On the eve of the publication of my book, Before you Sleep, in the UK and USA I find myself in a fortunate position to have been granted a most precious gift, a family.
I’ve been blessed with four wonderful children – Adam, Harry, Robbie and Molly – and I am also incredibly lucky to be married to Jackie, a most extraordinary woman who has helped me to realise that, love laughter and fun in the family, is the most powerful, dependable, and enduring force that protects the human spirit from obliteration when faced with adversity, fear, pain and loss.
However, acquiring this feeling of gratitude and contentment has been hard fought and seemed an impossible dream eight years ago.
It was then that our world imploded on itself when Adam, our beautiful four year-old, golden-haired, brown eyed, giddy giggler was lost to us within hours of taking ill with an undiagnosed brain tumour.
As dawn approached on a balmy August morning, tranquility and peace transcended the intensive care unit where Adam lay still for so many hours and Jackie and I lay beside him cherishing what we knew to be our final moments with him.
Just as Adam had arrived into the world with a ray of morning sunshine kissing his newborn head so too had he left us at dawn in loving silence surrounded by adoring parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. In a puff he was gone to his cloud.
Shock, disbelief and denial were followed by desperate attempts to wake myself up from a relentless and enduring nightmare from which there was no escape. Squirming, clutching my stomach in a feeble attempt to ease my gut wrenching pain I begged for relief as I sat broken and hopeless. Life was over.
There was no air, the simple act of drawing a breath became panicked, claustrophobic and at times seemed pointless as it would mean I would have to continue living and endure another unbearable minute.
However, with Jackie’s strength, love and outlook on life and the responsibility to save the beauty and innocence of Harry and Robbie’s childhood, I knew something had to be done to save what we had and rebuild our lives in an attempt to create a happy life without Adam.
It is only now as I reflect on my journey that that I realise that there was an unexplained forceful energy that gave me moments of peace. The epicentre of this force was what I believe to be Adam’s Message, a reminder to me of the importance of love, laughter and fun in the family.
Guided by his simple message and philosophy every decision and action I took was driven by a burning ambition to write and publish a book in memory of Adam that would be filled with everything beautiful, innocent and fun about him in the hope that other parents would share in his magic.
The prospect of a parent snuggled up under the duvet and expressing their affection for their children would prove to be a wonderful legacy for Adam and something for me to concentrate on.
As my strength and confidence began to grow so too did my passion to help other parents create magical moments and be able to tell their children they are loved through a book.
Soon my first book was conceived. Safely backed up on crumpled pieces of paper that were constantly stuffed in my pocket I shared my various drafts and updates with anyone who cared to listen.
As I showed my scraps of paper to concerned family and friends the reaction naturally enough was very positive.
In fairness who was going to tell me that my book was a pile of dribble when they were confronted by a person who had a sorry excuse for a scruffy beard, wore his jumper inside out and back to front and looked like he were going to burst into tears if you simply asked them if they wanted a cup of tea.
Thankfully this positivity was not contained to family and friends as the reaction when I published Before You Sleep on the first anniversary of Adam’s death was quite simply breath-taking.
My book of love went on to outsell the Gruffalo and won the Best Children’s book at the Irish book Awards. To explain how this made me feel would be very difficult without sounding like a crazy person. So let’s just say it gives me huge comfort and inner peace.
Since all of this started I have continued writing and have been lucky to win the Irish Book Awards a second time for my next book I wrote When You Were Born.
My hope is to bring more love to the world through Adam’s memory and I hope even more parents will join the Adams Army on Facebook.com/AdamsCloud page.
If you have managed to read this far my sincere thanks for taking the time to hear my story.
Sweet Dreams, With Love, Benji Bennett