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Bench Stories: How a Falls Twp Woman’s Grief has Lessened the Pain of Loss for Others



Members of thein May Bench Story page in Falls Twp Comm Park
Credit: Jeff Bohen

 

 

Beginnings (Denial/Anger/Bargaining) 

‘…I was driving in my car and I was physically yelling (if you pulled up next to me i’m sure you would have thought I was a crazy person) at Nev (her son) at God, and at the universe! They say “things happen for a reason.” Well what purpose, what plan did God have in mind to take my middle child? I was angry, and sad and a giant crying mess.”

The above words were taken from a Facebook post pecked out by Nancy Ream of Falls Township on a social media  page she created simply called Bench Stories. Her words, reflects a tumult of feelings; anger, grief, depression she was living through that day, as she continued to try and make sense of her son’s death.

Only Ream can say for sure, if she still experiences moments like above any given hour or day. Now, however, she  has a place she can go to stay “connected” to her son Nevin. That want for connection, a mother’s need,  if you will, is a singular foundation of motherhood.

Ream has re-discovered a way to connect, not just with her son, but so many others in the Lower Bucks area through her Bench Stories page, created almost one year ago. And this a synopsis of that process and her way of finding meaning and connection through loss.

Depression

“That day” she says, “I was having a breakdown, I decided to take a walk to clear my head,”  at Falls Township Community Park.

Ream is telling me the story of how this specific Saturday afternoon in May came to fruition- its beginning, mid point and sort of ending.

She goes on.

“It is a beautiful park and it helps calm my soul,” she says, as a gentle wind, rustles her brown hair ever so gently, which in turn strands of her bifurcate her sun glasses.

Nevin Ream’s Bench in Falls Twp Community Park
Credit: Jeff Bohen

The visual symbolism – speaks  volumes as to how she “gets through every day-.”

In past.  In present. Often simultaneously.

Ream goes on saying she walked “around the lake” and in her moments of feeling like the abyss of life was swallowing her up, she sat down on a bench.

“And I saw the names. Names of people I didn’t know.  I read them. Noticed there were some my Nevin’s age.and I wondered who they were? wha happened to them?, she said, sharing her temporary escape from grief to query.

Her curiosity, lead eventually to wanting to get a bench in the park to commemorate her son because “I must confess, people forgetting ‘Nev’ is one of my biggest fears.”

To insure Nevin lives on in a knowable tangible way, Nancy wanted to get a bench in the park, and in August of 2018, she started the process, shortly after she created the Bench Stories page.

Ream attends a women’s health related cancer support group where she shared with the  group members she wanted to get bench, but her finances at that moment in time were a bit tight.

“The next meeting I went to the group handed me a check for $570 to get the bench and that was super awesome” cracking a grin as wide as the lake we’re standing adjacent to in the park as friend from the Bench Story page Diane Lawrence gently takes her hand.

Lawrence lost a son also, Devin. He Overdosed four years she says, looking at the ground. “Devin’s bench isn’t here, its in Core Creek Park, in Middletown Township, she says. It was dedicated three years ago.

“Dev’s been gone fours now, but bench, a tree, and the group, voice rising as she shares her story of how she came to discover a friendship of support with someone she’s never met before in the form of Nancy.

They’re still holding hands, as yet additional members of the social media group show up.

Introductions, hugs, get choked up.

Bob, Nancy’s husband of some 25 years, stands behind Nevin’s bench, realizing, we’re out numbered. He fits the strong silent type depiction, says “she wanted the bench, so we got it.”

The Process /Acceptance 

Ream said Falls Township was easy to deal with when ordering and placing Nevin’s bench. “I talked to Brian” she said, meaning Parks & Recreation Director Brian Andrews.

The Falls Twp Community Park Bench Program began in 2006,  and it typically takes two to three months to construct the benches. Placements, need to be approved by the department,  Andrews said.

There are 55 Memorial Benches in the park, according to Andrews, and “we also have a memorial tree program” he said, too along with a special dedication page on the Parks and Recreation program page.

“It is an important program to us mainly because the benches are dedicated to individuals who were avid patrons and supporters of our park system and helps us achieve our goal of being partners with our local communities” Andrews said.
For Ream and her family, the park, the bench, and the wildlife is  a found serenity. Its  priceless to them.
Nevin’s two children recently visited  his bench. A stunning black and white photo on the group page depicting the visit dated May 27, 2019, gives life to what the benches commemorate.
The same can be said for the Bench Stories Facebook Page. To the minds eye its the spiritual home for any and all who have lost a loved one seeking to simultaneously keep memories alive of those missed and lessen the pain of loss by sharing with each other in modern way of community expression.
The benches story, of course is not simply about mother’s and sons.

Jillian & Joyce Heller on the Bench Memorializing Donald Heller.
Credit: Jeff Bohen

Case in point, Jillian Keller, a bright 32 year-old, articulate, Philadelphia school teacher, hailing from Falls, lost her father, Donald 60,  recently due to complications of “double pneumonia,” Jillian says.

He passed away Christmas Day, Jillian says, with an ever so slight quiver in the melody of her voice speaking barely above a whisper.
“He loved coming here (the park)” she said, “he fished here always . And this is our place we can come and see him,. I like to read or just sit here.” Jillian said, as her Mom nodded along listening.
“At least he was here for my wedding” she beams, eyes glowing, with a tint of sadness, standing with her mother,
Joyce as more members of the group page approach.
Mr Keller, was a big time “NASCAR Fan” and his bench in the park reflects just that. Keller’s bench was placed “about a month ago” both Keller’s share
,
As stories are being shared, Nancy listen’s intently in the background, she’s nodding in identification with Jillian’s story about her dad’s unexpected death. You can see the “empath” within her, as for the moment she is swimming in Jillian’s sharing.
Dana Pirollo lost her daughter, Samantha, 27, suddenly, to a flu related illness, she says.
“She died in her sleep.”
Pirollo is a “bench in waiting” she says, as the group chuckles, at her quip, meaning her bench is still in process.

She’s with her Grandson, Brysen (Samantha’s son), who high-fives me, when I ask him about his the fire fighting gear he has with him.

Posts on her personal Facebook page, share her battle to “move forward” despite the grief she greets everyday missing her “angel.”

Discussion among the women ensues. Some laughter rings out, the warmth of the May sun in all its brilliance brings a sheath of gleam to the lake in the park. It feels as though the park is giving the group is best of version of a hug. You get the sense, the park, its benches, know exactly the role its played on this Spring day in May.

“Pain shared. Is Pain lessened”

Recovery/Epilogue: 

“I would like to highlight a bench or a memorial tree from Falls park, every few days and hopefully have people write in and tell us about this person and share their stories. In this way, we can all get to know a little about this person. I’m hoping that this will be an inspirational page where people can come and find hope, peace, and love.”

Nancy Bream August 1, 2018,  Bench Stories Facebook Page

Whether Nancy realizes it or not, she appears to be, through her reaching out, in the acceptance stage.

The Bench Story page has close approximately 680 members. The page also has its own Photo Journalist in the form of Cindy Johnson, whose digital skills are sights to behold. Saying ‘she’s good’ at her craft simply doesn’t do it. Experience it for yourself.

 

Reporters Note: Credit to Nicole Polidori for it was she who suggested this was a story.

 

 

 

 

  1. Bench Story About Page Link https://www.facebook.com/groups/1748724898575513/about/

2) About 680 members on page and growing still

3) End Graph – Annc – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1748724898575513/announcements/

 

Brian Info from Falls 

1. The bench program began in 2006. All bench requests must be approved by our Park and Recreation Board.
2. There are currently 55 Memorial Benches.
3. It typically takes 2-3 months to construct the benches.
4. We also have a Memorial Tree Program that is similar to the bench program. Individual purchases a tree and our staff will plant it in a location chosen by them after receiving approval from our Park and Recreation Board
It is an important program to us mainly because the benches are dedicated to individuals who were avid patrons and supporters of our park system and helps us achieve our goal of being partners with our local communities.
Need anything else, let me know.

 

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published the seminal guide and theory about and on grief. Kubler-Ross’ theory based upon research she had completed as part of her psychiatric residency suggested there are five stages to the process of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Researchers say people have varying experiences and therefore negotiate the stages individually; skipping stages and or going back, to a stage for example.


Jeff Bohen
Digital Reporter
Jeff Bohen has been covering news in the Philadelphia region since 2008 for Temple Student Radio WHIP, Intern at WBCB, a Patch.com freelancer for 4 different Patch sites, and he is the co-founder/creator of LeviittownNow.com
Bohen is a passionate about educating the public on issues surrounding mental health, as he lives with Bi-Polar Disorder. In his free time, Jeff is an a avid sports fan, podcast listener, and metal head.

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