Tag Archives: Cole Bent

Gold Star Mother’s Day

30 Sep

Stepping into a new world, one learns the culture slowly. I am one such person when it came (or comes) to military association. In fact I didn’t know there was a Gold Star Mother’s Day until Maria Shriver reached out, about three weeks ago, and asked me to write a piece in honor of the occasion. I have used the Gold Star name association in the past to help convey to people quickly that I, and my family, are “a man down.” I have also done my research on the Gold and Blue star flags and their meaning to ensure I qualify. At any rate, I won’t go on and on about it because I can simply direct you to MariaShriver.com where she has shared the piece today. And of course, you can also read it here below–


The Label of Love, by Rivka Bent

I confess, labels are hard for me. Not that I don’t love several brands whose label signifies something special. I do have dreams of owning a true Chanel dress and a brand-new pair of Dior shoes. But I choose instead clothes that conceal the label just as my only pair of Yves Saint Laurent shoes are devoid an outer marker. It is just a weird quirk of mine, this label aversion. There is one label I love, however, and for which I make an exception. It is the label of Mom. I have absolutely loved wearing this label since earning it 27+ years ago.

When my children were young and called for me, “Mooooooooommmmm,” the name actually sent a soothing calm over my being and brought a satisfied smile to my face. I did not dread the name calling, I very much embraced it. As my son inched closer to adolescence, he replaced the long-winded call with a quick witted “Mama.” To which I answered by quoting the goofy country song, “Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…,” and would then happily attend to his summons while enjoying the giggle of my own absurdity. Both my children have called me “mom,” and no matter the tone, the label for which it stands has been a source of joy for me always. In fact, it is the label of mother that really struck me about Maria (Shriver). I felt an indirect empowerment from her simply because the first word choice in her biographical title is that of mother. Her inclusion showcases the importance of that role for her and touches me because I echo her sentiments and have loved every minute of my maternal work.

Given this little snippet into my label challenges and my love of mothering, one can imagine the wrestling I’ve had with the seal of Gold Star Mom. While I have sometimes used the new moniker in attempt to ward off further conversation about my son and his demise, concurrently I have also been hiding from it. Quite frankly the Gold Star Mom label I never wanted. But then what mother does? In my grief I see the label as solidifying my story, a reality that’s not supposed to be mine–ever! And even with the understanding that this new status symbol acts as a deflector of sorts, I still question its label value and why I would, or should, showcase it.

With Gold Star Mother’s Day coming up on September 30, my mind is fixed on the company of women to which I now belong. It is in recognizing these other women, I have been better able to see myself. As such, I’ve actually had to set my kicking and screaming aside and allow the honor of the label to shine. My resistance is testament to all of us wearing the brand, for none of us wants to belong to it, let alone wear it! Yet each of us has a story associated with the gold star, and beyond our story is the honor of the sacrifice of our child. If I allow it, my Gold Star tells the story of the 400+ people in attendance at the military processional for my son at the National Cemetery where he is interred. It also speaks of the 21-gun salute signifying his Honorable burial, and then lingers at the somber Presentation of The Flag from the knee-bended Marine who humbly bestowed me the triangular folded stars and stripes. It, tells the story for me.

I am learning, albeit slowly, to wear this Gold Star Mom label with the dignity it is due. Not to shine light upon myself only, but to shine light upon the pathway of honor taken by my son in his short-lived military career. This same recognition glistens brightly for all Gold Star labeled mothers. We wear the label because our fallen are honored by its significance and honoring them is testament of our undying motherly love. Please consider, this 30th of September, to treat an active military person to something special and please, do it in honor of their mom.

Memorial Day, Maria Shriver and Me

28 May

This past couple of years my professional life has allowed me to interface with Maria Shriver and her team at Shriver Media. I have become increasingly touched by her Executive Producer, Sandy Gleysteen, as she and I have worked together to help bring the program, Architects of Change (AOC), to the scholastic level. I have also had the privilege to share company with Maria and others from her inner circle (just a few, as Maria’s inner circle is bigger than my hometown!) for bits of time, here and there within the last couple of years. I am touched by them because of their authenticity. Maria especially has been quite transparent, sharing her own life’s lessons, goals and struggles through her book tour, I’ve Been Thinking.... Back in March, after an AOC live conversation with her, we had time to talk a little bit about life. The subject of children came up and I did my best to deflect the conversation by stating “I’m a Gold Star Mom.” Usually, I can divert the talk away from me with that singular statement–not with Maria! She is a journalist after all and she walks away from nothing (or at least that is my impression). My secret was not safe with her and within minutes she and her team were learning of my son, Cole, and my heartbreak. We were just outside of my office where symbolism of my children reside, such as an inch high bottle of Tabasco sauce, reminding me (only) of Cole’s tour in Afghanistan where the MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat) were so horrible he asked all of us to send him as many, mini-sized hot sauces as we could find so he and his fellow Marines could doctor the “food.” Pretty soon, with just a few snippets of insight, we were all wiping away tears. And Maria, in her straightforward Bostonian tongue, invited me to write a piece “from the Gold Star mother” perspective for her Sunday Paper, Memorial Day 2018 edition.

Knowing that AOC is about learning from one another’s stories to empower change for the good within ourselves first and then allowing the ripple effects of that goodness to extend beyond our own vision and reach, Maria challenged me to tell the story of how I get up out of bed and keep going. She reminded me that some people, after loss, cannot find the strength to do so and for some reason, my carrying on while bearing the intensity of my sorrow touched her. And so back in March, I began to think of why I keep going. I was given a 700 word limit and a deadline. I was also left to face aspects of my own story that I strategically ignore, which is not fun especially when the story cannot be fixed (corrected). And even now, after sharing my story via MariaShriver.Com, I am wondering…can I move beyond my disappointment and pain, turn a corner from it? I wonder this because while I am still balancing the weight of losing Cole, my soul remains burdened by it–an open wound that can bleed at any minute. I don’t have an answer to my own question just yet, but Maria Shriver definitely has me thinking!

At any rate, I hunkered down on Mother’s Day and gave way to writing. And just yesterday, Maria’s Sunday Paper hit email inboxes with her own sharing of new beginnings along with my short tribute (and inspirations from a few other amazing people). You can read my story directly on Maria’s Sunday Paper: The Power of New Beginnings by scrolling down and clicking on the photo of Cole and me.

OR, you can read it here below–

I am blessed to be the mother of two. And like my last name, Bent, so too is the Gold Star which envelops me. You see my son was returned home from the front lines in Afghanistan, OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), with the injury that would later claim his life. And as I write this with the shaky hands of a mother bearing the extreme loss of her son, I am grateful for the extra time I was given to witness the strength, honor and courage first hand of my United States Marine Warrior, Cole Bent, while he fought to survive.

The month of May is a tough time for families remembering their fallen loved ones. For me the month is a succession of painful reminders. I begin with Mother’s Day as I celebrate the role that gave me ultimate purpose, while also bearing the knowledge I am “a man down,” though still in the game. I then move on to the worst day of my life, May 17, when the authorities infiltrated with the horrid news no mother should have to hear, “your son is gone.” And then to the finish line of a national holiday where the entire nation remembers the bravery of the military deceased, those who have selflessly trained and honed their craft to preserve the freedom of our United States. Yes, May is a tough month to be sure.

Maria has asked me to write from this place of grief because she has known me only as having a spunk in my step, a smile upon my face and a forward motion in life that masks this inner turmoil hidden beneath the Bent Gold Star. How does one continue on with such a rift in the maternal walk of life? This question has been following me like a ferocious lion ever since she [Maria] posed it. At every proverbial turn, however, the answer remains the same; love and honor. I am compelled forward by love. The love of my son is insurmountable; yes I use the word “is” because though his physical being is gone from my world the love of him remains brilliantly alive. Love of my daughter, who needs a mother still. Love of my husband, best friend and father of our two children. Love of my family and friends who have walked this Bent road alongside us. Truly it is love, which precludes me from my selfishness.

When faced with the unbearable weight of the news of death, I fell. I fell into my bed unable to physically function—no eating, no drinking…no need! And yet in my desire to allow the grief to overtake me, I couldn’t help remembering the incredible strength of my Marine. The honor, which he so sought by enlisting in the Corps, and the focus of his commitment, are undeniable truths I could not avoid. And still today, I can not allow myself to disengage in this life, while knowing first hand the incredible sacrifices of our military personnel—a world I have been brought into through Cole. This knowledge coupled with love keeps me engaged to this life and to the ones still here.

To be fair (and honest really), I am nowhere near having the strength I long for. The desire I carry to advocate for our veterans and injured military lies within me, dormant, because my own grief still gets in the way. I hope time will assuage this, but the weight of the burden remains unaltered from the moment the golden star was placed upon me, though my soul muscles are more accustomed to carrying it. In the present, the best I can offer is to step out of my bed determined to give and receive love with those who are in my path and to find gratitude in the moments this side of Heaven I am still privy to.

This Memorial Day 2018, I will visit the National Cemetery home to Cole’s remains. I will take time to read the details on headstones surrounding his and recognize the incredible sacrifice of many to preserve freedom. As Cole’s mom, I cannot help but notice he is surrounded by lives long lived. This is the struggle I will again bear as his marble displays the sad truth of a life cut short at 22 years. I will have to, once more, draw upon love and honor to pull myself up from the depths of maternal loss because his legacy deserves that from me. LCpl Bent, not only served our country, he gave our family insight into a world of hard-core commitment and determination. It is for Cole Bent I share my story and give a proper Marine shout…“Oorah my son, Oorah!”

The Little Spider that Couldn’t

21 Nov

A snapshot into my morning…

This morning I opened my son, Cole’s, bedroom door to let the sun and air infiltrate. I said hello to his Vans (shoes) that are bedside, still awaiting his return. Only they were pushed under the bed too far and not quite as visible as I prefer. I pulled them out, cobwebs and all, so they are positioned according to my neurosis. Just then a little spider came crawling out but to no avail, as I promptly used Cole’s shoe to squash it. “Not today little spider,” as I speak to the freshly deceased, “these shoes are not for you, they belong to Cole.” Yes, I speak to the spider as if the dialogue is viable and understood in the order of things.

…that is how I roll, which is part of how I mourn, grieve and honor the memory of Cole.

Now moving past my snapshot and into the week of Thanksgiving–I am truly grateful. I am blessed with so much love in my life, so many interpretations of love and so many variances therein, how can I not be grateful? My wish for others is to also have an abundance of gratitude to draw from in the sphere of ones own experience. My hope in writing this meager post is to communicate real life, real love, and true understanding of how one (in this case “I”) move through living in loss. My son is alive in my heart and his spirit, I know, remains full and well. Yet, I miss his presence dreadfully.

Happy Thanksgiving week to all, may we enjoy the moments of happiness and joy we create together–please create them!

 

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