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AARP The Magazine

Sandy Hook Grandparents Share Stories

Their journey since the tragedy last year has been through unparalleled pain and numbing grief into a struggle to move on

The Grandparents of Newtown (Dan Winters)

The Lobises, displaying their grandson's art. "We never fail to say 'I love you,' " says Carmen. "You never know when you will have that chance again." — Dan Winters

Annette & Carmen Lobis
West Chester, Pa.
Grandparents of Benjamin Wheeler, age 6

"We were always a close family, but this has drawn us even closer," says Carmen, 76. "It's made us more sensitive to one another's feelings. We can sense when one of us needs a hug or a hand to hold. Now when we are together, we never fail to say 'I love you.' You never know when you will have that chance again.

"My wife and I are still grieving for our grandson. And we are grieving for Francine and David, our daughter and our son-in-law, and for our older grandson, Nate, who've had to live through this horrendous experience. Their pain is much more severe and intense than even ours is. They're all in therapy to help them work through it, but it's very hard.

"Our lives aren't the same without Ben. He was truly an amazing little boy. He had a steel-trap mind, almost a photographic memory. I remember once driving somewhere with him and taking a new route because the normal one was backed up with traffic. Ben immediately noticed and told me I was missing a turn. 'You are supposed to take Route 252 to Route 3 to Malin Road,' he told me. This from a boy of 6.

"He liked to say he wanted to be an architect when he grew up. But sometimes he wanted to be a paleontologist, because that's what his brother, Nate, wants to be. I don't think I knew what a paleontologist was until I was in high school.

"Ben had boundless energy. He loved the local soccer program. He loved his swimming lessons. He was a Tiger Scout. You always knew when he was around. He didn't sit in the corner quietly. Nate is the opposite, quiet and reserved. When Ben would see Nate reading a book on the floor, he'd jump on top of him. They had a remarkable relationship, even though they were entirely different. After Ben died, Nate told his mom, 'You have to do something. I don't want to be an only child.' With Ben's passing, their house is a totally different place. It's so quiet."

"We dream about Ben," says Annette, 72. "I say 'Good morning' to him every day. It's as if he is still here. Sometimes it feels like he really is. Recently we were all at a beach condo in New Jersey. We walked into the place, and sitting on that table was a little truck that Ben had adored: the one from the movie Cars that looks human and has headlights that look like eyes. It wasn't Ben's; the last tenant must have left it behind. But it was as if Ben had put it there for us, to let us know he was with us."

Next page: Lindie & Dan Bacon. »

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