bev, I too hope that this will help others. It’s a hard-learned lesson, and if I can make it easier for someone else, I will be proud to do it. You two please keep doing what you’re doing, and we can hope that the number of parents who need this kind of support will dwindle to virtual nothingness.

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