Friday, July 16, 2004

March 12th 2001

Me, Ben and Amanda (his girlfriend) all went to her house on that day and just sat around, blaring music and relaxing. A couple other friends came over to chill with us. As always, time passed quickly when having fun with my best friend. It soon became late and I called home to let Doug know I was on my way. As I heard him talking, all slurred speech and annoyed with me I was a bit worried he was going to rage on me when I got home. Always with the "guys and girls cant be friends without having sex" thing, he never really liked me going out with Ben, even though Ben and I worked together, hell, we ran the plant together. And I knew with him being drunk and angry with me it could be ugly when I got there. Ben seen the worried look on my face. "Im following you home." He had done this so many times for me I didn't even speak, just nodded and felt very grateful. He knew that Doug had been abusive to me in the past and would never have allowed himself to be the cause of that, if he had any control over it. Around midnight we got to my house. Ben and Amanda came in with me and we made some small talk with Doug. Ben was very imposing. He never outright threatened Doug but I could always tell in his stance when he was ready to rage if he had to. That night we discussed me, Ben and Amanda going out the next morning/afternoon. Ben was going to come pick me up so I wouldnt have to drive all the way to Roanoke again. We were going to be helping Amanda's brother pack and take him out for lunch for his last day in Roanoke for a while. He was going to be starting college soon and wanted to get to where he was going and settled in before he started in the fall, (and of course party on his new campus before he had to break down and work his ass off in school).  We agreed he would pick me up around noon. Always protecting me, Ben stayed until Doug actually went to bed.
He never ever harrassed me about being with Doug. He never told me I was stupid for staying. Oh, I was very stupid for staying, but he would have never said so. He only did what he could, protect me from Doug, and a bit from myself. Feeling safe with Doug asleep and secure knowing if something DID happen, Ben would swiftly come to my house and beat Dougs ass if he had to, I went to bed.
On the morning of March 13th 2001, Ben took Amanda's brother to wal-mart to get him some extra items he would need for the trip to school. Amanda stayed at home to wait for him to return so they could come get me. It was only Ben and Amanda's brother there that morning, so I suppose no one but those two know exactly what happened.... but I firmly believe he had been shooting that morning. He did keep his word to me by stopping the shooting for several months after our previous discussion the summer before, but he also hid from me the fact that he still did it from time to time. Almost home, there was a set of train tracks Ben had to cross at the end of Buck Mountain Road. Left to his house, right to Amanda's, A T shaped intersection with a stop sigh immediately after the tracks. Ben was superstitious a bit so whenever he crossed train tracks he lifted his feet from the floorboard of the car. You can NOT go more then 25 miles per hour over those tracks, or you would slam right into the phone pole or the house that sat at that top bar of the T intersection. Ben grew up here, he drove over these tracks for years and years. Somehow, crossing those tracks that morning, he went into the ditch. This ditch... it isnt deep enough to cover my head if I stood in it. Im five foot 3. And it isnt wide or long enough to fit a bus in. Somehow, Bens car went into this ditch. Flipping over, he was ejected from the car. The car landed on him. He did not die instantly, I dont know how long he lay there suffering, but Amanda's brother got out unscathed. And was there with Ben when he did pass. He would never really talk about the accident to anyone. Im sure it cut him deeply, and into silence.
Ben wrecking like that..... was amazing to me. This was a guy with whom him and I used to take breaks from work at Plastics One, right across those same tracks, and we would speed through the back roads of Southwest, and laugh at the danger of it. We even made a game out of trying to guess what pieces of his car flew off when we hit bumps too hard and seen pieces fly. Sure, thats stupid as hell, but thats the kind of relationship we had. He would push the limits, trying to scare me, and I would show him he couldnt. But wreck? He was an incredible driver. Wreck at 25 miles per hour. Impossible, unless you were nodding in and out of a heroin haze. No, he didnt overdose, and Amanda's brother said he was very awake when the car flipped. I'll never forget the call.
Around 11 am Amanda called me. I could hear the strain in her voice. It is like people say when something horrific happens, slow motion, surreal. "Joy, Ben wont be able to pick you up today." "That sucks, I was looking forward to it, why not what are you guys going to get into?" "Nothing Joy, Ben is dead." And thinking back on how cruel my next words to her must have seemed, I feel horrible. But I was so in denial, no way my angel was dead. Angels dont die. They live to protect those who need it. I needed it desperately. "Amanda, dont fuck with me like that, thats fucking sick." "Joy, Id never fuck with you about that or about Ben, hes dead Joy, hes gone, forever."
She broke down, I broke down, she told me how he had died and we hung up. I remember laying on my couch, saying over and over, silently at first, until I was screaming in between sobs, Bens dead...... Bens dead. At that very moment I wanted to be dead with him. Doug rushed in to see what I was screaming about. Once he heard, he fell to his knees in front of me, and I know with my heart and soul he was feeling so guilty, about the accusations, about not trusting me and Ben together. I didnt care. I wanted death, and I wanted it that very moment. I wanted to follow Ben quickly to the other side, wherever that is, and be there with him forever.  I felt hollowed out. I felt empty beyond words and comprehension. I felt completely soulless. My world was black, void, nothing in it worth even opening my eyes to look at. There was a song that I played, over and over, that kept me sane. It kept me crying, but crying I knew kept me alive. There was no emotion I felt besides pain. It still hurts, fresh, like it was yesterday he left me. That week, the funeral, that month, that year.... was a haze for me. A cold and angry haze. I felt so much hatred and venom for anyone and everyone. None of them could replace him in my heart, ever. I withdrew, not even into myself... just away. Another world, another place where best friends didnt die, and good mothers didnt lose their babies.
Im still trying to let Ben go. It seems impossible even today. I will never forget him, or let his memory, or the incredible person he was fade from my heart. But I feel like my pain is his, and I'm scared to stop hurting for him, as if stopping would cause him to have never existed.
In loving memory of

Benjamin Royden Campbell

10/30/77 - 03/13/01
"I never wanted to write these words down for you. With the pages of phrases of things we will never do. So I blow out the candle, and I put you to bed. Since you cant say to me now, how the dog broke your bone, theres just one thing left to be said.... say hello to heaven."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Summer 2000

Ben and I went to Mike James house to relax, have a drink or two and just enjoy the day. Ben wasnt himself. He was very groggy and his speech was more slurred then a couple of beers would have caused. I was curious but as a friend I didnt question him or nag, I only observed and was on guard for rushing him to the hospital if he got to where it needed to be done.

He went to the bathroom, he was in there for over 20 minutes. I was getting really concerned. He finally came out and I was shocked, scared to death for him. He was way off. Groggy didnt come close, eyes slitted, looking pale as if he had been sick. He was smiling, a sick twisted smile. I realized then what was going on. He was shooting up, heroin, I knew it. I had no idea how to confront this with him but I knew I would. A few hours later I was driving him home when I brought it up. "Ben, I know what you're doing". He just looked at me, and the sick twisted smile was gone, there were tears in his eyes. If I thought I was scared before, seeing tears in the eyes of my strongest friend was horrific. As we pulled into his parents driveway, he broke down. He explained to me he knew it was an awful thing to be doing. That he wanted help, he wanted to tell his parents. Both of his parents are well known drug/youth counselors in Roanoke. He was horrified by the thought that his parents would be humiliated by his actions. "How can I tell them Joy?? Where can I go for help? All the drug counselors know each other in this city, they all know my mom, they all know my dad. My parents have been too wonderful to me to kick them in the teeth this way." I understood, totally. But he still needed a reality check. He still needed help. He told me he was considering going to another state for help.

I got angry, angry out of love really fast sitting there listening to him in pain. I told him he had 2 weeks to tell his mom what he was doing and get her help with it, before I told her myself. He cried like a child then. He started begging me not to hurt his mom like that. I got really cruel, I had to, for his life, for love of him. "Hurt her??? How about burying her baby? Her youngest son? You think thats going to hurt her?". I told him to do me a favor right then and there. I told him to picture his mothers face, standing at his own funeral. I told him to imagine her guilt, her feelings of failure being a drug counselor and having a son who overdosed. Of course I thought he would die from an overdose. Ben never did anything insignificant. If he did anything, drive, love, work, he did it in leaps and bounds. I could see him thinking, pondering what I had asked him to. He lost it, he started sobbing, and he clung so tightly to me I could hardly breath. I told him I loved him and wasnt trying to hurt him, only make him see. "I know" He did know. We had both taken the tough love stance with each other from day one. He told me he loved me too and that he didnt know what he would do without me.

There was never any sexual relationship between him and I. Oh he was a fine looking guy, 6 foot 1, 190 lbs, beautiful blue eyes, and all the bluntness that I love in human beings and pray for in a friend. Intitially I had a little crush on him. That crush led to the most honest, open and healthy friendship I had shared since Steves death 8 years before.

After holding him for about 15 minutes while he cried, he looked at me and promised he would change this. That he wouldnt die on me, that he would always be there for me. After he got out of the car and went inside, I took a deep breath, backed out of his driveway, and cried, big huge sobbing noisy tears, the whole 25 minute ride home. I had a horrible feeling. I had a horrible notion I would again be alone in this world. Sure, I was married, had a husband and children, but my husband had stopped being my best friend long before, all I had... was Ben.

I need a sign to let me know you’re here
All of these lines are being crossed over the atmosphere
I need to know that things are gonna look up
‘Cause I feel us drowning in a sea spilled from a cup

When there is no place safe and no safe place to put my head
When you feel the world shake from the words that are said

I wont give up if you dont give up
I wont give up if you dont give up

I need a sign to let me know you’re here
‘Cause my TV set just keeps it all from being clear
I want a reason for the way things have to be
I need a hand to help build up some kind of hope inside of me

And I’m calling all angels
I’m calling all you angels

When children have to play inside so they don’t disappear
And private eyes solve marriage lies cause we don’t talk for years
And football teams are kissing Queens and losing sight of having dreams
In a world that what we want is only what we want until it’s ours

I’m calling all angels
I’m calling all you angels


My world shook that night, just when you think things cant get worse...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bens Love

The day Ben died, a huge part of my heart and soul did too. I had never felt more alone in the world. My angel, the one willing to defend me even when I might be wrong, was gone. Forever. I thought back to all the times we had discussed death, lightheartedly, and realized that it was those conversations that would pull me through the next few days, the funeral, seeing his mother again except this time her baby was dead and gone. A few days before I had seen her while sitting with Ben in his room, I couldnt fathom the pain she must have felt, but I had a good idea. This beautiful mother, the mother that still wore her hair long and without some kind of motherly hair-do. The same person I knew I would be at her age. The same mother that spend so much time loving other kids, kids who didnt have a parent so caring or understanding as her. How could I comfort her? I was barely holding me together. Ben and I had discussed how we wanted to be cremated when we died. So he was. It was hard to be at the funeral home without seeing him there. It was then I came to full realization that the soul is the person, not the body. Id never visit another gravesite as I had been doing for Steve... because I realized with great impact, that my loved ones were not there. Their souls didnt linger around their graves. Their souls were with their loved ones. Watching, comforting, and sometimes sending a message. I went through that funeral with blinders on. I offered the comfort to those who I knew needed it. Diane, bens mom, who was smiling and trying to maintain, took one look at me and she could see the lost look on my face, it broke her heart in half. I was partially ashamed of myself for causing her more pain, but also relieved that she knew how very much I had loved him. And that loss of love had put that look on my face.

A week after Ben died a friend I hadnt spoke to for about 3 months called my mothers house and begged for my new number. My mother always wary about giving out my number sensed the urgency in her voice and gave it to her. She called. The conversation was almost exactly this.
Joy, I have to tell you something. I know you might not be ready to hear this but I have to. I had a dream about Ben last night. (She dreamed of Ben??? She hardly knew him) He told me a couple of things in this dream. He told me to tell you it was ok, he is ok. He told me to tell you he is there for you, now and forever. Those were his words Joy, Now and forever. But you have to let him rest Joy, he cant be there for you when you are so angry at the world and blocking everyone out. You're blocking him out too you know. In tears and anger I ended the conversation immediately.

Id never block him out! But was I? Was my inability to see into a future without my best friend enough to keep his warm soul from comforting my cold one? When Steve died I had felt him there almost immediately. Im almost sure it was his strength that drug me to the phone to call his friends to tell them he had died. But I had not felt Bens presence. I was angry about that too. I loved him, he knew it. I needed him in any way I could have him. I had so much to say to him and I never got to.

Any fears I had of death, even after losing Steve, were erased in that moment. Ben would be there with open arms when my time came. This I know.

How can "God" be so cruel. Sure yea, Ive heard about how sometimes God takes his angels back to heaven earlier then earthly beings expect. But fuck that and fuck you God, that was my angel you took. Faith? You wish me to have faith in someone who would rob me of the other half of the soul I had after Steve died? Leave me here to suffer the abuse alone? Take from me the only person in my world who felt my life was worth saving. Why the fuck not take me? Im the bitter one, Im the ugly one, Im the one that hates you. You could have taken me and sent me straight to hell to teach me a lesson. Instead, you took from earth a good man, one who would be a better parent then I could ever be. One who loved and honored and obeyed his parents. Maybe thats why this world of yours is so fucked up, you take the Soulfull and leave the Soulless to scramble without them.

Good job.