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An open letter to my mother on what would have been her 67th birthday.

Posted on February 02 2017

February 2, 2017

You would have been 67 years old today.

You worked so hard your entire life only to die from your addictions just before you would retire. Do you remember, mom? I’ll never forget receiving the letter that I would be handed $155,000 as my portion of inheritance from your retirement because you had died before actually retiring.

This experience in my life was a pivotal point and one that continues to have an influence in my life.

We were blue collar growing up and money was this thing that you worked so hard to obtain. In some ways it was this forever dangling carrot you never could quite get a hold of. Before we arrived at blue collar status we were in many ways poor when you and dad were still married and we were living in Chester, PA. I have a vivid memory of coming home from school with just candles lit in the house. Dad was unable to make the utility bills so our electric was cut off again. My hair caught on fire that night at the table. I was around 6 years old. Thankfully Jesse was close enough to me to quickly pour his glass of water over my head before it was able to burn my scalp.

Family friends frequently lent you and dad money or handed down their old cars during those early childhood years of mine. This was where as a young girl I was drawing the conclusion that money and status had to do with my worth as a person. What an incredibly damaging perception and belief I was taking inside of myself so very young.

I can remember driving around the back roads of New Jersey with my best friend, Stephanie, after you had died in 2010. I can recall talking to her about the lump sum of money I would receive and I just started bawling crying.

I told her I didn’t feel like I was worthy of it.

Not only was this the first time I realized I believed my worth as a person was attached to money, but I also believed I didn’t deserve to actually have any money. Although the definition of what a large amount of money is relative to the individual, it sure was a hell of a lot to me.

The next 4 years after your death, that lump sum of money which only existed in my life because of your hard work, allowed me so much and I want to thank you for it.

Mom, because of your hard work I was able to stay at home during my pregnancy and grieve your death without the demands of working. That money arrived in my life just two months after you died and two months before I found out I was going to be a mother myself. It assisted me going to a therapist every week before Dylan was born so that I could actually be a mother for him. It assisted me when making a home for myself and I was able to financially contribute when I was married. It assisted me to buy my first car, outright, so that I didn’t have a payment. That car still is in my driveway today. It assisted me in taking care of myself in ways I wasn’t ever able to before. It assisted in me having the ability to be generous with others that were in financial need at different times. It gave Jeremy and I a wonderful wedding reception dinner with our families in Austin, TX. It allowed me to pay back other people who had financially helped me along my way in life. I experienced financial freedom for the very first time because of it but the greatest of all, the greatest thing it has assisted me with, has been the work of my hands and living an authentic life.

I remember sitting in your bedroom a few days after you had died and finding a book you had been reading called, Unpacking Your Bags. The page I turned to asked the reader a question, it had asked if you could have truly followed your heart what would have been your work? You wrote, actress, in the book and circled it about 5 times. The amount of sadness that came over me at that moment is something I can never really put into words. I had grown up with you talking about the desire to follow your dream of performing but it was quickly thwarted by your parent’s views. So you chose safety in a  degree and ended up being a brilliant teacher to hundreds of children over the years. So now here I was at 27 looking at the true desires of my mother’s heart who was now dead and unable to live it.

Ever.

Your choice to remain safe in life has been one of the very things that pushed me to not forget about my dreams and myself. Out of that inheritance I set aside $3,000 to put towards pursuing something for myself when the time came. Here we are in 2017 and I have this company and brand called, LB. That $3,000 combined with my creativity and ability to not give up has allowed me to arrive here today writing you this letter of sincere gratitude. I took $3000 of [your] hard earned money and grew my vision into what it is today. Not only am I finding my way in life but I’m also doing it on my terms in the most authentic way I know how.

Mom, your life’s work was not in vain even though you were never able to enjoy the fruits of your own labor. As your daughter I can proudly say that your legacy is living through my company everyday because without the $3000 investment in 2013, I would not be here. It’s no coincidence that the work of my hands through my brand encourages and empowers women to live life and define roles on their terms. Although my inheritance is long gone, your work and our relationship as mother and daughter will forever live through the works of my hands and my heart.

I love you, mom--  thank you.

Jen

5 comments

  • Aimee : June 25, 2017

    Our mother…. Lady Di….
    She was of course the most amazing woman I have, or will ever know, faults and all….
    She did everything in life for us 3 children… at any cost…. Even if it meant no sleep or personal life for a time….working endless hours to give us a home instead of an apartment…. She is a literal angel that was put on earth in so many ways…. see above extensive list in Jenee’s letter…
    Her ferocious love for us children was palpable, God rest her sweet soul…. There aren’t enough words to articulate her struggles and perseverance through life’s journey…. She was a lioness with her 3 cubs… (insert Jenee’s Tatoo ❤️)….
    She made us who we are today….immensely strong, creative, compassionate, personable, loving and independent women in extremely different ways…. she will never be forgotten….. xoxo
    Lovely letter Jenee Benny….❤️?
    Meems

  • Elle: March 08, 2017

    This is such a moving letter. I don’t even know how i stumbled on it, I literally just clicked on a tab that was open on this laptop and started reading, but its inspired me beyond words.. and how fitting on International Women’s Day! Blesses to you and yours!

  • Monnie : February 10, 2017

    So touching…amazing!

  • Kim Hill: February 02, 2017

    Jen your words are so touching so heartfelt ~ Your mom is proud as am I ~ You are beautiful inside and out what a legacy trait your mom has instilled in you ~
    I Love You Forever ?
    Kim

  • Joe Keller: February 02, 2017

    Your mother was a beautiful woman. She would be proud and so would Jessie, just as I’m sure your father is. Keep being the strong woman u are.

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