As you may have heard, one of the top news makers and most shocking stories this past week has been the homosexual allegations leveled against one of the world's most popular and controversial black televangelists, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.
Bishop Long may be a celebrity pastor, but he is also a man who is not unfamiliar with controversy.
The Bishop, who is known for spearheading the charge of "men becoming men" through his preaching, teaching, books and school, has caused many to raise their eyebrows over the years.
A bit about the Bishop. It has been widely reported that Bishop Eddie Long drives around in a $350,000 Bentley, has sported two expensive Rolex watches on television - one on each wrist - travels around the world in a private jet and stays at the most expensive and luxurious hotels - hotels many of us could only dream of staying in. He has been known at times to take his "entourage" of family, friends and business partners with him when he travels.
The Bishop's home, many say, is not only expensive - but beyond breathtaking. He is known to openly lead an extremely expensive, over-the-top, lavish lifestyle. Quite the contrast to Jesus Christ who Himself said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20 KJV)
Controversial and troubling photos have recently emerged, disturbing many, of Bishop Long posing in a mirror with his cell phone, taking pictures of himself after he worked out - showing off his body, posing in a tight spandex shirt and shorts. People say this is something sensual and proud they would expect from a teenager - not a man of God.
Like Oprah Winfrey on her talk show, Long has been known to give away money, cars, expensive jewelry and clothing to random church members during church services -- many say enticing more people to come to the church in hopes of being the recipients of his generosity. The Bishop has been known to pay for college tuition for people, secure them jobs - and even put them on the church's payroll.
Bishop Long is easily able to support this kind of lifestyle through his multi-million dollar income throughout the years through various sources.
As Senior Pastor of one of America's largest, major mega-churches claiming over 30,000 members, some say he deserves every single penny gets. Others disagree.
Simply watch any of his services on television or even Youtube.com and watch as people from all over the congregation walk up to the stage while he is preaching and throw money at his feet. Sometimes, when the stage starts to get covered with cash and checks, large baskets are brought out and the coffers are quickly filled.
Bishop Long is one of a handful of prosperity preachers and televangelists whose wealth and lavish lifestyles came into question and was investigated by Senator Charles Grassley (IA) several years back. Grassley believed some of these televangelists were bilking their followers out of money in order to support their over-the-top lifestyles - and greed.
Yet Bishop's Long's controversial wealth and prosperity is not what is in question here. It's his moral integrity.
Long has regularly preached against the sin of homosexuality for many years. He has been an outspoken and staunch supporter of the traditional family and has publicly declared his opposition to homosexual sin, "gay" marriage and more.
Yet now, many of Long's detractors are charging that the controversial Bishop has preached so virulently against the sin of homosexuality for one reason and one reason alone: that he himself has been secretly struggling with homosexuality and living an adulterous homosexual lifestyle.
Four young black men have all come forward and claimed beginning around the ages of 17, Bishop Eddie Long seduced and coerced them all into homosexual affairs. I read the official legal complaints from several of the men myself and I have to say these documents are not only disturbing, but seem to be extremely damning as well. The court documents depict the Bishop as a monster and a homosexual predator.
Without question, whether innocent or guilty, Bishop Eddie Long has serious trouble on his hands.
These former members of his congregation or school state that when they were younger, and lacking a father-figure in their lives, Long "stepped up to the plate" and befriended them. He would personally call them and text them continually. The Bishop gave them money, jewelry, cars, paid for college tuition and even flew them around the world, taking them with him on many events and overnight trips. Long even introduced them to many Hollywood celebrities, as Long pals around with celebrities himself - including President Obama.
While some say that Long stepped over the line by becoming such close friends with these young men - it tragically goes even further.
Court documents claim that Long not only shared hotel rooms with these boys - but his bed. The sexual acts that were allegedly committed by Bishop Long with these boys in the court documents are something I can't even repeat here. The allegations are shocking to say the least, all spelled out in detail and as I said, very damming.
But the question is: are they true?
You may remember the Ted Haggard story - a well known evangelical Christian who also headed a major mega-church himself in Colorado several years ago. Several men came publicly forward and accused Haggard - who preached against the sin of homosexuality - of having ongoing homosexual adulterous affairs with them (one actually being a paid male prostitute) and did many unspeakable things with them, which included watching homosexual pornography and even smoking crystal meth.
Ted Haggard initially came out in the media denying all of the charges - until more accusers publicly stepped forward and the evidence mounted - which of course forced Haggard to admit the truth and step down from ministry.
Haggard was guilty as charged. The empire Haggard built came crashing down. Another major minister and ministry had fallen from grace.
Now, it seems we may be at that same door once again: a minister with major money, popularity and power who seems to "have it all" - may lose it all, if found guilty as charged.
I have been carefully following this story ever since it broke, watching each step as it has developed. Bishop Long remained silent for the entire week and "lawyered-up" until making his first appearance and public statement this past Sunday to his church family.
But I will be honest here - and some may not like what I'm about to say.
The man I saw come out on stage - with his second wife in hand - for the first time since the allegations were made was NOT a humble man at all. In fact, he was quite the opposite.
Watch the video for yourself on Youtube.com. Long came out and for over seven or eight minutes walked back and forth on the platform soaking in the rousing applause, as he smiled and looked into the cheering, screaming and adoring thousands and thousands of people in his stadium-like church. Bishop Eddie Long - the superstar.
When he began to speak, with every sentence he made, he received standing ovations and applause over and over again.
Yet before Long spoke to the specific allegations, he "preached" on when troubling times come - some said trying to eerily skirt the issue at hand.
They say traffic at the church that day was backed up for miles as thousands came to hear if the Bishop would admit to the charges and step down, or deny and fight them.
When he finally did address the charges - as brief as it was, if you listened carefully, Long neither denied nor admitted guilt. He simply told his "people" that he is "not a perfect man" and that he was "not the man they are claiming I am on television" and that he would "fight this."
Fight what? The charges against him -- or a struggle with homosexual sin?
And then, some say arrogantly, the Bishop compared himself to David fighting Goliath, telling a once again cheering and screaming crowd "..and I have still have five stones, and I haven't thrown one of them yet." He told the congregation he would let the law try the case - not the public - and he walked off stage with his wife's hand clutched in his.
Let me be blunt. If I was in the Bishop's shoes and people made FALSE allegations against me in the public the way that these were made (official press conference which many networks broadcast) I would have been out in the media IMMEDIATELY telling the world the allegations were FALSE and that these individuals were LYING. I would do everything in my power to stand up for myself - and bring the truth to the light IMMEDIATELY. I would also go the fullest extent the law provided to prosecute my false accusers.
So having said all that I have said, having read all that I have read, and having seen all that I have seen, I have to say things look pretty damning for Bishop Eddie Long. However, thank God for America's legal system, as the Bishop is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.
As a brother in Christ, I pray that these allegations against Bishop Eddie Long are FALSE and that the truth will quickly come to the light. At the same time, I call on Bishop Long to be honest and to be a man of integrity as HE has taught and called so many other men to be.
Should any of these allegations prove to be true, biblically, Bishop Eddie Long should step down from ministry immediately, repent and ask for forgiveness of everyone involved - including the victims, their families, his wife and family, his church family - and yes, the world - as he has a worldwide ministry. And no doubt, severe consequences, I am sure, will be levied against him, the church, his school and possibly others.
The healing process will also need to begin for all - including Long - and he will need to deal with many issues, including the sin of homosexuality, adultery and more.
And if these allegations are proven to be false, as I hope they will, his accusers will need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and be punished for bringing such major shame and disgrace to a man many people love and respect.
The Lord knows the truth - and I KNOW the truth WILL come to the light. And I believe it will happen much sooner than we may think. One side in this case is the victimizer, and the other - the victim.
But which is which?
In the meantime, I believe we should all pray for everyone involved - and that the truth be exposed as soon as possible.
I also believe there are some imporftant lessons and applications we can all learn from this story, even as it unfolds - as I always say, But for the grace of God, there go we...
Christians need to be a people of integrity. (Psalm 1)We need to be the same exact person we are in public and around others as we are in private. We may be able to fool "man" - but we will never fool God. The Lord sees what we do in secret and He knows the caverns and secret places of our heart.
We need to flee not only from evil, but from the appearance of evil. (1 Peter 3:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, James 4:7) As Christians, the world looks at us and every single thing we do with a fish-eye. The world needs to see that Christians are indeed a "different" people - a godly people, following after our Lord. Our testimonies need to remain pure - above reproach. We should NEVER be in a place or situation that would bring shame to ourselves, to our families or to the cross of Christ - or even give appearance of such.
Be ye separate. (2 Corinthians 6:17) We need to be a people of separation - to separate ourselves from worldliness and all the vanity and false hope it offers. If the Lord blesses you with money, riches, fame - or anything of the sort - praise be to God. But beware and be humble and use it for HIS glory - not your own. However, as the Bible says, we should NEVER seek after or lust after money, wealth, riches or fame. It has been the downfall of many, many great people. Man cannot serve two masters - he will love one and hate the other. We cannot love both money and God, for the love of money is the root of all evil. We need to store up riches in heaven, not here on earth where moth and rust doth corrupt.
Be ye holy, as I am holy. (1 Peter 1:16) God calls His children to a much higher standard than those who don't know Christ - a standard that wars against the flesh continually. We need to be holy in all that we say and do - because God commands us to.
Be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)Which one of us is without sin? If you think you are, then the Bible says you are deceiving yourself. If you are struggling with or entertaining secret sin - expose it now. Confess it to the Lord. Share your struggle with a loved one, a friend, or your pastor. Sin can start off as a toe hold, then a foot-hold and finally become a stronghold in your life. Stop it and expose it NOW before the Lord exposes it for you. The Bible is clear - sin may be pleasurable for a season. However, in the end, it will bring forth death. Whatever is done in the dark WILL be exposed in the light.
Repent and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) Jesus Christ is our Mediator before our Heavenly Father. If you are struggling with sin, turn from it today and ask for forgiveness from the Lord - in Jesus' name. Confide in a brother or sister in the Lord and seek help. Remember, He is faithful and just to forgive us of all sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Lift up and restore those overtaken in sin. (Galatians 6:1) Many times, Christians are great at "shooting their own." Rather than swinging down the hammer over someone's head who may be overtaken in sin - those who are spiritual, are called to restore that brother and sister and help them in any and every way they can - stand by their side and walk through this dark time with them, ministering to them and lifting them up in prayer. Sure, there may be consequences for that individual, but we are to be there to help them through whatever they are going through.
In summary, let's lift up Bishop Eddie Long and his accusers/potential victims in prayer. Let's pray for the truth to be swiftly made known and that God's justice and mercy will be served. Let's also pray for the Lord's healing and forgiveness to all involved. As the church, we have been through many trials and tribulations throughout time. Many a great leader has fallen, proving sin is stronger than we think. Let us never put our faith, hope or trust in a "man" who is sinful, but in Jesus Christ - the Lord Who never changes and is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) ~ Stephen Bennett
Stephen, This is why I support you--Your unwavering commitment to the truth and the ways of the Lord. I agree with everything you have said. God's kingdom is upside down compared to the world. To live, we must die, the poor are rich in faith, when cursed we bless and on and on. The world follows after the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Though none go with me, I will still follow the Christ of the bible, not man.
Thank you Stephen for your blunt commentary on this situation. May God bless you and Irene as you continue in your ministry, and I pray for a hedge of protection over you and your family.
AMEN!!! We are all victims of the curse but we all have the choice to become victors of the Cross through Jesus Christ. It has been said that Americans only see sick, not evil. We can all pray that the evil will be exposed in this situation.
Very well said. Oh how I pray the allegations are false, but like you said what he has publicly said doesn't sound good.Those pictures are very disturbing. One of Fox news articles has him quoted as saying that he should be looked at in a different category than other less known preachers etc because of who he knows and runs around with. That is hogwash- every member in Christ supplies the whole Body as they carry out their purpose on earth. So pride was a big red flag. Only God gets the glory- it is only because of Him we have anything or can carry out our specific purpose on earth. I think pride,money and the lust of things the devil can use as a stumbling block to anybody where the love of the world starts to creep in and other sins soon follow.The only part I didn't agree with you is the part of Jesus having no place to lay His head as saying He had no money. That is not true- read in context. Jesus wore the most expensive clothing of the day and He had everything He could ever want at His disposable spiritually and financially etc. If God did not want us overly abundantly blessed in every way including financially there would not be scriptures saying we are suppose to be and there wouldn't be examples like Abraham, Solomon etc with so much wealth- so the real issue here for me and I think Jesus too from scripture is not what people have financially, but their heart towards it and are they using it for His Glory. And God will give wisdom on whether our wealth is to be shown in houses, cars etc Just because my dad was a good christian businessman and is blessed by God for using that gift doesn't mean God wants him to drive a less expensive car because he is a christian- my goodness we are King's children we ought to drive the best. A preacher is no different- God gifted him at it,if that is his sole job or he is a good investor etc there is no reason he can't be blessed and live accordingly. I can guarentee it is poor represenation of God to be poor. It is ridiculous that most christians go around without anything financially, but the world explodes with wealth. God wants to bless us in every area of our lives because He loves us and really doesn't care what we drive etc I know people and preachers in Africa exploding with wealth from God because they love God and are tithers and givers and material things just come to them and their people as they follow God and His principles and their hearts are in the right place so they continue to be blessed in a very poor land. Heaven isn't poor and as it is in heaven let it be done here on earth. Imo, the most important issue is God cares where our heart is in everything and whenever He says to give or do we are there and willing to do it. So in summation I could care less what Bishop Long has financially- I didn't think you needed to add that to your article- I am concerned most about his HEART and pray for salvation and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit in his life before it is too late and you are right it comes with a repentent, humble heart.
Powerful!!!! I have been thinking about, "Church Folks" and this is what I have been saying. God is exposing it all. If he did or didnt do it, I dont know, but for him to parade around stage that way was a slap in the face and not humbling at all.
Thanks for telling the truth!
Yes Steve, there are various aspects of your email I did find offensive and having nothing to do with the sin of homosexuality, which is what your ministry and email was suppose to address. If you are to be truly effective with the ministry God has given you and, most of all, the sin He has delivered you from, you need to stay focus.Keep your personal opinions and feelings out of your message. Maybe, until you are able to address issues in a balanced format that stays on point, you should re-frame from sending out these types of emails. I have contributed to your ministry before because as a believer and man of God, I celebrate your testimony and the willingness to confront the issue of homosexuality in times like these. As for Bishop Long and the young men at the center of this matter, we need to sincerely pray for all concerned. The Church worldwide is affected and injured. Exercise the wisdom of David towards Saul and behave yourself wisely. Keep your mouth off of God's anointed and let God do what He does best--be God! David understood, no matter what was wrong in Saul's life he could not and did not license to mishandle him. He even killed a man who thought he was doing David and probably God a favor by killing Saul. David killed the man for touching God's anointed.From you vantage point you ought to really know how to pray and not blog! Although you finally ask for prayer and the end, the spirit of your message was no better then CNN. Please don't sin the sin of presumptiveness. I think David asked God for help in that area as well. Please receive this godly rebuke in the spirit of love.Dr.CHM
Thank you for having the courage to write this. It is obvious that Mr. Long is guilty, but no one else seems to even want to suggest that possibility. May the truth come to light and God bring healing to all involved.
Brother Stephen, I agree with most of what you have written. It grieves me to think that another leader in the Christian community may have been lying to us for so long. However, I take exception with one thing. If I were publically accused of something I didn't do, I'm not sure I'd immediately defend myself in public. I say this for several reasons.1. Most people watching TV will assume the worst; when it becomes news, most assume you're guilty.2. The real people I have to answer to are those in my church, not those on TV.3. I think of how Jesus responded to the FALSE allegations that were made against Him. 750 years before He was born the prophet Isaiah recorded Isa 53:7 "He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth." [NKJV] If the bishop is innocent, I believe his case will best be made by living a life of integrity while fighting these accusations. If he is guilty, I pray the Holy Spirit will convict him to publically apologize and resign.
My brother Stephen, thank you for sharing such a clear, compassionate and compelling statement not only for Bishop Long, but for every one of us. Sin is powerful and the flesh mighty, but nothing can prevail over the one who is broken before God and finds release from bondage and sin by the power and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. Your words are from the heart of one who knows the grace of God, yet is forever bound to the truth of His Word. "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (john 1:17) May all see Jesus in the words you have laid before us, and in Him find the truth about ourselves and the grace to become like Him. Your concluding words lead us to experience His grace anew. Thanks, my brother!
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13 KJV
For many years I held a very poor image of myself.
As a child and through my teen years, I let others tell me what I could and couldn’t do. I also let others tell me who I was and who I wasn’t.
I willingly gave permission to those who didn’t have my best interests at hand to drag me down.
“You’re stupid. You’re no good. You’ll never be anything in life. You’re fat. You’re ugly. You're a loser. You’re queer – a faggot – a sissy.”
The more you allow others to tell you who you are, who you aren't or what you can or can't do, you allow the enemy to enter in and you can be deceived into believing lies. Satan is the father of lies! (John 8:44)
Sadly, many people thrive on negativity. I'm sure you can name a few of those in your life. It took me many years to realize that those we would call “bullies” in life, bully people for one reason: they try to make you feel lower about yourself in order to make themselves feel better because THEY are the ones who have serious issues and problems.
When I came to Christ in January of 1992, I was a broken, hurting man. I had been beaten up so bad and so much by negative people and negative thinking for many years.
When Jesus came into my life and the Holy Spirit indwelt me, the first thing that had to be done with me was to “empty the trash can.” Lord knows, mine was filled and overflowing from years of mental, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. A lot of the abuse was caused by others, but I needed to "man up" and own up to the fact that some of that abuse was also caused by me.
I needed to dump the garbage – and throw away the dirty stinking can as well! I would no longer allow others to “dump” on me or treat me with anything less than I deserved – respect. I also would no longer allow myself through negative thoughts, words or actions to dump on myself.
I then began to fill my heart with scripture and the promises of God, knowing through the daily strength of Jesus Christ, I could do anything I set my mind to!
What was impossible with me -- or man -- was surely possible with God! Jesus set me free from drug addiction, alcoholism, an eating disorder – and a sinful homosexual life. He did it all!
YES! – I could live a happy, fulfilled life without the need of mind altering substances. YES! – I could live a happy life without obsessing over my weight. YES! – I could be very happy living life as the heterosexual man God created me to be – even being blessed with a loving, caring wife and two beautiful children -- now going on almost 20 years!
With God, ALL things are possible! (Matthew 19:26)
I was worthy because I was a child of the King! I now had worth -- God worth!
New life in Jesus Christ is all about YES and AMEN!
Today, I know I am a child of the living God – a joint heir – a son who has been adopted and given “all things.” I know today that I have a Heavenly Father Who watches over me, Who has nothing but good for me and His best interests for me, Who leads me in the paths of His righteousness and prospers me!
I know no matter what comes my way that ALL things will work together for my good, because I am one of “the called” according to His purpose! (Romans 8:28.)
More importantly, as a child of the King, I know that ALL things have become new in my life – that the old has passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17) and I walk daily in the newness of life and in Jesus Christ!
And the most incredible news of all is, what God has done for me – He will also do for you if you are one of His own! God is NOT a respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34)
Rejoice, knowing that through Jesus Christ, you can do ALL things through Christ as He strengthens you! (Philippians 4:13)
If you haven’t already, DUMP that stinking garbage can containing all those negative thoughts and things that aren't of Christ, and throw it out the door! Fill your heart, mind, soul and life with the Words of life by daily basking in God’s Word and let it wash over you!
Surround yourself with godly brothers and sisters in the Lord who will build you up in Christ -- not tear you down.
This isn't some "positive thinking" baloney -- this is encouragement and edification from God's Word -- His truth!
Are you struggling with sin? An addiction -- maybe drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, smoking? Weight? Over-eating? Depression, negative thoughts -- anything that isn't of God?
Let it go! Say NO to all of it -- and YES to the life changing Word of God!
Today, know that YES! You can accomplish and do ANYTHING you set your mind to – with Jesus in your heart and on your side! ~ Stephen Bennett
Please share your comments with Stephen below by clicking "add a comment" - thank you!
As I sat by my father’s bedside in the all too familiar setting where I said goodbye to my mother over a decade earlier, the young nurse on duty walked in.
“Good afternoon. Can I get you anything, Mr. Bennett? An extra pillow or maybe a blanket?” she indifferently asked as she scanned the monitor and wrote on her clipboard.
“How about a frickin’ casket with a Lincoln Continental hood ornament placed at the end near my feet? I want to make my entrance into heaven – or hell – in class,” he responded, as his smile was interrupted by a laborious, deep cough.
I tried to offer my father a cup of water from his table tray, but he refused with a few short waves of his hand.
“Oh, come on now,” the attractive Hispanic LPN giggled as she motioned for him to extend his arm to have his blood pressure checked. “Try to be a bit more positive Mr. Bennett. A positive attitude plays a major part in fighting this you know!”
“A bit more positive? Have you read my chart lady? I’m dying. I have lung cancer,” he sternly said as he looked at me and rolled his eyes at her pie in the sky statement.
At least he still had his sarcasm.
Hours earlier, the ER doctor admitted my father and he was moved up into a private room on the eighth floor. He and his wife spent all of Saturday afternoon and evening in the Emergency Room, waiting – and thinking that he was suffering from a severe case of pneumonia, or possibly even bronchitis.
Yet I believe my father knew all along something much worse was going on inside his overly abused body. When he started to vomit black – come on.
He had to know.
When the preliminary test results came back a few hours later, the worst of their fears were realized and for my father and his wife, the grieving process had officially begun.
The cancer was terminal and it was everywhere.
My sister called me crying on my cell phone, right after church, probably around 12:20 pm and told me Daddy was in the hospital with lung cancer and to get there immediately. Upon hearing the news, I felt as if someone punched me in my gut and I couldn’t breathe. I told her I was on my way.
Instead of going out with the family to Bertucci’s for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon lunch as planned, I dropped Irene and the kids off at home and drove straight to Bridgeport. Irene graciously offered to go with me and have my mother-in-law watch the children, but she knew I probably would want to do this on my own.
She was right.
As the nurse proceeded to poke and prod my ailing father and ask him a laundry list of medical questions, memories of the past 40 plus years of me and my Dad, who rarely got along, began to flood my mind. I became so overwhelmed with grief and emotion that I had to excuse myself from the room.
I stepped out into the cold, effulgent hallway and stood just a foot or two away from my father’s door and cried.
Please Lord. Not again. Not now.
How I missed my mother and wished she was there to hold and comfort me and make everything alright.
An older woman with glasses peered up from behind the floor’s main nursing station. She looked in my direction and tried to extend a compassionate smile before she slowly sunk back down and disappeared. I wondered how many times a day she saw this picture.
Two large automatic doors to my right slowly swung open unannounced as a mother, who was holding her two small children’s hands, frantically entered the cancer ward. The little boy carried a small vase with three red carnations, as his sister who appeared to be no older than four or five, held tightly on to a silver metallic mylar Get Well balloon.
The little girl innocently, yet rudely, stared at me as she walked by and without reservation loudly questioned, “Mommy, why is that man crying? Is his grandpa sick, too?”
The mother, caught off guard and obviously embarrased, shushed her daughter and offered me a look of apology and condolence, before hurrying the child along her way saying, “Don’t stare. That’s not nice!”
As if she didn't hear word that was just said, the little girl continued to fix her eyes on me until she, her mother and brother entered a room three or four doors down past my father’s on the left. The ribbon slipped through her fingers and the balloon got caught outside of the door and slowly started to float toward the ceiling. The mother rushed back into the hallway and grabbed it just in time, and hurried back to her ailing loved one.
Dazed and lost in the valley of my racing mind, I carelessly wiped my swollen eyes on the outside of my shirt sleeve and tried to regain my composure. I hesitantly made my way back to my father’s bedside.
The nurse was almost finished.
Although he was a clown and jokester and always flirted with the ladies, my father wasn’t joking around this time. I knew from the unaccustomed scared and confused look on his face, that deep down, he knew his imminent fate. No one could have ever predicted though that in four short days, he would be gone.
I tried to force a smile, as I looked upon him – weak and tired, propped up in the hospital bed, sporting his signature, out of date large glasses from the 1980’s and draped in a very uncomfortable and unflattering hospital gown. Yet as hard as I tried to induce even a forged grin, an occasional stray tear continued to find its way down the side of my face. I didn’t want him to see me cry, as I didn’t want to upset him anymore than he was. My father had a very hard time expressing emotion and being in the presence of those who did.
My stomach was wrapped in pretzel knots as my father, who was just three months shy of turning 70, lay there helpless and defeated in a dimly lit room at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Bob Bennett – the man who accomplished and did anything he ever set his mind to – had given up. My father lost any bit of hope he had and his will to live was gone. He was resigned to the fact that this story could only end one way – and almost prophetically, it would.
“Just ring the buzzer there on that controller if you need me for anything at all Mr. Bennett,” the nurse instructed as she grabbed her clip board to leave the room.
“Anything?” my father jokingly jested as he smiled at her.
He somehow mustered enough strength to make one final sexual innuendo and a fool out of himself for the last time. For some reason unbeknownst to everyone, my father believed he was a Don Juan with the ladies – right up until the very end.
“Get some rest Mr. Bennett,” answered the nurse, completely ignoring his comment and clearly cutting him some slack due to the circumstances at hand. She smiled at me and shook her head as she left the room.
I held my lighthearted rebuke until the nurse was gone.
“What a dirty old man you are!” I said as we both laughed, knowing all along my father was joking, yet still shocked by his inappropriateness and lack of couth.
I have to admit though I was relieved that something broke the deep, tense atmosphere within the room that day. My father was never one to be serious and always opted for kidding around.
“Hey, I got nothing to lose by asking – right?” my father stated with the most serious look on his face, making his insinuation even funnier, raising his black bushy eyebrows as he spoke.
We both laughed until my father started to cough again, this time it being more intense and not sounding like anything I ever heard before. One hand covered his mouth as his other applied pressure to his chest. He was unquestionably in a lot of pain.
After a few minutes when his coughing fit subsided, my father looked at me with complete seriousness, paused for a moment and then bluntly stated, “Stevie, this isn’t good.”
My heart broke by his candid confession and I could barely get the words out.
“I know Dad.”
My sentiments couldn’t be constrained any longer. However this time, I didn’t leave. I moved my chair close up against my father’s bed and tightly grasped his warm, sweaty hand. I buried my face in my arm on his covers and just wept.
My father gently squeezed my hand once or twice acknowledging my anguish – a major milestone for the man who refused to feel. We both remained that way in silence for quite some time.
I may have questioned my love for my father throughout the years, but now, I knew the harrowing certainty and depth of it.
* * *
Over the next few days, weeks, months and even years after my father’s passing, my mind has spun out of control with thoughts, questions, memories, nightmares, stories, tales and even what if’s?
In the end, there was no question that I loved my father and that he loved me.
However, that wasn’t always the case.
I never felt the freedom to divulge or disclose my complete story – until now.
For the sake of my kids, future generations of the Bennett family and for the millions of other adult children around the world who may not have had that ideal or perfect relationship with a parent – this book is for you. I also share my story with all those who will listen.
I know this task set before me is going to be extremely difficult, for over the last four and a half decades, I shut the door to my past and locked away so many painful and traumatic memories, emotions and family secrets. The mere thought of opening that door is like whacking a hornet's nest. Yet I know it is something that I must do in order to have the freedom to move forward and onward with my life.
Facing past demons and exposing the skeletons will finally put to rest the burdens I have carried for all of these years. Writing this book will undoubtedly be a sage journey for me – a therapeutic, cleansing one at that. I also know in the end, it will all be well worth it.
I want to take this opportunity now to apologize in advance to any readers who may be offended by some of the language used in this book. I am not a promoter of profanity nor do I ever use it in my own vocabulary. However, to whitewash this fact away from my family, who could barely get away from not using the “f” word in any daily conversation, would do a disservice and injustice to my story. It cannot be sugarcoated or overlooked.
Please know that I have refused to and refrained from using the “f” word anywhere in this book and have been extremely cautious and sparse in my choice and usage of such questionable and controversial verbiage. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
Finally, throughout these past 47 years of my life, through all the experiences and challenges I have been through, the obstacles that I have overcome, my successes and my failures, the happy times and the sad, and with all the wisdom I have gained and lessons I have learned both great and small… the most profound and undeniable truth that I have come to humbly respect and accept in life, is everything must change.
Stephen Bennett, August 19, 2010