One year later: the pain lingers

Published 10:08 am Thursday, May 30, 2019

He’s in her thoughts every day. Sometimes, all day long.

She can still hear his slow, southern drawl, and the clomp, clomp, clomp of his boots on the floor.

It’s been almost a  year since Christina Benge lost her son, Avery, then 7, in an all-terrain vehicle accident. But the memories linger, and she knows they always will.

Avery is missed by more than his family. His classmates at Cooleemee Elementary School remember him almost daily because of a “Buddy Bench” in the school’s media center.

Built for the family by Justin Draughn, the bench includes a plaque:

Buddy Bench

In Loving Memory

Avery Jacob Benge

December 17, 2010

June 16, 2018

More importantly, the bench includes painted handprints from his classmates. The bench was originally considered for outside, but the students insisted it be in the library where they could use it, Christina said.

She’s not surprised. Avery tried to be everybody’s friend.

Those were the same kids who made hand-written notes to their friend, and placed them on his casket at his funeral.

She made the trip to the school to see the finished bench last week, and the memories flooded her mind.

“I don’t stop thinking about him,” she said. “It’s a bad feeling. It can be anything … a song will come on … watching other kids play … going to places he really liked to go.

“He was just being a boy, out playing in the mud. That young ‘un was something else.”

“He was the happiest child,” said Twyla Smith, who accompanied her cousin to see the bench. “The kids wanted it in here where they could sit in it and read.”