As the winds howl their piercing, incessant, sorrowful cries, the right side of my brain knows it's an autumn nor’easter storm, the poetic side of me thinks it’s pre-theater for a spooky Halloween weekend and the Dia de Muertos. The spiritual side of me feels it’s this world in a tug of war with the heavens; both wanting to claim Beau Bennett for themselves.
See, Beau Bennett is the husband of a favorite niece, Lauren. He died. Within the span of less than a week. On their 10-year wedding anniversary...
In just a few days time ~ the time it would take to plant a few rows of garlic or prune border shrubs or finish that book you’ve been reading, Beau went from being one of the most vibrant, charming (everyone loved his big-hearted “Beau Show”), hard-working, creative chefs to passing from this life due to an intracranial brain hemorrhage.
It’s all too tragic; too Shakespearan tragedy to believe.
We’ve all had our share of grief these past few years whether that stemmed from coronavirus and the loss of a loved one, the end or contraction of a business as a result, losing a home, a pet, our democracy, our way of life… There’s enough catastrophe and wreckage and gloom to fill entire solar systems.
Yet, there is something pointedly, universally unique and personal about the “senseless” death of someone young, in the prime of their life. It tests our faith. And yet, it unites us in our clumsy humanness.
As I worked at the inescapable exercise that me and my family are going through ~ that of “trying to wrap our heads around this” ~ at the same time, I felt a wee bit guilty about wanting to write about the shocking tragedy because I didn’t feel it was my right or place to narrate about the man, Beau.
Yet, I also pondered.
On a practical level, I’ve written about the passing of chefs previously, I rationalized. I used to write an annual, wrap-up summary, not dissimilar to how the OscarsⓇ honors the stars who pass away in any given year. It was an end-of-year salute to those we lost in the culinary world. So in that spirit, I figured, “Why Not?” I could and/or should surely honor Chef Beau Bennett in the pantheon of culinary greats.
I also contemplated the fact that few among us are prepared for sudden death. Or any death.
We could all learn some helpful coping practices to help us heal; to guide us in a time of Bereavement ~ no matter what or who we are mourning.
I wanted to learn and share how there might be a way through the grieving process.
There are many books and podcasts and YouTube videos to tell us how our brain and body are affected by the stress of grief. Choose wisely and carefully.
It's said that death is a natural, essential part of life. If that's so, why aren't we prepared for it?
Personally, I’ve always abhorred the concepts of “moving on” and “closure.”
You can never stop loving that person. Love endures, therefore you can’t just “get over” the loss of a loved one.
Furthermore, there is no “end” to one’s grief after death. There IS, however, a journey to a stage of mourning where we can accept the death and work towards a life that incorporates the loss without getting stuck in a stage that robs us of honoring ourselves and our loved one.
I’ve read that the stress of grieving can affect your body and your brain so much. “When you’re grieving, a flood of neurochemicals and hormones dance around in your head. There can be a disruption in hormones that results in specific symptoms, such as disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, fatigue and anxiety,’ says Doctor Jannel Phillips, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at Henry Ford Health System.
Further, this grief and its impact on the brain is not just associated with death but also with any sort of “new normal” such as becoming an empty nester or retiring, or adjusting to the world of Covid.
We’re talking grief that demonstrably affects your emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
Who wouldn’t agree that anything that can damage our very essence needs a thoughtful plan to come out on the other side in a position that allows us to let in the sorrow but not overwhelm us. At the end of the day, we need to be in charge of our emotions, our feelings, our well-being…
I have long subscribed to the Swiss-American, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief. This psychiatrist pioneered the theory that while we all go through the five distinct stages of grief after the loss of a loved one, she “maintained that not everyone went through all the stages in a fixed order, and that everyone's grief manifested itself uniquely.”
Before I outline these stages, please allow me to honor Beau. He was a chef who used his local, fresh, Carolina ingredients with passion. He loved to make people happy. I loved his Homegrown cooking dedication. Recently, Beau was over the moon, when his cooking and menus and style were featured in Our State Magazine for his work with The Colonial Inn Hillsborough. Lauren and Beau even sent us a hard copy. We cherish the magazine with Beau’s feature story. I shared his humble pride and posted on social media. It’s hard not to catch the “Beau Show” enthusiasm and kinetic energy.
Here is a quote from the feature: (you can see the full story in the link for Our State Magazine above)
“We’re so lucky to have an abundance of local farms [so that we] can offer food that is always fresh and in season.” Each Sunday’s brunch features a choice of a main course — in addition to fried chicken, there’s shrimp and grits and a vegan sweet potato hash — and bottomless sides of mini cinnamon rolls and quiches, bacon, roasted red potatoes, and fruit.
Bennett’s twist on time-honored Southern cooking is one of many ways that the inn’s new owners are celebrating its legacy in this small Triangle town.
Who couldn’t love Beau’s mouth-watering menu and culinary platform?
I cannot write a more fitting tribute than that of Beau and Lauren’s mayor so I will share that, along with Lauren’s heartfelt, heart~breaking Anniversary love letter.
His wife/my beautiful niece, Lauren wrote:
I miss Beau so much. I love Beau so much. We were Beau and Lauren. I guess we still are but it's not the same. Everyone who knows will know this - somebody's crying, it's me - it's me. somebody's crying, it's me - it's me. I keep singing this over and over in my head and wishing I could call Beau to sing it, then we'd sing it together. I guess the next best thing right now is to be able to sing it with all of you. Here is Beau's obituary with memorial information. I would love to have every single person there for whom Beau was a part of your life in some way, or part of mine or the family's. Each of you have a part of our story and our life.
Beau’s official Obituary:
Obituary of Jarred Beau Bennett (I did a wee bit of editing for privacy and brevity. The obituary remains one of the most touching and personal I’ve ever read… You can learn so much about this man who was adored by oh-so-many. A life well-lived and loved...)
On October 8, 2021, Jarred Beau Bennett of Hillsborough, NC died at Duke University Hospital from an intracranial brain hemorrhage. Compounding this profound and unexpected loss, October 8 was also his 10th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lauren. Through their grief, Beau's mother, brother, and wife all sat with him at the hospital, held him close, and grappled with the loss of someone so young. At only 45 years of age, Beau owned a thriving business and still had a world of possibilities left to realize in a life cut too short.
Beau was intensely proud of his Down East roots. He played baseball, football, music, and would do anything if it was at the beach. After graduating from Washington High School in 1994, he moved to Chapel Hill in 1996, beginning his culinary career. Beau cherished working at restaurants such as Crooks Corner, 411 West, and Pyewacket. The wide range of experiences imparted by these restaurants, and the people within each establishment, taught him the needed skills to start his own catering company in 2008, Beau Catering.
One of Beau’s favorite pastimes was attending music shows - always in the front and always yelling. You could hear him talking and laughing, driving past and shouting your name, and stopping in for a hello. As he watched the Dallas Cowboys or the North Carolina Tarheels, he would bring you into the game through his sheer enthusiasm.
It was hard to keep Beau in one place - he was always on the move. However, even such a kinetic and enthusiastic person like Beau had places that allowed for respite and quiet - Bennett Acres, The Point, and always the beach. Beau truly loved any water, including a pool.
Beau is survived by his wife, Lauren Erickson Bennett. They were together for 22 years, married for ten, and best friends for life. His brother and sister-in-law, B. Rain Bennett and Maya Bennett, and his beloved niece and nephew, Bellamy Bennett and Bishop Bennett, also survive him. He cherished Rain and wanted nothing more in life than to be the best uncle to the kids as he could. His mother and stepfather, Geraldine Bennett McKinley and Nicholas McKinley of Washington, NC, also survive him and will miss his exuberance for life and daily calls to simply talk about the day. He is survived as well by his sister-in-law Marissa Erickson who helped build the catering company and Beau's brand over many years as his Catering Manager.
Jen Weaver, Hillsborough Mayor, wrote the following as a special in the The News of Orange County,
Our Hillsborough community, and all the communities touched by Beau Bennett — namesake and head chef for Beau’s Catering — has a hole in it the size of Beau’s heart, which was mighty big. Beau’s unexpected death due to an intracranial brain hemorrhage on October 8 has the many people whose lives he touched filled with shock and sorrow, and we won’t be the same without him.
In a small town like Hillsborough, there are people who become legendary in the community and their loss reverberates far and wide. Beau’s is one of these losses for Hillsborough, and it is remarkable that someone so young could have such a profound effect on so many.
I feel so lucky I could call Beau a friend.
I had the good fortune of meeting Beau Bennett around 17 years ago, when I was a graduate student at UNC. I couldn’t name the first time we met, but my earliest memories are from the spring of 2005, during UNC’s run for the national basketball championship. We were all much younger, more free of responsibilities, and a wee bit wilder. I don’t know if Beau and Lauren were newly dating or if I was just newly getting to know them, but I have such distinct images of the two of them together in Hell, one of the best Chapel Hill bars of all time, packed full of happy people with little care about rubbing sweaty shoulders or spilled beers, just ecstatic to be cheering on our Heels.
And from then on, Beau was my friend. We were never close, but our circles of good friends overlapped closely. But the thing about Beau is – and if you’ve ever met Beau you know what I mean – because we had met, we were friends. I remember how every time I saw him from that spring up until the last time, he greeted me with the same enthusiasm and love you would with someone you’d call your best friend.
Over recent years I watched with delight as Beau and his amazing wife and partner Lauren started Beau Catering. I was proud that this beloved person was making their way in Hillsborough, getting started as one of the early businesses launching at Piedmont Food and Processing Center. I wanted so much for his business to succeed and it was thrilling to see it truly blossoming over the past year, including a coveted photo and shout-out in Our State Magazine. Beau was the kind of person you root for twice as hard because you know he is rooting so hard for everyone else. He was the kind of person who finds genuine happiness in other people experiencing their own successes and life milestones.
In January of 2021, when things were still pretty darn dark with the pandemic, I was walking along Wake Street when a car pulled up next to me. I couldn’t quite see who the driver was, but the “Hey Jenn!” in Beau’s unmistakable voice, warm with his big heart and a life growing up in Eastern North Carolina, left no mistake who it was. I wish there were a way to write it down so that you could hear it the way it resonates in my memory. He parked the car and hopped out, just so happy to see me and share with me about his new partnership with The Colonial Inn doing Sunday brunches. He was so excited and eager for me to experience it. And that wasn’t all. He was also concerned about me. He wanted to know how I was doing, what it was like being the mayor in a pandemic and whether I was doing okay. And that was Beau. Always taking time to give you a few moments of his full attention to ask how you are, and to encourage you forward. Every person’s hype man, but it never came across as hype, just pure love and sincerity.
As I read the many tributes on social media written by everyone from his closest people to those who perhaps only met him when he catered their wedding, the sorrow and love comes over me in waves. This one person touched so many people’s lives in a purely positive way. When I think about Beau, I think about how he loved Lauren, his brother Rain, and his momma (I have never met Beau and Rain’s mom, but loved the many photos he shared of her, glowing with adoration). Somehow he had room to love everybody else too – from business associates to catering clients to honest to god people he just met walking down the street.
I often say that Hillsborough’s character lies most deeply in its people, in the bonds of community the people who live and work here make with each other. I can think of few people who exemplify those bonds better than Beau did. Yes, he was a great chef and successful small business owner, but he was defined less by those things than how he related to the other people in his life.
Thank you, Beau, for showing us what is possible when we believe the best in other people, and the possibility of life.
Lauren also wrote on Beau Catering’s Facebook page:
What do we do without Beau ... I keep asking myself this because he was my partner in everything—my world. And from the amazing flood of beautiful words from friends, clients, and other wedding vendors it is clear that he was a partner and friend to so many others.
Beau had an intracranial brain hemorrhage caused by an extreme spike in blood pressure on a regular Monday afternoon. I add this because I have gotten the "why" and "how can this be" from so many—he was so young and full of life. It was a lightning bolt of immediate and disastrous proportions. Hold your loved ones and friends close today, tell them you love them often, and smile with them every chance you can, because it only takes one moment out of the blue to change everything
A lightning bolt indeed… As I’ve said to my family, few people, young or old can impact a community so very much. It is an extraordinary soul who touches so many lives in small, personal yet profound ways. We can learn from them, no?
I also know many happy couples. Some have been blessed to have been married for many years. Yet, I can honestly say I know few who are true soulmates. These are the people who against all the odds find that one, true love. That it was destiny. Fated. Ordained…
Lauren and Beau are that unicorn. Their love story leaves no doubt that they are soulmates…
Stages of Grief
As noted, I’ve thrown my hat in the ring of these, original, basic stages of grief as outlined by Kübler-Ross:
I’ve also read some stages that include number one as Shock and Disbelief, and adding in Guilt.
Shock and Disbelief ~ this is readily understood, especially when a young person is ripped away from us. Dying all too soon. This can also be true in cases of weather-related disasters when in a short time, minutes maybe, a home or family is shattered by winds, fire, floods… Many folks suffer a kind of PTSD...
Denial ~ When you hear your inner self or you can yourself screaming, “This can’t be happening to me!”
Guilt ~ “If only… “ As in, “If only I had been there.” or “If I had taken the meds to her/him” or “If I had replaced the siding on the house…” There isn’t anything you could do to change the fate or outcome
Anger ~ “Why is this happening? Or “This isn’t fair.” or “We don’t deserve this.” You feel helpless and powerless. Sometimes we even rail against doctors and god…
Bargaining ~ “If only” This is the “what if” scenarios where you try to re-imagine the situation. “If only I hadn’t worked late and was home when it happened.” In the death of a pet, you may feel that if you had just gotten the cat to the vet sooner. Or worked harder you wouldn’t have gotten laid off. Or offer to be a better person; you beat yourself up with guilt thinking if you had just done something differently it wouldn’t have happened. According to Erika Kriull, MSEd, LMHP, “The bargaining stage shows how much the mind grapples with reality during the grieving process. Self-blame, “what-ifs”, and buying time are all part of this phase.” Bargaining is characterized as the stand as you resist the acceptance.
Depression ~ The overwhelming sadness and torment of the the loss, that you can’t change it. You feel defeated. Overwhelmed, even. According to WebMD: “In this stage, we begin to realize and feel the true extent of the death or loss. Common signs of depression in this stage include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, fatigue, lack of energy, and crying spells. We may also have self-pity and feel lonely, isolated, empty, lost, and anxious.”
Acceptance ~ When we accept all of our feelings and stages we’ve experienced and live our life with the loss, not tucking it away. We arrive at a place that allows us to have grief as a kind of partner on our journey; no matter how many times we go through the stages, perhaps slipping back to anger or guilt… You should recognize that you may go a few rounds on this rodeo.
Grief helps us heal, reconcile pain and understand ourselves and our true heart…
I read that “Where there is deep grief there is great love. Grief is a great rite of passage.” And that we grieve because we love.
And I say that the love endures...Carry it with you.
There are many types of grief. Grief and grieving is personal.
Be there for a friend or family member. Help keep the memory of the loss alive.
At the same time, please avoid getting preachy or Hallmark-y.
What Not to Say
My research pointed out that however well-intentioned, avoid making the loss about you and your experience. When you say, “I know how you feel, I lost my father when…” or “My divorce was worse than what you’re going through...” It doesn’t help.
Don’t try to rationalize or explain another’s grieving by suggesting for example, “You’re young, you’ll meet someone else soon..” Or, “You have so much to be grateful for (making them feel even more guilt.) or “Someday You’ll Move On…”
Also, please refrain from intimating that perhaps it’s all for the better: “He was in such pain..” when talking about a pet or a family member.
Or “That house needed a good renovation… When trying to help someone reconcile why the hurricane or tornado or flood (or any number of climate issues batter a home unrecognizable..
Markers that can tell you that you’re starting down the path to the wrong thing:
“At Least.” There is no form of compassionate communication that starts with “At Least,” as noted by Still Kickin.
They also add: “Just” for the same reason. Let the person who lost a loved one find a bright side.
And my personal, most-hated big lie: “Everything Happens For a Reason.” No it doesn’t. I’ve heard this repeated bazzillions of times as a kind of pop culture salve to apply to any wound from work issues to health to relationships. It’s nonsense. Some things cannot be explained away... (A close second: "I did my best...).
You may also seek out a professional therapist to talk things through. A dear friend sought a grief counselor after the death of his father. Regular sessions can aid the bereavement and set you on a course to acceptance. You can also consider grief counseling from your priest, rabbi, or personal religious leader. Successfully navigating the stages of grief takes work. I'm not altogether clear why bereavement is not a required course. We all lose things precious to us. We will all die. You can surely benefit from some professional help.
There are other healing modalities you can consider: massage, acupuncture, for example.
You can benefit from a third-party professional and take the grieving out of the realm of relying just on friends and family who are experiencing their own grieving.
I also firmly believe that the arts can heal us. Gardens, Music, Literature, the visual arts ~ can all transport us and unite us in our grief and healing... It connects us to the worlds beyond our personal grief..
Grieving is more than thoughts and prayers. Although they do most certainly help… It is with great humility and deep love that I sincerely hope these suggestions help guide you on your journey...
I think this song's lyrics, most famously sung by Michael Jackson, captures the noble spirit of one who dies too young, too soon...
GONE TOO SOON
Lyrics Like a comet Blazing 'cross the evening sky Gone too soon Like a rainbow Fading in the twinkling of an eye Gone too soon Shiny and sparkly And splendidly bright Here one day Gone one night Like the loss of sunlight On a cloudy afternoon Gone too soon Like a castle Built upon a sandy beach Gone too soon Like a perfect flower That is just beyond your reach Gone too soon Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight Here one day Gone one night Like a sunset Dying with the rising of the moon Gone too soon Gone too soon Songwriters: Larry Grossman / Buz Kohan Gone Too Soon lyrics © Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp., Hudmar Publishing Co.inc. (re David Paich), One Zee Music, Hudmar Publishing Co Inc, Fiddleback Music Publishing Co., Inc.