The sky was grey. The grass had been steeped in water all night. And there before us was a rectangular hole in the ground with a small cloth wrapped box in front of it. Regardless of what the weather was doing outside, today was going to be a dark day, because today was the day that my wife and I buried our son.
A haze obscures your sight and a weight on your chest makes it harder for you to breath and your heart to beat. I have lost loved ones before in both my normal and military lives, but I have never felt more detached to this life than anytime before. The death of our son, Bennett, has struck me to the core.
Even though my brain knows that there was nothing that we could possibly do to have prevented his umbilical cord from wrapping around his neck twice and becoming extremely taut, I am haunted by the fact that I was away for so much of his time on earth. I figured, I’m going to have plenty of time with him when he’s born. I said to myself that I’m building a company, I’m achieving something that so few people ever dare to attempt. I told myself to look at all the accolades (from being labeled as one of the Top 50 startups to watch in 2019 to being selected as one of the Top 16 startups in Texas) of the company that you are helping to build. Yet, in the span of 4 days, I lost something that in the end wasn’t that important and I lost someone who was and still is that important.
Having grown up in the shadow of Washington, D.C. I learned from a young age to drive myself hard. My surroundings wouldn’t accept anything less than professional success. You had to have the money, the nice vehicle, and the stylish suits, because if you didn’t have those, how could you measure your success (more importantly, how would other people know of your success?). I pushed myself as hard as I could to obtain the degrees, certifications, and professional experience that I thought would help me be successful. I pushed myself so hard that even on my wedding anniversary trip last year to Greece and some of their beautiful islands, I found myself working rather than spending time with my wife. I often lost sight of what really matters.
Yesterday, we found out from our Rabbi that Bennett’s Hebrew name is Baruch, which means blessed. Last night and today, I felt that his name’s meaning was a cruel joke. I felt as if I were Job and then found myself praying that the Lord wouldn’t allow the same curses to befall my family and I. Yet, as I picked up and gingerly dropped the dirt first to cover Bennett, then to fill in his grave, I realized that my son taught me the most important lesson of all; to love and be there for my family. Work isn’t who I am and it’s not why I live. It’s time for me to live that way.