Ponca woman sees Easter from the foot of the cross

Deanna Bennett places her son and the mystery of his death two years ago at the foot of the cross of Christ during Lent, trusting in his promise of the resurrection.
“This is where you find peace, this is where you find joy,” Bennett, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Ponca, told herself before attending the Lenten Stations of the Cross March 7 at St. Peter Church in Newcastle, something she couldn’t bring herself to do last year. 
“It puts into perspective what God went through for us, so we could live in the light,” she told the Catholic Voice. “God didn’t have to put his Son through that, but he did, so we as sinners could somehow live in paradise.”
Jacob Bennett, 18, died of a shotgun wound June 27, 2016. Active in the church, popular with his peers, soon to be a senior in high school, there were no indications of any problems, his mother said. 
Police ruled it a suicide. Bennett wonders if a bad dream, his sleep walking and occasional migraines played a role, and out of confusion her youngest son, who had taken hunter safety classes, thought he had to grab the shotgun, and it went off.
She’ll never know.
So she offers it up to God. And determined to live in the light, this registered nurse, cleaner of the church, longtime religious education teacher, member and former officer of the women’s Altar Society, continues to serve others.
When Jacob’s classmates came to the house to console her family shortly after his death, she did more than thank them for coming. She fed them.
“I tried not to be a blubbering mom,” Bennett said. “I tried to be a supportive mom. There were so many people going back and forth, we had so much food. I fed the kids. I said, ‘You need to eat. You’re grieving.’”
“That felt good to me. I thought, ‘I can’t take your pain away, I can’t take my pain away. But I can feed you right now.’”
Two days after her son’s funeral, she felt the need to go to Mass, at St. Joseph Church, where she and her son sang in the choir, went to Lenten Stations of the Cross and together helped vacuum, dust and take out the trash. 
“I remember people thanking me for coming to church for them,” Bennett said. “‘Your presence here speaks volumes to us,’” they told her, about the depth of her faith and its importance in the face of tragedy.
Doubts still surface, Bennett said. Why would God take her son? Did she miss a need he never expressed, is she doing what God wants of her now? When will it stop hurting? Is this God’s plan? If so, it doesn’t seem very fair right now.
Her husband, Chris, doesn’t appear to be grieving in the same way, and has withdrawn from some activities. She has to give that up to God and not push too hard. Her other children, Heather Rush, Joshua and Isaac, all members of St. Joseph Parish, need her as well. She has a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law, Isaac is engaged to be married and she has three grandchildren.
“You have all these blessings right in front of you,” Bennett reminds herself. “Don’t forget they need you as much as you need and want Jake.”
Heather said her mother has been strong for the entire family.
 “She continues to place her faith in God and guide myself and my brothers and even my dad,” she said. “And we may not always have the answer, but we have to have trust and faith, and God will lead us.”
Father Andrew Sohm, pastor, said he has visited with Bennett four or five times since Jacob’s death. Her faith has served as a strong witness for him, he said. 
“It reflects the Easter story, knowing that God is with us through every single thing and every step,” Father Sohm said. “It doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Bennett said Easter this year will be hard, but not as hard as last year. She’ll concentrate on the Easter message: Christ is risen!
And she will recall a hymn she once heard, about people being jealous of the angels gathered around Jesus in heaven. She will place Jacob with those angels, along with her father, Kenneth Hansen, who died in January, and her mother, Mary, who died three years ago.
“My heart goes into rejoicing about the risen Christ,” she said. “And thinking, ‘What a joy in Easter, when Jesus has risen, and these people are right there rejoicing with him.’”


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