Do you remember where you were when the Challenger shuttle exploded? When JFK was assassinated? When the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred? The Oklahoma City bombing?
Of course, you do. There are some moments where time just stands still, and there is so much confusion and heartbreak that you can’t even understand what is happening.
I had a moment like that on July 20, 2012, when I was sitting in my living room gossiping on the phone with a girlfriend. My mom had called several times, and I’d repeatedly hit the “decline” button. Then I was passed a note that said simply, “Ben Bradford died.”
Ben, who was 24 on that day almost five years ago, was the eldest son of my mother’s first cousin, Carol. I was a flower girl in Carol’s wedding and remained close to the family over the years, even though I was more than a decade older than Ben and his younger brothers.
When news like that is received, the mind automatically jumps to what could have happened. A car accident seems the most logical explanation. Ben was athletic, healthy and vibrant. Twenty-four-year-olds don’t die of aortic dissection.
But Ben did.
The kid who loved playing golf and was soft-spoken but smart and kind and good, the kid who entered this world not that long ago on Feb. 9, 1988, was gone.
“Benjamin lived life as if he knew his time with us was limited,” said his father, Bruce Bradford.
Bruce, his wife Carol and Ben’s little brothers Robby and Austin have remained steadfast in their support of one another and in raising awareness about aortic and vascular disease “to ensure that no other family will have to endure the kind of unspeakable loss that wounded our family.”
You see, on that day in 2012 when the world lost Ben, it offered an opportunity for his family members to identify the genetic mutation that led to his aortic dissection. Ben’s brothers and mother underwent imaging and were found to be OK. Bruce, however, was not.
“The lack of specific symptoms meant that had my aorta not been imaged as a result of my boy’s death, I would have eventually suffered an aortic dissection,” Bruce said. “With the sacrifice of his life, my boy alerted the doctors to my condition and saved my life. My baby boy Benjamin lost his life and saved mine.”
The Bradford family continues to work with the John Ritter Research Program (JRRP) and is hosting the inaugural Remembrin’ Benjamin Golf Tournament on Thursday, July 13, at Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club in Katy. Please consider playing in the tournament or making a donation. More information and a registration form can be found at https://www.remben.org/
April Towery is a reporter for The Sealy News. She can be reached at (979) 885-3562 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.