Friday, December 8, 2017

Dear Ben ...

Hi Ben,

It's nine years today, so I'm just checking in—I feel like it’s been awhile since we last saw you. Funny about that.

Dad sent a text to your phone on Sunday but you didn’t reply. Funny about that too.

So it’s nine years and I am hoping that you’re doing okay ‘up there’—or wherever you are—up there, over there, behind a veil. Hope it’s a ball. Hope it’s a real ball.

But hey, I just wanted to let you know that after nine years, life here is still—offensive and impossible as it seems to me—going on without you!

And it has to be said, you have missed a whole lot. But do you know that already? Do you get our news up there? Or has this life become a misty memory like a dream? Have you forgotten us?

Because we haven’t forgotten you (as if).

You are, as I think you would expect, still very much alive to us. Your brothers and now also your nephews remind us of you often and in many different ways: your smile, your laughing voice, your broad shoulders (literally and figuratively), your listening ear and quietly confident advice, your unshakeable faith, your mix of cynicism and optimism, your interest in everything, your love of music, dancing, ice hockey, surfing (you name it, everything and more).

We have not forgotten the way you seemed to run at life head on, like a bull-at-a-gate when you were young and like it (life that is) was something to conquer when you were older.

We remember your fierce independence and how you held onto your dignity and autonomy even in your last sad weeks when struggling for breath was too much for you. We will always be amazed at your courage, fearlessness and your sense of humour, even unto death (as they say).

We know there were those who loved you quite passionately, and we also know there were those who had reasons not to care for you, but their reasons were not part of your ‘best self’, and I don’t think they have to be mentioned.

I know, I know, this is not the sort of letter you will be interested in; you possibly think me self-indulgent for writing it. But even though you might not be interested in how you are (or aren’t) remembered, it is very important to me because how we talk about you, especially with our grandchildren, will to some extent determine how you journey on with us; whether you remain a participating member of the Mulherin clan or become increasingly an out-of-date photo on our wall. As I have said before, the last thing we want you to become is a rather frightening bloke in sepia on our walls.

On a lighter note, I think you would be pleased to know that the ‘Mulherin-Middle’ is firmly entrenched in the family culture. Did it start as a family tradition on those uni mornings as you strode away from the car to catch a train? Brothers in the car on the way to school, me two toots on the horn and you one prolonged Mulherin-Middle salute held high above your head. Made all of us smile then, every morning, still makes me smile as I write.

And so even if it is just me with the ‘same old, same old’, I will repeat that you still inspire us to try and live our lives well, even if we run at a slightly less relentless pace than you did. And well, let’s be brutally honest, it’s just as well you went full-speed because your days were cruelly cut short. But for the rest of us, well, we seem to be here for the long haul, so we kind of take it a bit easier.

Oh and before I end my rave, I couldn’t possibly forget to say that we do miss your fun dreadfully, however we seem to manage some pretty good attempts at it even without you here.

CSB Ben.

Love Mum

Friday, August 18, 2017

August 24 2017 ... Happy 32nd birthday

Looking through photos (again) in order to compile a photo wall at home, I was reminded of Ben’s affinity with animals of all sizes—from sitting on bulls at his grandparents’ farm, staring quietly at a kangaroo at a zoo, persuading a parrot to sit on his arm, talking to a horse or taking time out of his busy 3-year old schedule to ponder the meanderings of a snail, he was always quietly curious and respectful.
     If you read back through the blog you will see that he was somewhat of a cat whisperer, was fond of big dogs and managed to tolerate small dogs, and was kind and proactive about various dying street animals in Tucuman. His care and concern for animals never changed and our last two cats were part of his dying months.
     I don’t think Ben swam with whales but I can imagine him doing it, and he would surely have been curious, respectful and fearless.

Nearly 32

From Jill ...

Nearly 32 Ben. I so wish that I could have the conversations that are going around in my head with you face-to-face. I am just going to have to wait.

But I particularly want to say how deeply I felt you while I was in the South Pacific last week. I thought of your willingness to take on a challenge and to be fearless as I slid into the ocean to swim with a humpback whale and her young calf.

And again just after the calf swam past within 30 metres of my outstretched hand, the calf's eyes wide open watching me (her mother in hot pursuit) I thought about your fearlessness but your care of those around you.

Thanks Ben you continue to be in our lives and we miss you desperately.

Friday, December 2, 2016

December the 8th: another year rolls by

You and your fun,
laughter, energy,
continue with us
in so many ways.

Eight years is ridiculous.

Never ever forgotten,
always missed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gone 7 years today—A reflection on the cancer journey

A brief re-glimpse of the cancer months.

Sometime in early May 2008, a small lump appeared on Ben’s leg. The small lump grew until it was the size of a tennis ball, red, swollen, but painless.

After weeks of different doctors with different opinions—“That’s a cyst. I can cut it out right now if you like” or “I don’t know what that is.”—the lump was diagnosed as NK cell lymphoma. We’d never heard of it. Nor had most medical people.

The diagnosis catapulted Ben into six months of aggressive and relentless cancer treatment with increasing time in hospital. Radiotherapy reduced the lump but the cancer had already spread.

After weeks of chemotherapy, Ben had surgery. His spleen was removed—much bigger than its normal size—along with his gall bladder which was rotten with malignant cells.

A new, tougher chemo regime followed, which included a miracle drug. He responded badly and needed increasingly large doses of morphine to manage his pain. His suffering was intense and we were amazed at his bravery and lack of complaint. He was moved to ICU sometime in October, due to failing pulmonary function.

By November his lung function was so bad he was placed in an induced coma, intubated and on a respirator. We stood watch over an oblivious Ben, swathed in intravenous lines and cables. We listened to the rhythmic hiss and swoosh of the respirator and the beeping of monitors. We asked questions. We saw his chest X-rays were increasingly bad.

We rejoiced when he was extubated and woken up eight days later. We tried to believe the best, but he was already dying.

In his last three days alive, he watched videos from his bed with his brothers, all squashed into his ICU cubicle. He saw friends and family and said his goodbyes—just in case.

We asked him about dying. He encouraged us.

His blood oxygen levels continued to drop. His body systems were giving up. He was exhausted. He said “I just want to come home and sit in the sun.” And on another occasion, “I’ve had enough.”

We were going to lose him.

Three days after being brought out of the coma, the medical team said he wasn’t getting enough oxygen. He said, “If I have to go, being in an induced coma is okay. I know what happens. It’s just going to sleep.” So we said goodbye as though it might be the last; all the while believing that it wouldn’t be.

December 8, 2008. 3.30 pm.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Facebooked memories from Elisa

"Today I was remembering with my Mum what you were like Ben.

You were always such a sticky-beak (‘chusma’), wanting to know everything about everyone. Ha Ha!

With me it was about, who was the best in our ping-pong competitions, and who could run faster. Or who was the strongest, and even who could spit further! :-)

I’m sure there were lots of other things, but I can’t remember them now.

Sometimes I wonder how it would have been if you were still alive.

Would we still be in touch? Would you have a family? Would you still do crazy things?

I would like to know.

But God wanted to have you with him. He had other ideas and we don’t understand, but we accept it.

At times it seems really wrong. But I don’t cry because I can handle it! And I don’t want you to think you beat me. -:)

I hope that on the day when we see each other you will give me one of your big hugs. You learned how to give Argentine hugs really well while you lived here in Tucumán.

I’ll see you in heaven Ben Mulherin."

Ely Garcia—Facebook

Monday, August 24, 2015

Happy Birthday!

You left us wishing you’d hung around for a while longer.

Thanks for it all—the good times, the laughs, the pain
and the tears.

And in these ‘after’ years, your story reminds us to make
our lives count because they are short.

Meanwhile, we remember your hope for heaven and your confidence
that the best was yet to come.

Thanks Ben.

And happy 30th birthday.

Thanks Alice for the photo.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Waking up in an 'after'

Ben was the oldest of five boys.

He was often with one, two, three or even four of his brothers.

These five brothers, growing up together fought, shared, competed, respected, and sometimes, tired of each other.

They had their ups and downs, but they shared lived experiences which united them and gave them an understanding of each other.

Ben was the oldest of five boys and always will be.

"You don’t even realise you’re living in a before until you wake up one day and find yourself in an after." (Robin Wasserman, The Book of Blood and Shadow)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

One small life ...

‘One small life’ is a phrase that runs through my mind as I look through photos of Ben, wishing and hoping, that I will miraculously find a new one that I haven’t seen before.

I know I am actually wishing that I could add on to his life, or rewind it somehow.

His dates 24/8/1985–8/12/2008 confirm how brief and little is an earthly life but the quote from Revelation reminds me that there is no ending date in heaven.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Loving life

Loving life to the full is how we remember you mostly.
[Click the picture to catch the smile.]

Still missing you, still waiting with hope…

Thursday, March 5, 2015


The following thoughts were inspired by this photo of Ben and Matt, which Pete put on the last page of a book he compiled for us for Christmas.

Since December 2008, many people have said that Ben lived an authentic life.

In looking up authentic I read that it can mean emotionally appropriate, significant, purposeful, responsible, reliable and genuine.

I remember that—
Ben was opinionated and competitive, yet kind and compassionate. 
He drove his youth leaders and teachers mad with his energy and occasional disregard for authority, but would then surprise them by his ready apology when he believed he had behaved badly. 
He could be rough and impatient with his brothers and yet they all knew he would be there for them. 
A young bloke who disliked Ben’s arrogant manner, changed his opinion when Ben asked him conversationally one day, ‘You don’t like me much do you?’ 
A middle-aged man who Ben had had disagreements with, fell into serious depression. This man was amazed and encouraged when Ben visited him in hospital. 
More than one friend with a troubling problem, sought Ben out, knowing he would listen, be unfazed by anything they might say, and would offer advice only if wanted. 
Throughout his short, imperfect, adventurous, challenging life I remember he was quick to speak (and sometimes offend) but equally quick to ask forgiveness and to forgive.
An authentic life? Yes, I think so.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Not moving away

A friend sent us these thoughts in 2014:

I want to try to explain what ‘moving on’ means for me. I don’t see life as a straight-line progression, moving from our past, through the present to the future, and at each point leaving behind what is in the past.

If anything, life is more like a spiral staircase that we’re on. CS Lewis used a phrase in his book "The Last Battle", which was something like higher up and further in. That also gives me a picture of our life becoming richer as we journey on with God.

As life moves on, all of our past life is gathered up and brought with us, and can enrich our lives in the present. As I revisit past experiences, I value them as being part of my life, but each time I revisit, I feel as though I’m higher up the spiral staircase. So I may do things differently this anniversary, not because I’ve left behind something special, but because I’m on a higher rung on the staircase. I’ve moved on, but not moved away. I’m higher up and further in to life.

So ‘moving on’ for me doesn’t mean leaving anything behind! I realise that if I try to leave things behind, they just get hidden in the shadows of my life, and will cause me inexplicable pain and confusion. It’s much better to keep my eyes open to as much as I can of all of my life, and realise that all the experiences of my life are part of me, and can be used by God.
In relation to Ben, I know full well that you can never leave him behind, even if you tried! There’s no reason for you to try though. I believe that Ben’s life will always enrich and deepen your life in many and different ways, and that one day in the future, you’ll be fully present to each other.

Ben’s life also enriches the lives of all who knew him. His life and death have challenged me more than you probably realise. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I was really shaken, which then led to questioning deeply what I really believe, which is now an ongoing process for me. Ben’s life and death have led me to take God very seriously, and to be more authentically the person He made me to be.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Nine Tips for a Happy Life

We have just returned from another Theos beach mission in Mallacoota, run by Scripture Union Victoria.

Chris does nine talks to the team during the two weeks of the mission, and this year they were titled "Nine tips for a happy life". In one of the sessions he included Ben and his story.

He showed this brief, funny video clip from Ben’s last year as director of the team in 2007/2008, and talked about when he was a fun-loving, fit, healthy, dynamic and ambitious young man—and then the sudden and tragic changes that he was faced with a few months after the Theos mission.

Chris then read out this conversation between Ben’s church pastor and Ben:

Right at the start of his illness, I [Richard] asked Ben if he was angry with God, that he should get this cancer. It seemed like an obvious reaction to me, after all that’s what I was thinking.

Ben looked at me as though I had asked a silly question, and said – “why would I? – It’s none of my business”.

I think what he was trying to say was that he trusted God with whatever outcome for his life that God had in mind.

We are continually grateful that Ben’s story goes on having an impact.

We are constantly glad that he is not forgotten.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Six years

A friend wrote an email to us yesterday, knowing that the 8th of December was only a couple of days away.
Yesterday, I 'saw' Ben as a vibrant, healthy young man (i.e. no cancer causing in his body) and felt surprised that he wasn't around, wasn't getting on with his life amongst us. It was as if I forgot momentarily that he had those 6 months or so with cancer in his body. Then I remembered and suddenly felt a surge of anger at what happened 6 years ago. It seems so incomprehensible, so senseless that Ben died at 23. Everything in me wants to scream out that it's wrong, it shouldn't have been that way.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

From Meaghan's Private Collection

This is from Meaghan’s Private Collection and it echoes what the blog is about really—memories and reminders and reminiscing.
Carlton is a pocket of memories about Ben. Being in certain places is indistinguishable from remembering. It's good to be able to be in a place and feel that a memory is tangible. It's hard to give a memory shape so that someone else can hold it. But if you can, what a joy to share it! To hand it over and let someone else turn it over in their hands, then pop it into their pocket until they want to enjoy it again.
And from Cathy. (Please let us know if it’s not okay to post this-we couldn’t
find your address to ask your permission. Apologies.)
I first read this blog back in 2010, drawn to it by the saddest of reasons. I had lost my eldest son Chris at the age of 24 and connected deeply to the journey of Ben's family.

We too worry that our memories of Chris will become less sharp as the years go by. We try to mark the milestones like his 30th birthday and find joy as his friends marry and have children. Even though it is five long years since Chris died, the ‘constant presence of his absence’ remains.

Thank-you for continuing to share your stories. Maybe Ben and my Chris are even partying together

Wouldn't that be lovely?
Twenty three short years.

Six long years on the 8th.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A cheering email

We received the following email last week and the sender was pleased to have it put on the blog.

It is no small comfort that Ben still lives on in people’s minds. And very thoughtful that people tell us so!

Dear Chris and Lindy,

It has been several years now and it is very possible that you will not recall, but I was the registrar who took care of Ben at Box Hill Hospital (for almost the entire 4 months of my Haematology rotation).

I'm not sure what has compelled me to write today, but I think of Ben and your family not infrequently (even now), and always remember the grace with which you all handled a very difficult time.

I do apologise if this email has brought up unpleasant memories, but I wanted you to know how Ben remains ever present, even among those you may not have expected.

I hope you and the boys are well, and send you all my warmest wishes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Carrying a lantern

The Leukaemia Foundation’s Light the Night events happen in states around Australia every year.

Shine a gold lantern to remember a loved one, a white lantern to reflect on your life with blood cancer, or a blue lantern to show support.

Emily has a white lantern for her small son Ned, who is undergoing treatment for leukaemia and Tim carries a gold lantern to remember Ben.

I heard about Rare Cancers Australia Ltd (RCA) a couple of weeks ago, investigating the less common types of cancers, but I can’t see T/NK cell lymphoma mentioned on their website.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

No, never

We missed seeing Ben’s lively laughing birthday crowd this year.

When a friend asked me if we’d ‘moved on’ and if that was why we didn’t have a big celebration, I wanted to stand on the top of a tall building and shout to everyone ‘No! Never!’

But friends with commitments and us returning to our small house meant we didn’t organise a big day, only a small family-ish group.

We are hoping that for Ben’s 30th next year, his birthday will be unrivaled in people’s social calendars and we will have a big gathering.

Time moves on Ben, but we won’t leave you behind, like a sepia on the wall.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Happy 29th birthday Ben

We had a laugh with you today, in your absence but with a sense of your presence too. Hope you're giving them heaps up there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I see myself with elongated arms, like a stretchy Gumby doll, thinner and thinner, trying to reach back to the past to when I could feel Ben with us.

Sometimes it all seems a dream and it’s not six years since we were with him last.

Not that I don’t miss him now. I do, every day; some days worse than others.

The feeling of a dream makes it bleaker and sadder in some ways—every day a reminder that while we move in one life-propelled direction, he doesn’t really move with us.

He floats somewhere out of reach, out of sight, out of earshot, a memory, which loses its sharp focus, with the passing time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The final slide

This photo of Ben stares out at me across the loungeroom and into the kitchen. I wonder what he would be saying and I found this quote today and thought he might agree with it.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but to slide in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow . . . What a ride!’
(Bereaved Parents USA, Summer 2014)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Memory of Ben from Gumpa

Whilst memories of Ben remain very much part of our daily lives, (Wilga and I offer a little prayer each morning and night), last week a special time with him came flooding back.

The occasion was Easter Monday, Wilga and I joined some members of the Mulherin and Briggs families on Colin and Jill’s farm at Rutherglen. We had gathered to help with cutting firewood for Brigg’s winter fires and a bbq to follow. Matt was practicing his driving skills in Colin’s ute, which was moved as the need arose, to be close to the chain-sawing action. For me the face in the vehicle was Ben’s, as clear as if it was yesterday.

Matt in the ute took me back to many years ago. We were on our farm at Gundowring. Gumpa, and the grandsons had driven out into the paddocks to dig out Patterson Curse plants. As we worked we had moved quite a distance from the “tuk”—Ben’s first efforts at pronunciation of truck. The old Landcruiser got “tuk”, and I got “Gumpa”. I asked Ben, perhaps aged 12, if he thought that he could bring the vehicle to where we were.

The eyes lit up and in a quiet, but very proud voice announced to the brothers, “Gumpa wants me to drive the truck”. In response to his “yes”, my question was, “what is the first thing you need to know?” My answer to his blank expression was, “know how to stop it, before you start it”. Ben loved a challenge, the bigger the better. Here was a challenge, not only of driving a motor vehicle for the first time; it was to happen in front of those younger brothers.

Managing a heavy old ute, manual gear box, no power steering and a clutch that had “issues”, provided a test of skill for experienced drivers, daunting for a first-timer. Ben was not going to let that get in the way of this opportunity, so off he went. To sounds of a roaring motor, and some grating of gears, the occasional stall, Ben and the truck “hopped” their way over the paddock to us. To say that, it was a very proud Ben who got out of the vehicle, would be the understatement of all time.

Ben was the first to give that old Toyota a workout and over the years Tim, Andy and Pete all spent hours learning some basics of managing the tuk. Yesterday when I was looking into Colin’s ute, Matt was driving but my mind, was dwelling on a precious “grandfather” moment many years ago. Just one of many treasured experiences with a much loved grandson—memories that are becoming ever more precious as years tick by.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Passing this way but once

A year or so ago, I spent a day with a woman, who I will call Sue, whose daughter had recently died from a brain tumour.

Yesterday, in the mail, I received a copy of a beautiful book from Sue. It is a one year devotional; a bound, illustrated coffee-table size book which also includes a CD of inspirational songs.

Sue wrote and produced this book, in remembrance of her 15 year old daughter. She also oversees a Christian charity, inspired by, and named after, her daughter. It continues to raise thousands of dollars for a worthy cause.

And I think with sadness that no book has been written about Ben, to inspire people’s faith, and no excellent charity has his name blazoned on it.

And like I have so often, I think about him being forgotten and how to appropriately continue honouring and remembering him.

And again, like I have so often, I get to hoping and praying that the impact of his life and the way he died, will be remembered in and through the way we continue to live our lives without him.

‘I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.’ Etienne de Grellet (1773-1855) Quaker Missionary.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More from the private files of Meaghan

Ben was good at working with spaces.

One of the awkward spaces at our Rathdowne Street flat almost beat Ben. There was a hole in the kitchen to fit a dishwasher. Ben found a dishwasher on hard rubbish that would fit the cavity and brought it over. I remember watching in silent awe as Ben solely dragged the dishwasher up the stairs on a trolley. The stair well was an awkward space. Too narrow and with too low ceilings to service moving in and out of the apartments well. The scars in the paintwork were evidence of the challenge. The dishwasher was big and cumbersome, and required a combination of careful maneuvering and endurance lifting. It was truly impressive to see it ascend the three stories without adding to the chipped décor.

Ben had measured the cavity and so the dishwasher would slide into place. Except it did not. There was a u-bend pipe sticking out from next to the sink. Ben was sweating and puffing from lugging it up the stairwell. I waited for the frustration to surface. Ben leaned on the dishwasher and looked at the floor tiles while he caught his breath. ‘Ok,’ he said and started the slow and heavy descent down the stairwell with the dishwasher.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Imagining...all the boys at the wedding

We knew he should have been there so we Photoshopped him in.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

More wedding bells

So we had another beautiful wedding in our family. This time Pete married charming Chermaine.

It was a lovely day of celebration, love and laughter.

Ben would have contributed had he been there physically but he contributed from behind the scenes as best he could; remembered in speeches and also in our collective memories.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Moving house, moving on and going back

Leaving Finlayson Street, Doncaster means leaving our last memories of Ben as a 23-year-old.

But returning to Box Hill South is returning to memories of Ben as an active, curious young boy-always with something new to do.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hightop homage

From the private files of Meaghan—used with permission

At the intersection of Drummond and Pelham streets in Carlton, there is a roundabout.

Soon after Ben died an excellent collection of sneakers developed, hanging from the power lines above the roundabout.  

Neon Nike hightops

Crisp white Adidas

Blue and orange Tigers,

Spinning slowly to display their glory.

In my private thoughts, the growing collection was homage to Ben.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Come on. Hurry up!

Musings received from a friend who is a nurse:

I like Alice's idea  that "maybe he is here rallying us to do something, somewhere." I often find myself thinking 'I wonder how Ben would react to this situation?' In some ways he is my every patient, challenging me to provide the best care I can for my patients; as though by doing so I can honour his memory. He is far from forgotten.
When I read comments about him partying in heaven, I have an image of a great mass of people, moving towards God and an image of Ben amongst the crowd. I can see him running forward, determined to reach the goal as soon as he can, uncaring whether others walk or run. His eyes are set.
Watching him go before me, with anticipation and determination, both when he was here in this life and now in my imaginings of him there, in that other, better life have been a great encouragement and great reminder.
That's my most recent memory of Ben. Still leading the way.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Ben (again)

It was Ben’s birthday on Saturday-24th August, he would have turned 28.

We had plenty of Ben's friends and family over to celebrate again this year. It’s five years since Ben was at one of his birthday celebrations and a lot has changed. What hasn’t changed is how much we miss him.

Happy Birthday Ben.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Again (again)

We were at a party the other day and The Proclaimers’ "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" was pumped out by the proficient and enjoyable band of the night. We don’t usually hear ‘500 miles’ played and it propelled us back to our first hearing of it.

It was Ben who introduced it to us. He returned from participating in a team adventure challenge somewhere in the Victorian high country- he must have been in Year 11 at school- singing the song with gusto. He then bought (and played with plenty of volume) ‘Sunshine on Leith’, the CD with ‘500 miles' on it.

Back at the party, a few songs after ‘500 miles’, ‘Viva la Vida’  by Cold Play was played. We were pretty overwhelmed with ‘if onlys’ and ‘surely it didn’t really happens'.

On the way home from the party, Chris said that he had written about the same Proclaimers song on the blog and so I looked it up:

Friday, March 19, 2010
It happened again today. After a few 'quiet' days, that sense of loss and distance came back with tears and a thud. Ben is so far far away... The Proclaimers' song comes back to me "I would walk a thousand miles just to hear your voice again." So I listen to the recorded message from his mobile. Three times.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Practical advice for well-wishers

I feel mortified when I think of the ‘helpful’ things I have said—albeit well intentioned—to people over the years.

I know from being a bereaved parent and being involved in a bereaved parents’ group, that it is very hard to say the ‘right’ thing to people in great pain and it’s all too easy to say something that can highlight the sense of loneliness of the grief journey.

The truth is, that often anything we say, will be wrong, or at least not ‘right’.

The following is an excerpt from an article in ‘A Journey Together,’ which is a newsletter put out by Bereaved Parents USA. It outlines a way of thinking about grief which can help us, the well intentioned, to avoid saying hurtful or even harmful things.

The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie’s husband, Pat. “I wasn’t prepared for this,” she told him. “I don’t know if I can handle it.”

This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say [to Katie’s husband, suffering more deeply]… Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it ‘Ring Theory’.

The whole article is called ‘Practical Advice’ by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman. It is on page 4 of the Summer 2013 BP/USA newsletter which you can download as a pdf here.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Whatever (again)

Steve Curtis Chapman's song 'Whatever' has been thumping around in my head and I looked back at the blog entry about it in 2010 (here), and thought I might post it, slightly altered, again.
Someone said the other day; "Have X and Y lost the plot? They were talking to me as if Ben died last week!"

"He did" I replied, surprised that not everyone felt the same: today, yesterday, last week. Forever.
And while the years keep rolling on, Ben the living still speaks. Ben the man of 23 who was nobody's puppet, nobody's fool and nobody's property, screams out to be remembered.
And as he nags at me to remember him, as he was, I am  drawn once again, to a song on a CD called 'Speechless'  by Steven Curtis Chapman. The song is 'Whatever'.
If you want to know how the real Ben lived out his last few years of life and the strength of his belief, as he got sicker and sicker, I think the words and the style of this song says it. The lyrics are below and you can hear and see it on YouTube here.
"Whatever" by Steve Curtis Chapman

I made a list, wrote down from A to Z
All the ways I thought that You could best use me
Told all my strengths and my abilities
I formed a plan it seemed to make good sense
I laid it out for You so sure You'd be convinced
I made my case, presented my defense
But then I read the letter that You sent me
It said that all You really want from me is just

Whatever, whatever You say
Whatever, I will obey
Whatever, Lord, have Your way
'Cause You are my God, whatever

So strike a match, set fire to the list
Of all my good intentions, all my preconceived ideas
I want to do Your will no matter what it is
Give me faith to follow where You lead me
Oh, Lord, give me the courage and the strength to do ...

I am not my own
I am Yours and Yours alone
You have bought me with Your blood
Lord, to You and You alone do I belong
And so whatever

We have asked for permission to publish these lyrics on this page.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Truly, madly, deeply

Tim and Olivia’s wedding was a beautiful and significant occasion where although Ben was physically absent, he seemed to be with us.

Olivia knew Ben well and suggested to Tim that a tribute be made to him during their marriage ceremony. Tim delivered it something like this:
For those of you who don’t know, Ben was my older brother—20 months older than me. Ben got cancer and died quite suddenly in 2008.

With no offence to my groomsmen, Ben would have been my best man had he been alive today.

Ben was known for his taste in very good quality music so we thought the best way to include him in the service would be to choose one of his favourite songs to play during the signing of the registry.
It only took the first two notes of Savage Garden’s ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ to sound and the church, full of hundreds who knew and loved Ben, laughed—with some tearfulness—almost as one.

We found ourselves wondering whether the playing of this song might not just do the trick and call him back from his ‘better party’, even if only momentarily.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

More remembering

A friend of Ben’s sent us this message a few weeks ago:
Yesterday I worked on the bone marrow transplant ward and
was taking care of a girl who was one year older than me and
battling breast cancer. Her bravery and nonchalant attitude
reminded me a lot of Ben.

It really was remarkable the way he dealt with it. For someone
who was so good at living, he did an amazing job at dying. That
sounds terrible, but I hope you know what I mean.

While I still grapple with God's purpose in allowing his death, I
really am so grateful I got to meet Ben. He was a man who will
continue to challenge me about what is real and good and true.
Next Saturday Ben will miss Tim's wedding to Olivia. And we will miss his presence at such an occasion. As Stu said at his wedding a few weeks ago, "Ben has a better party to be at."

Monday, April 1, 2013

Living in the fast lane

Matt and I with Tim and Olivia, were in a multi-storey Wilson car park in the city the other day after having seen Gladys play in a concert at The Edge in Fed Square.

We were on foot, returning to Tim’s car, when a car came hurtling down a ramp towards us, driving far too fast for a car park. I was feeling like a grumpy old woman about it, when I noticed that the driver was a young bloke with a satin vest and bow tie on.

He was, in fact one of those valet car parking attendants and his name might well have been Ben Mulherin a few years ago.

We all agreed that if it had have been Ben as the valet, he would have been driving that fast but, said Tim, it would have been more likely that he would have been reversing down the ramp.


Monday, March 4, 2013

In response to the last blog entry, a good friend of Ben’s, Alice, wrote that she loved the image of Ben’s experience ‘up there’ being one of partying and general hi-jinks. She says,
I feel like Ben will have fitted in to that "party all the time" way of life better than most. More than anyone I ever knew, he had a capacity for endless fun times. On our way back from Mallacoota [where a group of 20 or so, spent two weeks organising and running the Theos drop-in centre, activity program for youth each January], I still remember him rallying people to "do something, somewhere" when frankly all I could think of was a shower and my bed.
But of course we always did do "something, somewhere" until the wee hours of the morning. I often find myself wishing he were here rallying us to do something… 

But then maybe he is...?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stu and Julia, good friends of Ben’s, were married yesterday.

Ben seemed to be with us all day—and yet at the same time so dreadfully not with us.

In his speech later in the evening, Stu spoke of Ben and how he had been involved in both their lives. He said, "Ben couldn’t be with us today, because he has a better party to be at."

Stu and Ben in their 'youth'
That reminds me of a dream another of his friends told me about. In her dream Ben told her not to be worried about him because he was better than fine. I remember too, a mother at the hospital who wrote me a text soon after Ben had died saying she hoped he was giving them plenty of trouble ‘up there’—that same kind of idea of high spirits and incomparable good times.

So while we muck around here, where energy flags and fun can seem a little faded at times, we think of Ben somewhere else, where colours are brilliant beyond imagining and where drum beats and music and partying go on forever.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's funny how some people seem to think that the Ben-shaped-hole would have just about closed over by now; but others are aware of the time things take and of the fact that those sort of holes never close over. If you haven't experienced such things yourself, do be slow to assume that healing is quick or ever complete.

This week a friend who we rarely see sent this encouraging note:
Dear Chris and Lindy,

Thanks so much for honouring your 'Ben shaped hole' with such great posts on the blog.  It is great that you don't have to avoid mentioning him in case 'some one will be sad'.  Four years is just a blink of an eyelid and after you blink it is not surprising to suddenly see something that reminds you of him, yet again, and again...  and again....!  

I love the vibrant photo you recently put on the blog.  "Are we there yet?"on his Tee shirt is a poignant reminder of the mixture of joy and sadness that elicits.   We know he is there, even though we would love him to be here.  May he continue to inspire others to live well, with such enthusiasm and zest for life and for our Lord.

With love and hope.
Happy Christmas. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Out of focus but not out of mind.

Four years today...

Monday, December 3, 2012

The two clocks

I said in an earlier post that it was unbelievable to think that it was four years ago that Ben was in his last week of life. In response, Jill wrote,
Yep four years is illogical – totally mad actually. It still feels like there has been a 'wrinkle in time’ - that there is Ben going home yesterday and then there is life that has rushed onwards –seems like there are two clocks/calendars in my world…
And it seems like that to us too. Life will always stand still for us in one sense—we want to loiter in the time when Ben was alive and well, but time is more insistent in pushing us forward to happy, hopeful places in the present and the future. How we wish that they could include a living laughing Ben.

Regardless of not being here bodily, it is funny the way we ‘see’ Ben occasionally. I was driving behind a very big, shiny, new-looking black Navarra ute the other day and as the traffic was moving fairly briskly I didn’t pay it much attention. When I had to stop behind it at a red light I had time to notice its number plate; personalised, bold white letters on a deep blue background, it simply read:



Friday, November 2, 2012

Sepia photos and dusty memories

When I think of sepia coloured photos I think of names like Aunty Muriel or Great Grandpa Joe, or perhaps little Bobby who died suddenly as a child, staring enigmatically out from ornate and antiquated frames in sad and silent houses. These were photos which as a child I found slightly alarming, eliciting unnaturally hushed and anxious admonitions from adults to ‘not mention that photo because it will make [so-and-so] cry’. Were these photo people ever like us—walked, talked, laughed—or were they always surrounded by an unpleasant and frightening sense of mystery? Did the flavour of dying and death always define who they were?

One of the photos of Ben that we have repeated in various places around the house is a photo that is, I think, becoming one of those spotty old photos—sepia effect and taken when he had lost his hair and his face was thin. Sure the Ben smile is there but he somehow conveys that sense of ‘I don’t belong in your world’ and potentially leaves the lingering image of a bloke with cancer. And we know he never wanted to be thought of as ‘sick’ let alone ‘cancerous’.

We just can’t leave Ben like that. It is so untrue of his bounce and energy and full-on engagement with life. A benign smile in an insipid sepia photo is simply not representative of how he lived his 23 years!

So we’re working on downloading and framing some photos to put around the house which will give people who never knew him (and children of his brothers in the future maybe) a glimpse of the healthy Ben—unafraid, intrepid, not a cloud of cancer on the horizon.

For those of us who did know him it will be fun to have photographic reminders of his unquenchable spirit and physical strength. RIP is still not something that gels with the Ben he was—and surely still is.

By the way: If anyone has any photos, digital or otherwise, please do send them to us. We’d love to see any photo of him at this stage, nearly four long years since he left—it doesn’t even matter if it’s an awful shot of him.


Friday, October 19, 2012

From Jill...

Today I remember Ben and I think of the witty comments he would be shedding about people skiing on unseasonal spring snow. Watching someone on ABC 24 trying to look "normal" ski-ing in 5 cm of snow made me think of a dry and quick wit that is missed all the time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reposting: December 29th 2008

From Lindy:

I 've been revisiting past blog posts. The one below is from from December 29th 2008 three weeks after Ben died.

December 29th 2008:

In Ben's absence his presence is even more strongly felt. His absence makes us acutely aware of how present he was and still is in our ways of relating and thinking. We are aware of 'what Ben would have said' or 'how Ben would have responded'. We miss Ben's caustic but not unkind sense of humour. We see Ben's bike and clothes and bedroom that will become someone else's. We see Ben's phone but Ben's characteristic way of holding and using it is absent.

And in his absence we realize how much a part of us Ben was and will always be. "No man is an island... any man's death dimishes me" said John Donne. Ben cannot simply disappear: his absence leaves a Ben shaped hole. But more than that: if in time we forget or cover over that hole, then we would be naive, because for those who have known Ben well, who we are ourselves is partly due to Ben himself. Ben has been part of our own formation and that cannot ever be undone. We are forever, people who have known Ben, people who have been changed by Ben - by his life and now by his death.

I still have Ben's phone by the way and Ben's old room has morphed into Andy and Tim's with very much the same 'laid-back' flavour Ben adopted when it was his.  And the phone still has 'cancer sucks' on the back where he wrote it on a bandaid and stuck it on in his hospital days.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

...and a good time was had by all

When we asked some of Ben’s friends what they thought we should do for his birthday this year they agreed that to get together and catch up was a great way to remember Ben - especially as lots of them didn’t see each other much anymore. So we had 40 or so of his friends and family all making a merry noise, eating and drinking and, of course, true to tradition, snake tying.

During the night a few people told us how they thought of Ben often, remembering his boldness, courage, bravery and enthusiasm for life. And it seemed from listening to them, that the impact of Ben’s cancer encounter had changed them—probably all of them—to a greater or lesser degree, forever.
It was Tim who reminded me that it was when a group of them were together hanging out at the beach, in June 2008 sometime I guess—not a care in the world beyond perhaps whether to swim or eat first, or eat then swim later—that Ben, in response to someone asking about how the ugly lump on his leg was going, dropped his bombshell. It’s cancer, he said. They were stunned. A group of active, go-getting invincible blokes were suddenly confronted with something totally outside their imaginings. And as good friends are want to do, they went part way at least on the journey their mate was taking.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Ben

Friday August 24th will be Ben's 27th birthday. I am of course wondering what he would have been up to, had things not all gone the CSB way.
If cancer had never happened to him, would he have been finishing medicine and heading off to Africa next week with Tim, to do his final student experience before graduating in December? Would he now be counting down the months until he began at his first hospital placement as a new Dr? What a lovely thought.
It seems to me though that once cancer was part of Ben's life, even if the experience had not been life-ending, it was going to be at the least, life-changing. Right from the time of his diagnosis in June 2008 his life changed in ways that he could never have imagined. Entering the merry-go-round world of doctors' surgeries, pathology labs, scans and x-rays, not to mention hospital stays, at times he felt a loss of normality and depersonalisation that left him feeling that people saw him as a 'sick person', worse—a person with cancer.
His attempts at remaining 'normal' were admirable, including finishing his science degree when he was barely able to drag himself to uni with tiredness and weakness. He also decided to attend his interview for entry into post-grad medicine at Deakin, making a trip to Geelong when the cancer was already quite advanced and he was struggling. But it was very soon after that interview that he said adamantly that he no longer had any interest in studying medicine. Not surprisingly, he was 'over it'—his words—the whole medical scene. He talked about finding out about joining the police force. 
Along with checking out the police force, Ben also expressed a keen desire to own a speed boat; his sick room before he deteriorated to the intensive care unit, was strewn with magazines filled with photos depicting various kinds of luxury boats. He had talked off and on about buying a boat with friends and brothers before he became sick and as he grew weaker and weaker the boat seemed to symbolise health and strength and hope. He said on more than one occasion, with his wry smile, it would be called the CSB.
I love to imagine Ben doing all manner of amazing things wherever he is now and I wonder if he does some tearing around in a Malibu boat with friends? Alternatively I can see him revelling in the skill required to get a yacht flying before the wind with the sails fit to busting. CSB.   


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

So happy...

Traralgon marathon June 2004

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tucumán memories

For those who are happy not to move on too far or too fast where Ben’s concerned I thought I would translate some of the memories written on the ‘I remember’ part of the blog. These ones are written in Spanish and refer to Ben’s time in Argentina where he lived for 12 years from age 9.

When I read through the memories they are often about Ben’s liveliness and infectious enthusiasm—a kind of ‘can do’ attitude to everything which generated energy and fun seemingly wherever he went.
Julieta says:
I remember Ben, recently arrived in Tucumán [1994] and new at our school. He sat next to me on his first day—that was fourth grade. We had to write a story and his main character was a cat. Yes, he really liked cats and I remember he also liked maths. I remember his smile and that he was smart and happy and friendly to everyone.  
Silvina says:
When I try to remember stories I remember so many of Ben—being at camps together and swimming; he was a good swimmer. I remember once a group of us went to a Christmas concert and there was a storm; it was pouring and it was still raining at the end of the concert. We had to walk to the centre of Tucumán and so all of us were trying to keep ourselves dry with towels and things. Ben was funny and didn’t try and keep dry but just walked along getting soaking wet. Every so often he had to stop walking to wring out his shirt he was so wet. It was very funny and we all laughed a lot. There was always fun when Ben was around.  
Marc says:
I remember I visited the Mulherins in Tucuman with a friend in 2002. Upon our departure and when in the bus, a group of Mulherins and uni students we had become friends with came to wave good bye to us. We waved back.  But then Ben and Tim decided to enthusiastically wave with the "Mulherin middle". Nobody else saw what they were doing. Unfortunately for us, we could not reciprocate as the others in the group might have become offended or confused.
As I think about these memories I remember Ben’s enthusiasm and ‘can do’ as I attempted to learn to ride a bike in the backyard of Tucumán at the age of 36. Ben often sauntered out while I was teetering and tottering around keeping on at me not to give up. Later when I could ride well enough to venture out of the confines of the backyard, various times he would coach me up the steepest of hills, riding his bike slowly and patiently next to mine and not letting me stop repeating ‘you can do it…don’t give up…nearly there’ until finally I did reach the top of various hills which I had regarded as impossible.  
As Chris and I are want to say, ‘Ahhhh Ben.’

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tubes, nurses and broken hearts

I was wandering through old blog entries and found myself chuckling away at this:

In the meantime Ben is trying to inflict grievous bodily harm on his carers. His night nurse is sure he has a hand injury from Ben crushing his hand in one slightly more wakeful episode, It included pushing and shoving while he was quite confused and trying to escape from his bed with his startling number of tubes, a couple of nurses and his father trailing behind him. 

I think it was the irony of the memory that makes me chuckle. Here was
Ben, only days away from leaving this mortal body behind as it had
given up on him and yet he could still command it enough to cause
comments about his surprising strength.

It reminds me of a childhood memory that was also included in a prior
blog entry:

When Ben and Tim were four and two respectively we were invited to
have lunch with a couple who were business associates of Chris's. We
had a vigorous and noisy lunch time as we tried to encourage both boys
to display table manners suited for the fragile tolerance level of a
young childless couple. As soon as Ben had finished eating he was up
and away from the table, charging all over the house. The husband said
to me as he watched our little human cannonball "Ben will break
arms…but that one, Tim, he will break hearts." 

Looking back now I can say that Ben didn't break anyone's arm as far as I know in all the high energy living he crammed into his short 23 years. But he sure ended up breaking many hearts.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bumping into Rosie

I thought Andre’s suggestion was a good one about re-posting old blogs as a way of re-remembering for the blog site. And I came across the following one.

It mentions Rosie who was Ben’s nurse at the time and it made me smile because a few weeks ago I bumped into her at the swimming pool. After three and a half years I didn’t think she would recognise me but I thought it was worth a try so I spoke to her.

She knew who I was instantly and we had a tearful sigh and then chuckled together as she mentioned how Ben had indeed come out of his induced coma like a bull at a gate.

November 30th, 2008 

The waking up process has started for Ben. The Drs. are hoping to be able to extubate him on Tuesday which means the next couple of days are a weaning and adjusting period for him. So far, so good. 
Various drugs have been turned off and his sedation level has been lightened. This means that he can move his legs a bit and is clearly uncomfortable at times. I guess that’s not surprising given that he has something like a garden hose jammed down the back of his throat. 

His nurse of the last couple of days (Rosie who is fantastic) said this morning. “He’s coming out of this just like a young man should; like a bull at a gate.” 

It's great seeing his eyes open a bit. It's even better seeing his eyes without the look of total confusion they had before he was intubated and sedated. 

We are very grateful to the staff in ICU. They are dedicated, professional and caring. Thank you so much to you all.

Cheers for now and thanks to all of you too. We’ll keep trying to keep you up on the latest. 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ben loved cats...

Or if the sound or video don't work, go to YouTube:

Monday, April 16, 2012


I am always conscious when I haven’t written something on Ben’s blog that people may think this is a sign that Ben is not as much a part of our journeys now as he was.  I guess in one way that’s true. But only in one way.

It’s true in the sense that so many things have already been said. So many memories have already been shared. And so we ‘re-share’ and we ‘re-remember’. We won’t ever get sick of doing this—I just remembered that he called bobby pins ‘Bobsey Twins’. Things like that that are funny when we’re Sunday lunching together.

But for a blog perhaps it’s time to slow it right down and maybe that’s okay. I’m still trying to get used to that idea because it’s like another ‘ending’, another ‘finishing’, another proof that he really has gone—because yes we do still spend a lot of time thinking that it can’t really have happened and if we just keep waiting he will come back.

In life and speech we can re-say things. But on a blog it makes more sense to ‘re-share’ and ‘re-remember’ by simply scrolling back to what has already been said.  So if the entries to the blog are few and far between, know that this doesn’t mean that Ben has been relegated to the increasingly distant past. We at least, continue our life journeys very much with him at our side. We love to talk about him and think about him constantly—mostly with both laughter and tears.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Things We Can Learn from a Dog

I came across this when looking for something to read to a group of bereaved parents to encourage and offer gentle hope. I thought it was so whimsical that it might be worth posting. I hope it makes you smile.


Things We Can Learn from a Dog

Never pass up an opportunity to go for a joy ride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Let others know when they have invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Be loyal—never pretend to be something you are not.
Dig until you find what you want.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, 
sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On hot days, drink lots of water and rest under a shady tree.
When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you are scolded don’t buy into the ‘guilt thing’…
run right back and make friends.
Bond with your pack.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Live only for today.

Author Unknown

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So many questions for Ben - from Lindy

In the last few days a new movie starring Josh Lawson ('Who?' say I.) called Any questions for Ben seems to have caught the public's attention. While not in any way shape or form is this an endorsement of the movie, the title caught my attention.

It was often worthwhile asking Ben questions even when he had only the smattering of wisdom his 23 years of life afforded him—And now? ... When we assume he has the whole universe of wisdom and knowledge in his grasp?

I often find myself directing questions to God about Ben and then have quiet imaginary conversations with Ben himself. I wonder how he would evaluate his life? I can remember his customary shoulder shrug when asked anything he interpreted as invasive, or too direct—refusing to get 'intense' about it all.

Then because it's all in my imaginings and therefore my control I take
the 'occasionally happy to be intense' Ben model and let my mind
wander into all kinds of conversations with him about the meaning of
life and how he would live it if he got a chance to come back now,
knowing what he now knows.

Continuing on with the movie theme, it reminds me that while waiting
for a feature movie to begin last week the cinema centre screened a
mini-documentary about melanoma. It was interviews and clips from a
young twenty-year-old man's family and friends talking about how
melanoma had robbed their son, brother and friend of his active,
healthy purposeful life. One brother talked about how all of them do
things differently now having watched their brother and friend die
from melanoma.

One of Ben's brothers has been medically advised to wear protective
clothing while in the sun. As he put on his rash shirt to go to the
beach I heard him telling his twelve-year-old brother that after being
diagnosed with cancer Ben had said to him that if he had the chance to
not get cancer he would wear sunglasses all the time and cover up with
shirts and creams; not get a tan, do whatever he needed to do… 'It's
just not worth the risk of getting cancer' he had said.

Any questions for Ben? So many!