For those who questioned why my prior website has been shut down, and also, for any readers of my available books, which details my beautiful life with my husband, Kirk, the following pages describe my loss.
When readers discover that Kirk has passed away, they ask me (politely,) “Can I ask how he died?” Imagine how many times I’ve repeated the following. Hopefully, all future concerned, caring people can realize that Kirk died as a result of doing what he loved, most, as a hobby.
In Loving Memory
Facts of Accident/Death
Kirk H. Benish
12-8-51 – 8-11-06 (Age 54)
July 9, 2006: The Accidental Fall:
My husband, Kirk and I owned the mineral rights to a 60-acre gold claim on the Hughes Creek (approximately 30 miles from Salmon, Idaho.) On July 9, 2006, I received a telephone call from my parents who live in Aurora, Colorado. They informed me that they were planning to come on a week’s vacation to Stevensville, MT. the following weekend. My father, a retired avid prospector, on oxygen, could no longer go into the woods to fulfill his hobby. My parents were hoping that we could go to our property and bring home a few buckets of dirt for my dad to pan on the back porch while they were visiting.
When I hung up the telephone, I asked Kirk to call our son-in-law, Keith, and ask if he would like to make a trip to the property. Keith was excited to do so and offered to drive.
The two men left around noon. They finished their task early. Keith suggested, to Kirk, “I know a really good place to get some dirt outside of Wisdom, (MT) if you’d like to go.” Kirk said, “Since we have so many hours of daylight left, let’s go…”
Keith and Kirk arrived at Placer Creek. Keith, parking near an obvious trail, exited the vehicle and walked sideways with his feet down the embankment. Kirk took one step onto the trail, stepped on loose gravel and his feet came up from beneath him and he fell to the bottom of the slope.
Kirk was 6’1” and 230 lbs. Knowing he was seriously injured, and knowing that Keith couldn’t carry him up the embankment, Kirk suggested the following. “Keith, if you can just get me up to my one good foot, perhaps I can help you to get me up to the road.” Once Kirk stood on his one good foot, he lost consciousness, passed out, and fell again.
When he regained consciousness, he suggested to Keith, “Get the tow rope out of your truck, tie it under my armpits, put the roap on the ball joint…and slowly pull me up the hillside. Keith inched the truck forward, but had to discontinue Kirk’s orchestration of his individual rescue. This attempt was extremely painful for Kirk because it was pulling him into the hillside, rather than up the cliff.
Kirk told Keith, “This is bigger than both of us…you’re going to have to leave me and go get help. While Keith sped to Wisdom for help, Kirk continued to try and inch himself up the slippery gravel hillside. Being eaten alive by mosquitoes and horseflies, he remembered losing consciousness two more times due to the pain of his injury.
When Keith arrived back at the scene of the accident, he had the Wisdom Volunteer Ambulance ready to assist in the rescue. The volunteer driver had what appeared as a birth defect… the left arm was a stump at the elbow and he had a right hook. The other two volunteers were a large man and his wife who was about my size. (I’m 4’11” – 105 lbs.)
Kirk, feeling a broken bone sawing back and forth on his inner, upper right thigh, cautioned the volunteers to place him on the backboard the way he fell to protect his injury. They insisted on placing him on his back, which caused even more discomfort to Kirk. As volunteers, they were unable to give him any medication for his pain. (Later, in discussing this, Kirk and I were grateful that the sharp, broken bone inside him didn’t sever the main artery near the groin or he would have bled to death while awaiting help or while “getting help.”)
Repeated unsuccessful attempts were made to inch Kirk, on the backboard up the hillside. The slippery gravel beneath their feet made the rescue nearly-impossible.
Once inside the ambulance, the volunteers were taking Kirk to Marcus Daly Hospital in Hamilton. Keith followed. At the top of the ski pass, Keith now had cell phone reception and telephoned me.
He explained the seriousness of the fall. He said, Kirk had been hurt badly and asked me to meet him, Kirk, and the ambulance at Marcus Daly. I immediately telephoned our daughter, Jaime, who lives in Victor (on the way toward Hamilton) and made arrangements for me to pick her up on my way to the hospital.
The ambulance was 30-40 minutes further away, so Jaime and I arrived at the hospital sooner. I had time to get our insurance records into the system as the ambulance arrived.
Kirk was taken immediately into X-ray. Once I was allowed into the emergency room to see my husband, the doctor and the emergency room staff informed me that “this break was way over their heads” and that Kirk would need to be transported to St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula. I was told that an Orthopedic Surgeon would be on-hand, upon arrival, to operate on Kirk. Just before they transported Kirk, the emergency room staff took x-rays of Kirk’s back, as well. We were told that it wasn’t broken.
Arriving at the Emergency Room of St. Patrick’s Hospital, I was introduced to the surgeon. He had reviewed the x-rays, which accompanied Kirk, via ambulance. The surgeon, remarked, “This is absolutely the worst possible break someone can have, the absolute worst one to operate on, and the absolute worst to heal.” He informed me that they would be in surgery for 3-4 hours, with Kirk, and suggested for me to await word in the Waiting Room.
Dazed by the events and the “doom and gloom outcome,” I approached a male nurse who was looking at Kirk’s x-rays from Marcus Daly. I asked if he could explain the severity in layman’s terms that I could understand. I was informed that the femur, the main leg of the bone had been shoved up through the right ball joint of the hip. It had been broken into four jagged pieces and had shattered the hip.
July 10, 2006 – Early Morning Hours of Surgery:
My daughter and I awaited word in the Waiting Room and were surprised to receive a call so quickly. Approximately one hour had passed when we were notified from the operating room that Kirk was prepped and that surgery was underway. If I can recall correctly, only two hours total had passed since I’d kissed Kirk goodbye, placed him in the hands of the anesthesiologist for surgery prep and the actual surgery was completed. When I remarked about the time and my surprise at how quickly it had gone, the surgeon stated, “The surgery went real well…” He continued, “…of course, there’s an incredible amount of shattered bone in Kirk that I couldn’t even attempt to deal with…but the four major pieces of the break fit back together like a jigsaw puzzle.” His previous “doom and gloom outlook” became hopeful as he responded, “And, I have every hope that this break will heal easily and quickly.” I felt like my prayers were already being answered.
Once Kirk left recovery and was brought to his room, a nurse kindly offered to bring a cot into the room for me to remain at his side for the next three days.
Day One: Kirk was on a morphine drip, given permission to push the button if he needed it for pain control. Kirk had an extremely high tolerance to pain, due to unexplained numbness in his legs and torso. After resting from the surgery, nurses and physical therapists were encouraging him to get up, hours after the surgery…avoiding blood clots and/or pneumonia. Kirk, wanting to please and do what was needed to be done to encourage healing, he did as asked.
I left the hospital, to drive back home to Stevensville, to get fresh clothes for myself and for Kirk. (His had all been cut away at Marcus Daly.) When I returned, he had two co-workers from Smurfit-Stone visiting him. When I entered the room, my voice rang of a proud mommy as I said, “Well…look at you…sitting up in a chair all by yourself!”
Day Two: The second day, following surgery, the therapist wanted Kirk out of bed – and I understood why – but the timing didn’t seem appropriate. Kirk wasn’t using the morphine drip because he said, “I don’t want to get used to it…I won’t have it at home to rely on…I need to use the medication I’ll be depending on…” That would have been all well and good, but the previous night was extremely uncomfortable for Kirk as they attempted pain medications. He spent the night vomiting and he was worn out from the surgery, the stress, and the movement….
With trial and error, the St. Patrick’s Pharmacist successfully found a pain controller that would work for Kirk:
The therapist was strongly encouraging Kirk to get out of bed. Looking at Kirk, I asked, “Kirk, does your energy feel real wavy and erratic?” He nodded his head yes. I asked, “Kirk, do you think you could at least open your eyes and look at me while I’m talking to you?” He shook his head no.
I looked at the therapist, who was looking at me, like I was an interfering, annoying, nag of a wife. I said, “You’re asking a man who can’t open his eyes to put his feet, which he can barely feel…on the floor…and to walk… I think you’re asking too much of him at this moment.”
She related that the exercise was in his best interest. Under other circumstances, I would agree.
Kirk, wanting to do what was right, did as asked. Using a walker, he took the small steps behind the bed and turned to come around the end of the bed. He stopped and I was immediately concerned! “You’re dizzy, aren’t you, Kirk?” He nodded his head yes and the therapist allowed him to back up and get into bed.
Later that afternoon, a nurse and therapist came to Kirk’s room and literally apologized about pushing him so hard. They explained that they had looked at his x-rays and were more compassionate due to the severity of the break. Until they had seen the x-rays, they weren’t aware how serious his situation was.
Day Three: On day three, Kirk now stronger and rested on an appropriate pain medication that was effective, he was able to get out of bed and learn how to dress, shower, and go up and down steps with a walker or crutches. We had only received pre-certification, through Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, for three days. Our family agreed that we thought it was too soon to be released, but were encouraged by medical staff to begin the healing process at home with their step-by-step guidance.
Homecare & Recovery Begins:
Handicap equipment began arriving. A shower bench, a raised toilet seat, a wheelchair, a hospital tray/table, and a temporary handicap sticker.
Being a union worker/Instrument Technician at Smurfit-Stone Container, Kirk had no paid sick time. I am, by trade, a minister of a 501(c)3 non-profit prison ministry (since 1990.) With Kirk injured, I was now also unemployed, so I would be able to care for him.
My new “job” and only priority was helping Kirk recover. A daily goal was to make sure he ate the right diet and drank enough water to counter-act the complications of the medications he was taking. I was his “beck ‘n call girl.” If I left the home to walk the dogs or get groceries, I carried a walkie-talkie and cell phone so he could speak directly with me whether I was watering the lawn or in another part of the home.
Kirk shared a dream. He described the beautiful dusty blue color of a home and his deceased grandmother on the porch. The front door was open and Grandma Hartman was motioning with her hand, “Come on, Kirkie…we’re all waiting for you.” In the windows of the home were two other deceased loved ones, waiting upon his arrival. Although Kirk shared this dream and I felt fear, I was praying (and staying in denial as much as I could) during the days to come.
Deep Concern of Bruising That Wasn’t Appearing to Heal:
As the days passed, at home, Kirk and I were concerned about his right inner and upper thigh. The fall had broken his femur…but his scar, from surgery had no bruising. The wicked bruise seemed to be getting more and more angrier by the day. Just so we could add the pictures to our collection of Kirk’s latest “Benish Adventure,” we used our digital camera to capture the bruising and surgical scar that ran from his right hip, down to the right knee.
He complained daily that he didn’t feel like he was getting any better. I asked him to be patient…this was a serious injury…it would take time to heal from the inside out… He complained, hourly, of it feeling like he was being branded by a fire-hot branding iron on his upper, right thigh…in the same place that he complained of to the Paramedics who rescued him from the cliffside. Day and night, on morphine in the hospital or at home on medication, his upper thigh was on fire.
Kirk was having tremendous “charley horses” in his right leg. Even with the Ted Hose on, we were concerned with his circulation. He was so cold, although the temperatures were in the 90’s at that time of the month.
Kirk was released from St. Patrick’s on Thursday, July 13th. His first appointment with the surgeon was on July 27th. The physician removed the stitches, gave Kirk permission to stop wearing his Ted Hose, and admired his handiwork on the x-ray they took that day.
Kirk and I noticed, immediately, on the x-ray that ON THE RIGHT SIDE, there was a white, obviously-different-shape-than-from-the-left-leg view. Kirk teased the surgeon and said, “I obviously don’t have a matched set of whatever that is on the right that isn’t on the left.”
The physician responded that this was a broken bone, which was so fragile that he could not pin it…because if he did…any way that Kirk could or would move would shatter it and have complications. Kirk explained about the “branding iron” burn in his upper thigh. The surgeon explained that this free-floating bone is what had the muscles, tendons, and nerves attached to it. Until physical therapy could begin, we wouldn’t know if the burning was temporary or a permanent reality of nerve damage.
I remember thinking, as I drove Kirk back to Stevensville…if I was going to be in a constant state of concern… Kirk was a large man, the femur had been so damaged, and the surgery had never set the fragile bone holding the tendons, nerves, and muscles. Was it going to be a source of constant pain or were the sharp edges going to create a nightmare of future problems?
I wondered, when he returned to work at Smurfit-Stone Container in November 2006, would he be able to continue his work assignments. They had no light-duty assignments per company policy, which meant that he…in charge of the Air Quality Control Monitoring System….that he was going to have to walk five miles a day/ innumerable stairs…in the icy/snowy weather. My thoughts wandered, “What if he slips and falls due to inclement weather and situations? I wondered if he would ever be able to enjoy his hobby, as a prospector in the woods, without my constant worry. The hillsides, where we worked, were always covered with slippery rock and gravel…
I continued to attempt to “stay in the moment” and just get through day-to-day activities and recovery, but doubts and fears were swallowed and unexpressed, wanting to keep Kirk as optimistic and cared for as possible.
August 10, 2006: The Eve Before He Passed Away:
Kirk, from day one, continued to follow “hospital orders” of getting out of bed and exercising his lungs. His strength was growing as he moved painfully from the bed. The incision never hurt him, but the rubbing bone in his upper thigh was a constant source of pain if he moved wrong in bed, turned wrong while walking, and attempting to sit.
He had stretched his activity by walking from the far end of our home, where the master bedroom was…through the home, to the office. He would check his e-mails and putsy on the computer for a short time and then join me in the living room to watch TV.
Through his hospital stay, he had been taught physical therapy of how to walk. Again, he was a large man. We were told that it was critical to not put weight on his right leg because it could undo the surgery completely. We understood and listened carefully to the instructions: Non-weight bearing…toe touch…use the strength of the arms to make the movement of his right foot…get out of bed at least three times a day…
Kirk was so good at doing “what he was told to do,” he made sure to sit on the edge of the bed/chair and allow his legs to dangle a few minutes before placing a tennis shoe with good traction on his left foot. He would place his right foot against the left foot to allow the left foot to do the walking for it.
The evening before he passed, returning to the living room from the office, he stopped in the hallway and said, “Every time I step on my left foot, I “feel a ker-plunk/splooshing feeling in my right upper thigh.” I asked if it was painful and he replied, “No…” As he slowly lowered himself to the living room recliner, we discussed that if it continued…any longer at all…we would call the surgeon.
The call would never be made.
August 11, 2006: The Events On The Day He Passed Away:
I would say that I am writing these words down so I never forget, but in reality I was blessed/cursed with a photographic memory. Whether they are written down or not, they are burned into my brain unless senility sets in early on me.
I had been sleeping for the last four weeks and two days on an air mattress so I could be comfortable, in the room if he needed me, but not sleeping with him and accidentally bumping his leg. Nightly, he slept restlessly. He moaned, groaned, whimpered, and cried in his sleep. Kirk was a “manly man” and had an extremely high threshold for pain, so I knew…without asking…the amount of pain and suffering he was in.
When we awoke that morning, I fed and pampered him, and began the day. Although we had just purchased a new mattress a few months before, Kirk could not get comfortable in bed (or in a chair.) His upper right thigh was a source of constant pain.
I bought a wedge so he could sit upright in bed. We got air comfort pillows to support his neck. We placed an extra pillow beneath his right leg to support it and give his heal relief from the pressure of lying directly on the bed.
That morning, Kirk suggested that I go to Hamilton and purchase another air mattress. Even when I walked the dogs or went to the grocery store, I took the walkie-talkies so I could return immediately if he needed me. I left the phone on his hospital tray table and left for Hamilton with my cell phone.
While I was on the road and away from the house, we talked three times…just checking on how he was doing. On my return, while in Corvallis, my cell phone rang and Kirk urgently said, “I need you to come home…I’m not doing well.” My heart raced. As I said, Kirk had an extremely strong threshold of pain…he wasn’t a baby, ever, just wanting attention. I knew this was serious.
In minutes, I was home. At 12:10 p.m., he had taken his pain pill. At 12:20 p.m., he was extremely nauseous, cold and clammy. By 12:30, he couldn’t breathe. His chest and stomach heaved as he tried to get air. I said, “Kirk, I’m going to call 911 and he responded, “No…wait a few minutes and let’s just see if it gets better…” Breathlessly, he spoke one…word…at…a…time, almost as a question, “Maybe I’m having a reaction to the pain pill???”
That didn’t make sense to me, especially since he’d been on the same medication for four weeks…
I asked him if he was hurting, thinking that perhaps he was having a heart attack, and he replied slowly, struggling for air, “No…there’s no pain…I just can’t breathe.”
“I can’t stand this, Kirk,” I stated, “I AM CALLING 911.” Thinking I was going to leave the room to do so, he grabbed my arm and pleaded, “Please don’t leave me.” Holding his hand securely, I replied, “Kirk, I’m not leaving. The phone is right here.”
Holding his hand and reaching to the hospital tray table, I lifted the phone with my right hand and used my right thumb to dial 911. As the woman answered, I spoke slowly, clearly, enunciating, giving the facts. “My name is Gloria Benish and I need an ambulance dispatched immediately to my home. My husband is unable to breathe…” I gave a few more facts concerning his recent surgery.”
Our daughter, Jaime and four-year old granddaughter, Taylor were out in the front of the house. Jaime started to step over the threshold, into our bedroom, and I said, “Don’t come in here…go wait out front for the ambulance.” (I didn’t want her to see her father in that condition.) I will never forget the look of confusion on her face. Her wrinkled brow and face was questioning, “An ambulance? At noon, he was fine…”
Thank God for small towns! I heard the siren. Help was on its way…
As the paramedics entered the room, I explained the time factor of taking a pain pill – the nausea – the immediate inability to breathe. I reiterated what Kirk thought, that it was a reaction to pain medication. I said, “Also, if you’re going to have to move Kirk, you need to be extremely careful. He just had surgery four weeks ago and you can’t move and lift his right leg up or out laterally.” Without hesitating, the Paramedic, (Jeffory) stated with authority, “This isn’t a pain pill reaction, this is a blood clot which has gone into the lung.”
Kirk was lying sideways on the bed with his legs supported by the handholds of his walker, attempting to find comfort. I walked around to the side of the bed where his head lay. Jeffory placed an oxygen mask on Kirk’s face. I leaned down and placed my right cheek to his left cheek and stroked his right cheek with my hand to soothe him.
I whispered, “Kirk, can you breathe easier with the oxygen mask on?” and he shook his head, no…
From the depths of his soul, sincerely projecting what was forthcoming, he whispered, “Oh, hon, I’m so sorry…I will love you always, I will love you always…” He whispered his love five times before he had no more breath to whisper with.
I knew Kirk wasn’t coming back to me…
The paramedics got Kirk to the gurney and into the ambulance. I asked if I could ride along and they agreed to allow me to do so. Minutes out of town, I heard Jeffory sharply call Kirk’s name. I looked through the little window to the back of the ambulance and watched Jeffory remove the oxygen mask.
The ambulance driver pulled over, meeting another ambulance and team of paramedics. I was asked to get into the second ambulance. As Kirk’s ambulance sped towards Marcus Daly Hospital and we followed behind (without sirens,) I asked the driver, “So…how long have you been driving ambulances?” She responded, “About 17 years…” I asked, “And, can you tell me…in 17 years…how many times has there been a “happily-ever-after” concerning a situation like this?”
Complete silence (which was my answer.)
“No…really…” I asked, “Can you just tell me one hopeful outcome?” She used a firm, serious tone as she replied, “We are going to do everything we can to help. If we can’t help, we’ll get your husband to someone who can help. We will involve Lifeflight, but…you have to understand…this is very serious…”
Nervously asking, wanting to confirm the reality of what had just occurred; I asked the driver a question. “Since I know what just happened in the back of the ambulance, concerning Kirk, was I transferred to this ambulance…because you were afraid that I was going to become hysterical and then you’d be dealing with two situations, rather than one?”
Without hesitation, she responded, “Correct.” I was later informed that it was also imperative to meet with the second ambulance because another pair of paramedic’s hands were needed to perform the CPR on Kirk and still have another pair of hands to do other necessary life-saving methods.
I asked the driver if I could use my cell phone and was given permission. I called my sister, Terry in Denver. I also called Kirk’s elder brother Bill’s wife, Debbie in Walla Walla, Washington. I related that we were enroute, by ambulance, with Kirk…headed to the nearest hospital. I related the paramedic’s conversation and observation with these women, promising to keep them updated. I “knew” that both sides of the family needed pre-warning/mental preparation time for what was forthcoming. These two women were given the dreadful task of notifying our family members.
When our ambulance arrived at Marcus Daly, I checked Kirk in. It took only moments since he’d been brought to emergency four weeks and two days ago. A nurse approached me and said, “The doctor is ready to talk to you.”
The paramedic, Jeffory said, “I want to talk to Gloria, first, for just a moment.” He hugged me and said, “I just want to tell you this so, when you go back to see your husband that you’re not frightened. Kirk isn’t breathing on his own. We’re doing it for him.” I understood. I knew what occurred in the ambulance…
Approaching the room, where Kirk lay, the Droctor approached me. In a serious, slow, quiet tone, he introduced himself and said, “The paramedics were correct in their diagnosis, a blood clot has gone to Kirk’s lung.”
Confused and enunciating each word in a singular manner as he had just said, I replied, “I understand what you’re saying, but you’re saying a clot has gone to Kirk’s lung, but he has TWO LUNGS…why isn’t the other one working effectively?”
The Doctor responded, “That’s a very good question for you to be asking. It’s called a saddle embolism. I haven’t been with Kirk through his process of the accident, the surgery, or his recovery…but it’s my opinion that a blood clot has been pooling in his pelvis since the accident occurred. Today, at 12:20, the clot broke loose and traveled up to the cavity between the lungs.” He used his hand to direct my attention to the center of his solar plexus area. He continued, “The vein that feeds both lungs is here,” he showed me with hand movement and he stated, “And the clot was so large that it flooded both lungs instantly.”
Placing his middle finger pad to his thumb tip, to create a small circular visual, he said, “There are only two small areas of this diameter, one in each of the lungs that hasn’t been filled with blood already.” Still speaking softly, seriously, and quietly, he explained that a drug, which would dissolve the clot(s), was being administered by IV. Lifeflight had been called and was on standby, but it would take two hours for the process to occur.
Our daughter and granddaughter had followed the ambulances to Marcus Daly. They were in the Waiting Room. I went to Jaime and said, “Lifeflight has been called, but they can’t transport your dad until the clot is dissolved.” I made three quick trips to the Waiting Room, trying to protect her…helping her to mentally understand and be prepared.
I watched Kirk’s vitals drop. I watched as they breathed for him. I remained calm (and inwardly quaking) because they had told me that Kirk could hear me. I wanted to be strong for him.
The Doctor stated that he had concerns about Kirk’s heart muscles. All the blood was in Kirk’s lungs and the heart, in question, wasn’t able to pump the blood. The machine was being put in place to view Kirk’s heart muscles. The emergency room physican stated, “If there’s no muscle activity in the heart, we need to stop doing this…” (meaning, the CPR.)
When I heard the Doctor say that, I questioned, “If you’re saying that the heart muscles aren’t working…then, are you saying that blood isn’t getting to Kirk’s brain and he may be a vegetable?”
“You’re correct, Gloria, but we won’t KNOW that until we can get Kirk through this.” I thought, “But, by then, it would be too late.
He continued to explain that the brain was further away in the body than the heart. He confirmed a second time, making sure I understood, “If the heart isn’t getting blood and oxygen…nor is the brain.”
I had to give Kirk permission to go. They said he could hear me…
“Doctor., I’m telling you that I KNOW KIRK well enough…that he’s not going to let “stupid become stupider” (as he always used to say.) He is a man with an iron Will. And you say that he can hear us…so let me tell you something else…turn on your machine, take the picture of his heart muscles…it will depend upon your spoken diagnosis…and then Kirk is going to take care of this, himself.”
The machine was turned on. As the doctor was reading the picture, he said, “There’s no muscle activity in Kirk’s heart.” Kirk was pronounced dead at 14:55.
How Could Such A Mistake Take Place?
Everyone, during the life-saving methods and following this process, (including the paramedics/hospital/family/friends who called following his death) asked, “Was Kirk on blood thinners?” When I said that none were prescribed, I was asked, “Why not?”
I don’t have those answers. I am not a medical practitioner; I’ve heard lots of advice. Everyone has an opinion. Some surgeries require blood thinners. Others slow the healing process, I’m told. I’m told, also, that using blood thinners is a “judgment call,” for physicians. Blood thinners can cause stroke and end in coma in some situations. It’s a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
My question (oh…and I have so many…) would be: If this was the worst possible place to break, the most difficult to have surgery on, and the most extreme one to heal…was every precaution taken to secure a safe recovery for my husband? If I had a nickel for every person who knows someone/or themselves who have said that they had to take blood thinning shots in the stomach…I would be a rich woman about now.
Each incident is individual. I have to believe it was Kirk’s time…
I shake my head, in complete sadness, that this ever had to occur…
Kirk loved his family and taking care of its needs was his focal motivation. Whatever it took to provide, he would sacrifice. He was the center of our universe. I sang, “You are my sunshine” all the time. But, like the Sun, It/Kirk couldn’t conceive that he was the warmth and the source of energy for us to grow. It/he was just being itself/himself. It’s like, if you’re standing IN the forest, you can’t see the trees IF YOU ARE THE TREES. Kirk was bigger than life, itself, in our eyes.
Kirk Benish was not an average man. Kirk had very little formal education and training, however he could build horsedrawn sleighs and carriages, from the ground up, without reading a book. He was a poet, an artist, and a single parent of two little girls (until I married him.) He could cook ‘n sew and be “Becky Homecky” on every level. He was strong, gentle, and kind.
His eldest daughter, Kerrie, on his less-than-national average salary was put through Purdue to become an Astronautical/Aeronautical Engineer. She graduated 4th in her class and 6th in the nation. She (as ALL of our kids) was a great source of pride to him. He laughed when she said, “If I was ever going into outerspace and could only take one person, I’d take you, Dad. Because, if anything broke, you’d know how to fix it…or you’d quickly invent something that would work.”
That was Kirk. Inventor, fixer, Master of All Trades. He could fix anything…except his broken body.
On one of our weekend trips into Missoula, we passed a broken-down, older motorhome. I said, “Kirk…don’t you just know…those people have probably saved all year – or several years – to take a family vacation? Now, their money will go to fix the motorhome.”
We fantasized, “If we won the lottery, we would have AAA come get the broken-down motorhome and fix it. We would put the people in an all-expense-paid motel, get them a rental car, and give them spending money to be tourists, and let them see the kindness of Montanans. On roadtrips, we would spend hours fantasizing of different ways we could be anonymous benefactors for those in need.
Kirk helped everyone. Every age. In any way.
A future goal, of mine, is to create a “Kirk H. Benish Foundation.” Then, for all those individuals who will never have the privilege of meeting Kirk “with skin on,” he’ll still be offering his loving “hands”/Spirit to help others.