A Different Kind of Summer


This summer is a different kind of summer for me and my family. We decided to spend the entirety of it in Charleston rather than traveling to Minneapolis. The choice was not an easy one and came with some major consequences. This will be the first year since Sam died that With Purpose will not be hosting our marquee summer event. Moreover, we won’t get to spend significant time with our friends and family in Minnesota, our second home. At the beginning of the summer, these consequences had me feeling a bit deflated, ungrounded, and unsure about myself and what I should be doing. So, I did what I always do when these kinds of feelings arise. I shifted my awareness, my focus. I looked at the opportunities that this summer provided instead of the consequences that our decision created. I asked myself a question. Without a big event to plan and a summer filled with travel, what might I do with my time?

Over the course of a few weeks, the answer seemed clear and it dissolved the anxiety that accompanied the beginning of the summer. I would spend my time with Mike and Ada and Mae. I would teach the girls to ride their bikes and take them to the pool and the beach. We would slow down, sleep in, play games. I would read more books. I would write my own - spend time committing to paper the words that have lived inside my head for the past few years.

So, we got a season pass to the local waterpark and, despite a lot of sunscreen, I am tanner than I have been since the late nineties. The girls haven’t taken to bike-riding yet, but they fell in love with rollerskating. Our mornings are slow, easy, filled with extra coffee and extra time to ease in to the day. I’ve read some incredible books like Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve completed a full draft of my own book and started the process of revising it.

The title of the book is I am happy. It’s about how the process of caring for and losing a terminally ill child incinerated deeply held illusions about what we, as humans, deserve, about the meaning of unconditional love, and about what it means to be happy.  It’s about feeling exposed as cancer and death stripped me of all the things that made me feel secure and simultaneously freed me to become a truer and even happier version of myself.  Ultimately, it is a story about what we gain when we lose the people we love the most.

We will end our summer by celebrating the twins’ golden birthday on August 6th. This birthday is VERY IMPORTANT to the twins. They have been planning and re-planning it since their last birthday party. I’m not joking. The theme, location, guest list have all changed month-to-month, sometimes week-to-week. We’ve talked about their party almost daily for an entire year. This week, faced with a deadline, they finalized their theme. “Mom, we want a With Purpose party.” My heart soared. I love how close they keep their brother, how they try to include him in their life in the ways they can. Their decision also reminded me of how hopeful I am about our mission of empowering young people. Young people have a super power: they believe they can change the world. I believe they can too.

I hope your summer is filled with fun, love and purpose.

Erin Benson