Growing up in a small town having no friends his own
age, a little boy meets someone that changes his
by Matt R. Anderson
"Benjamin Crosswel was a beautiful person. Even at the age of ten, when we
first met, he was more of an adult then most adults were that I come in
contact with. He never said more that was needed to say, and people never
really took the time to actually take in what a person like Benjamin had
to offer. Even as his best, and for what I know, his only friend, he kept
to himself around me as well. He never had to say anything for me to know
how he was feeling. His facial expressions and body movements said it
all." I started tearing up, "He didn't deserve to die like that, in a way
I believe it's my fault. I remember him whispering in my ear as he laid on
that bed in his front room. He said to me, `Can you bring me all of my
porch flowers, please brother?'" I read to the audience of four. And all
four people were my family.
After reading the rest of the speech, I had to return to my seat to try to
calm myself from the uncontrollable tears from pouring out of my eyes. I
looked up to only smile at his memories. He loved life so much, that he
wanted me to live on to experience mine more than him living and learning
through the rest of his. I owe him my life, and he will live on through me
forever. The amount of respect, love, and dignity this man deserves will
not compare to the amount that is given him in this story. Here is the
story of a man that loved everyone too much, and it ended up taking his
life from him, here is the story of Benjamin Crosswel.
Ben lived in a little shack like house at the end of the gravel road I was
raised on. I remember spending summer after summer trying to hang out with
him while school was out. I never received an answer from him, or anyone
in his family for that matter. I gathered up all the courage I could, and
I went up to Ben's door and knocked for the third time that summer. He
answered the door, around five feet tall. He towered over me at the same
age of ten. I stood intimidated, somewhat scared, and excited, all I could
say was, "Do you want to hang out?" He replied, "Sure."
Ben was weird, but he was the only person I could hang out with except for
my two sisters. I used to watch, as he would do yard work all hours of the
day no matter how hot it was. Sometimes he would look up and nod his head
hello, then get right back to work. No one ever came out to get him. It
was almost as if he was being forced to get whatever he was doing done.
A chain link fence went around his whole house, which was a big, two story,
brick house with a chimney that always seemed to have smoke coming out of
it. The fence gave his house a prison like appearance, until you looked at
his front porch. It was bright white painted wood, with vibrant colored
flowers hanging every two inches it seemed. It was beautiful. It was one
of those things that every time you look at it you can't help but smile.
Ben did go to the same school as I did, but he never really talked to
anyone. He never got picked on either, which I thought was odd. People
picked on other people for everything in high school. No one picked on Ben
though. He kept to himself; his homework was always done on time, and
went home. I once heard a rumor while we were in high school that one
person decided to pick on him, and Ben put him in a coma for six months.
This obviously was not true considering that Ben and I were friends, and I
would have known about it. I never said anything about the rumor though.
It wasn't my place to say anything, plus, I wanted people to be afraid of
him. Ben didn't deserve to be picked on.
Junior year, as we were walking home from the bus stop, I was asking him
questions and talking to him, never receiving a verbal response, only
smiles and nods. I could tell he was getting annoyed, but he just looked
at me. Instead of telling me to shut up, he lifted his shoulders and gave
me a slight smile.
A car came pulling up and slammed on the brakes. A man screamed out of the
car and told us to get in. I had never seen any of the three men in the
car before. Ben grabbed me and pulled me behind him, then very clearly
shook his head no. The men opened the doors and exited the vehicle, Ben
let go of my arm, and pointed for me to run. I ran.
I looked back after a couple seconds of running to see two of the full
grown men on the ground screaming. Ben was fighting with the third one, I
turned around. As I ran closer, I noticed one of the men on the ground had
a ball point pen shoved into his eye socket and was bleeding all over the
place. The other man seemed to have gotten his ear either ripped or bitten
off and was also rolling around in a puddle of his own blood, which was
growing larger and larger.
Ben was in a headlock by the last man as I ran to his aid. He was slowly
turning blue as he waived for me to go back and run away. I jumped up on
the car and dug my fingers in the man's eyes as hard as I could, and
screamed from pure fright and adrenaline. He let go of Ben and threw me
off of his back. As he was running towards me when Ben picked up a big
branch and hit him in the head with it. The man fell to the ground stiff
as a board, and the other two had already managed to crawl back to the
Ben leaned over and said to me, "Are you okay?" I smiled and said, "Yes,
did we win?" Ben then smiled and said, "We didn't lose, did we?" We both
smirked at each other, panting like we just had ran a ten mile race
without stopping. Neither of us ever said anything about that day. In
fact, this is the first I have spoken of it since it happened. Ben had
asked me to never bring it up to anyone ever.
That seemed to have been the real beginning of our friendship. I could
actually call it more of a brotherhood. We did everything together after
that, fishing, hunting, skipping rocks in the river, trying to figure out
ways to spy on girls, etc. We were us, and that's all that mattered.
On a random warm rainy day in August, the rain coming down just hard enough
to make you close your eyes while riding your bike down the road. Ben and
I were sitting on a broken, downed tree that extended a little over the
river. I asked, "Hey Ben? Where has your momma been since we started
hanging out? I never seen your momma or father. Where are they?"
Ben looked at me with a half smirk on his face he and asked, "You really
want to know don't ya?"
I replied, "Well, if you want to tell me, I won't be mad at ya."
He than smiled and said, "My momma ran away from me and my poppa when I was
a lot younger. I can't even remember what she looks like anymore, but she
smelled like flowers, a whole bunch of `em mixed together, and poppa
thought so too."
"Is that why you like flowers so much? Cause they remind you of your
"Yea, I guess you can say that, I used to call my flowers momma when I was
younger. My poppa used to get angry when I did, but I did anyway. But I
would have to say, I like flowers cause they can't run away like momma
"What about when they die?"
"My poppa taught me that everything is going to die sooner or later, just
like a flower. But for a few months, they can be the most beautiful thing
you've ever seen."
I looked over at Ben thinking to see him tearing up a little bit at least,
but instead he was smiling, probably bigger than I have ever seen him
smile. He looked at me and said, "Wanna go meet my poppa?"
I replied "Yea, of course I do." I followed him out of the tree, a little
excited. I really didn't know what to think. I wasn't nervous at all. How
could he be a bad man and raise someone like Ben? Ben loved everything
about life. Walking to Ben's house, I couldn't help but look at all the
flowers on the way. Ben must have looked over and noticed that I wasn't
paying attention to where I was walking and pushed me right into a mud
puddle. I remember looking down at my soaking wet, muddy shoes and
laughing. Ben thought it was hilarious. He had his hands on his knees and
was laughing. I started laughing at his laugh, as did he, and we couldn't
stop laughing the rest of the way down the road.
We went into Ben's house and he said, "Wait here I'll go get him." As I
waited, I curiously began to look around. The house on the inside was a
bare. A couch, rocking chair, and end table made up the whole living room,
and the rest of the house didn't seem to have much more than a kitchen
table, a chair, and a refrigerator. I turned around and saw a big
fireplace with wood smoldering in the bottom. I thought to myself,
"Explains the smoke coming out of the chimney."
I looked up above the mantle and saw a black rose attached to the wall.
The rose was obviously dead, dried up, and definitely out of reach from
everyone. Ben came walking in with a wooden box and put it on the table in
front of me. I looked and asked, "What's this?"
He replied, "Poppa. Two years ago, poppa had gone to visit his brother in
Ireland, and this is how he came back. I talked to Uncle Pat, and he had
said that poppa got sick and wasn't going to make it home. He said he was
going to send poppa home when it was possible. Poppa came home like this.
He had that rose in his box with a note that said."
I'm sorry son. There's not much I can do about the situation I'm in right
now, just like a dying rose. When you get this package, I want this rose
placed above the fireplace. I want to be able to see you grow up son. This
is the last time I'm going to be able to talk to you, but I want you to
know these two things. Even dying roses are beautiful, and I love you.
Uncle Pat will visit when he can, and he will take care of the bills.
Finish school and love life. I managed to save some money for college. It
might not be enough, but Uncle Pat will help. Remember me son, remember
the beauty of the dying rose."
After I read the note, Ben kindly asked me to leave him be for a little
bit. I tried to keep in touch with Ben after that, he didn't want to do
anything for a while after bringing those two memories back into his mind.
He seemed depressed all the time after that. I would try to go over and
play, ask him to go to the tree, or play catch, but nothing worked.
One night I just decided to go to the tree myself. After climbing the
tree, I sat for a while. I felt really bad for bringing this up to Ben and
making him feel bad. I stood up and screamed as loud as I possibly could.
I really did hate myself, he didn't deserve to feel bad, he did nothing
I heard a crack and looked toward the river's edge as the branch I was
standing on broke. As I was screaming, being pulled down river by the
current. I focused all of my energy on breathing instead of screaming. I
felt a real sharp pain coming from my leg, I knew it was broken, I
couldn't do anything. I gave up, too exhausted and in pain. There was
absolutely nothing I could do. I realized I was going to die.
I felt a hand on my back while I was underwater. It was Ben. He came to
save me, again. He pulled me up and threw me over his shoulder, after
dragging me up to the river's edge. He carried me all the way back to his
house. He put me on his couch and gave me a blanket and a cup of hot
I could do nothing but cry, apologize, and give thanks. He must have gotten
sick of hearing me apologize. He smiled and said, "Thanks for getting me
out my house, buddy." I didn't know if he was being serious, but I did
know the pain in my leg was gone. It must have been a cramp. A cramp in
my leg would have taken my life away if it weren't for this man.
I looked down in front of Ben and on the floor there was a puddle of blood.
The puddle was growing fast. I looked at Ben's face, he was very pail,
"Ben what happened? Are you okay? I'm calling an ambulance." I ran to the
phone and called 911 and ran back into the room. "Ben, can you hear me?
Ben? Ben?" I laid him on his bed in the front room and ripped his pants
off to see what had happened. His leg had gotten caught on the tree when
he jumped off to save me in the river, the tree must have ripped the
artery in his leg. The adrenaline must have made him not feel anything.
His eyes were getting glossy,
"Ben? Ben? Don't leave me now Ben. It's not your time."
He looked up and smiled, "I wish you were the one who made that decision."
Ben started to get really cold. I was pressing down on his leg, but it
was too late. He bled the whole time he was carrying me back to his
I started to beg him to stay, "Please don't go Ben, please, you're
the only friend I've ever had, please don't go."
He smiled again and said, "I don't make them decisions neither buddy, but
I want two things from you before I go to my poppa."
I replied, "Anything Ben, anything."
He smiled yet again, "Take that black rose right there, and put it up
wherever you go. I'll be there I promise."
I replied while the tears poured from my eyes, off of my face onto his
shirt, "What else brother, anything?"
He replied, now starting to tear up himself but still smiling, "Can you
bring all of my porch flowers in for me?"
The ambulance arrived as I was taking the last flower holder in. They
rushed into the house, and I knew he was gone already.
I sat there for a while after they took him away. Crying, laughing,
talking, screaming, nothing brought him back. He was a big brother to me.
He lived by himself in that house till he was seventeen. Benjamin Crosswel
taught me a lot of things. He taught me a lot more than I could ever sit
here and write about.
"We will meet again, brother. I promise that, and that old dried up black
rose, is still as beautiful as ever, brother."
Copyright © by Matt R. Anderson
All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.