By Benny Jasso, Sr. – as told to Terri Schexnayder
The Charreada (Mexican rodeo) was an event for our whole family. My sons, Benny Jr. and Dennis, whom I began to train when they were young, would participate in the rodeo’s nine events. My wife Alice cooked and raised funds for many events. I loved sharing those times with my family and my sons. On August 26, 1988, life changed for all of us. Dennis was in an automobile crash, and he remained in a coma for five weeks before he died.
Someone told us about The Christi Center (then called For the Love of Christi) and I went there primarily to take Alice, who suffered tremendously after our son’s death. I sat in the background at the meetings, and couldn’t imagine how people could talk about something so painful. For close to six months, I spent most of my time just listening to others in the group. In my culture, men don’t cry or hug (with Susan and Don, however, you get over not hugging real quick).
Finally, I wanted the chance to talk about my son, and began to open up with those closest to me. I wanted to remember the happy times with Dennis, even though we once had our issues because we were so alike. His death definitely challenged my faith and I was mad at God. At The Christi Center, I learned that people cope with grief in their own way—differently from how I might. When I think of those days now, I realize I was focused on taking care of Alice and my job. I did not have time to grieve—it wasn’t only my culture, but other things in my life.
Miraculously, less than a month after Dennis died, we got a call which again changed our life. The mother of Dennis’ child, whom he had lost touch with, heard about Dennis’ death. She was having complications with the birth and wanted Alice and I to be there for the arrival of our granddaughter. We even got to name her—Denise is now in her 20’s and so much like her dad. Her birth really turned things around. I was mad at God for taking away my son, but here was a blessing from Him with my granddaughter. Life as Denise’s “Momo” and ”Popo” was worth living again.
Alice used to say The Christi Center saved her life and it certainly impacted mine because it helped her so much. Don and Susan and all the group facilitators make it easier to understand grief and how to act around those who have also lost loved ones. Alice and I volunteered for many years—in the early years, we helped load up the office to move into new offices at Westlake Plaza. We supported the garage sales and brought my famous BBQ chicken and other food. Alice handled the beautiful decorations at the annual Candelight Remembrance Service at St. Edward’s each December. And I would make sure the organization’s copier was always running smoothly!
Now, I visit the cemetery to see Alice and my son. Benny Jr., and I still go to the annual Remembrance Service each year. One day, after Alice passed away on November 26, 2006, I was in one of my down moments. I was walking out my door and I looked up and saw this sticker I had never seen before. It read, “You may live with sorrow, but you don’t have to live sorrowfully.” I know she was there with me.