/Eileen Benthal

About Eileen Benthal

Eileen Benthal is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a B.A. in Theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at FreeIndeedFreelance.com.

Living in the present

There is not enough time in the day. Do you ever feel like that? I certainly do. I wake up very early, typically before 5 a.m. I usually go to bed by 9 or 10- thatʼs a 16-hour day. One would think that I could get to everything on my “to do” list in 16 hours. But inevitably, there are things left over which take weeks, months and sometimes even years to accomplish. I have projects in my house that I have been meaning to get to for a long time. When I finally do them, I find that they didnʼt take even half the time to accomplish that I spent worrying over them. A few weeks ago, I took Johanna to Cape May Point, to the teen retreat at the Marianist Retreat House. We have been going to this retreat house for the last five years. My twenty year [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 18th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

God is good and so is Mom

Eileen Benthal and her mother, Edna Devine. (Photo: David Benthal) After I blew through Meeting House Deli to grab a coffee, I quickly programmed the numbers I needed to call while I drove on the LIE. The only reason I upgraded to iPhone5 was for Siri. She and I are on a first-name basis. Hands-free, I started making calls as I drove to the MacArthur Airport. I was so glad that it wasn’t JFK or I would not have made it in time. For the first time in over 20 years, my mom and I are spending Mother’s Day together. She flew in from Florida on Friday to spend the weekend with me until Monday when I take her to the ferry to Connecticut, where she will meet her 24th great-grandchild and join family and friends to celebrate his baptism. If that wasn’t cool enough, Mom is just three months [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 11th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Opening locked doors, both real and symbolic

The other day I was sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee and I heard dog tags jingling on the pathway that leads from the driveway up to my front door. When I stood up, I saw Taffy, my daughter’s service dog, jogging up the walk with a big smile on her face (really, she smiles.) “Where did you come from and how did you get out of the house?” She pranced up to the porch and nuzzled her big head into my hands as if to say, “It’s okay, Mom. I was just out for a morning walk.” Taffy is almost 12 years old and she has been Johanna’s service dog for almost 10 years. She has been by Johanna’s side through many ups and downs, in the hospitals, on planes, on stage. They have been in the NY Times and on national news. Taffy was trained [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 May 4th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Signs of new life abound

“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” This is the greeting of the Greek Orthodox Church during the Easter season. Like the 12 days of Christmas, we celebrate the Easter season for 50 days. It’s just that important. Christ died for us and rose again on Easter. How could we get it all in three days? When my kids were little, they took the liturgical celebrations of the Easter season quite literally. They milked it for all it was worth. So there was a perpetual Easter egg hunt in the bag yard that began in the wet spring and continued into the warmth of summer. We got our money’s worth of those plastic eggs. But of course we had to keep supplying them with candy to fill the eggs. Now, we don’t even have an egg hunt for the kids. It’s just for the dogs. We fill up those plastic [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 April 27th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Heaven is closer than we realize

This is the first year in a very long time that I didn’t spend Good Friday walking the Stations of the Cross at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island. After being at NYU for appointments all day Wednesday and Thursday, I was exhausted and so was Johanna. Then on Friday, we were waiting for the home care nurse to come and draw Johanna’s blood. It was a very important blood draw which will help us decide if she needs to continue on this IV therapy. Still, I wanted to pass the time in a prayerful way that included my daughter. So, I curled up on the couch with Johanna and we watched “The Passion of The Christ.” I resisted the temptation to make popcorn. Before we turned the movie on, my husband reminded me that it was R-rated. I told Johanna that the movie was very graphic and [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:47-05:00 April 20th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Wounds that refuse to heal

This week I met my match. I dealt with a medical issue that put me into a temporary state of shock- at least I hope it was temporary. While Johanna was in the shower, one of the scabs on her head opened and washed away as the water hit her head. Immediately I noticed that the opening revealed a part of her skull. I was stunned. As I helped Johanna out of the shower, I carefully explained to her what happened. Johanna is used to the ups and downs of wounds healing. Surgical staples glistened like a tiara on her head many times over the past 17 years. Because of the number of brain surgeries, the skin on her head is thin and heals slowly. This past year was a tremendous challenge with close to 10 surgeries since March 2013. Despite this, I was concerned that seeing her own skull [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 30th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Hope is always just one breath away

This weekend, I am in Chicago with Johanna and my older daughter, Anna. We are visiting the CCM3 Clinic for a special type of MRI and an evaluation with gives us some outside opinions for Johanna’s case, as well as advancing the research for a cure. I was a little nervous making the trip so soon after Jo’s last surgery. But even if we planned the appointment later, there was always the possibility that we couldn’t make it. I really wanted to be in Chicago now, to meet a special friend of mine also visiting from California and to spend time with family. It’s all a part of my strategies for maintaining hope in the midst of these trials — for breathing when I feel like I am drowning. Believe - Restore - Exercise - Advocate - Take Time - Heal - Engage This weekend and this column is about [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 23rd, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Take time to heal

I am grateful that God spoke to me in a nightmare and so it became a dream that would guide me on this journey of intense trials and immeasurable blessing. I never dreaded the dreams that began shortly after Johannaʼs birth, because somehow I knew that there was a lesson to be learned. Each night they occurred, I woke feeling like I couldnʼt breathe. While water scenes changed, the premise was always the same. I was in the middle of the ocean trying to keep my and Johannaʼs head above water so that we wouldnʼt drown. It was up to me to keep us alive- at least thatʼs what I thought- till God spoke to me in the dream and told me to let go in that ocean of mercy and He would teach me how to breathe underwater. Over the past few weeks I have shared with you these [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 16th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

On becoming an advocate: Trust your gut and trust in God

This week I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and exhaustion. My daughter Johanna was released from the PICU this past week. In a two-week period she was in the operating room three times. The final brain surgery seem to correct the problem in her brain so now it was time to focus on transitioning her from hospital to home. As you can imagine, that is scary for anyone, but especially when you are a 17-year-old with disabilities. I worked diligently reminding Johanna of the life she had waiting for her at home. There’s dogs and cats, teachers and therapists, dates with friends, and a little job at Love Lane Kitchen. Only Love Lane Kitchen raised her eyebrow as Johanna wondered how the owner could have possibly gotten all those dinner napkins folded without her for the past two weeks. I built on that interest as I helped her [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 9th, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Finding true restoration

Last week I introduced you to my secrets of breathing underwater. Breathing is an automatic response that seems incredibly simple. It is until itʼs not. Spending a fair amount of time in an ICU setting with my daughter over the past 17 years, I have a deep appreciation for heart rate, respirations and the amount of oxygen in the blood. In the ICU, those numbers are monitored very carefully and if something is amiss, an incessant beeping noise calls attention to the change in any of those rates. The dreams I had about being out in the midst of the ocean, treading water with my daughter in my arms, changed a little over the years that I had the dreams. Sometimes my husband and I would be at the beach playing on the shore with the kids when a tsunami would start rolling in. We were frantically trying to grab [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 2nd, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|0 Comments