INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) – There was a time in Benjamin Allen's life when every step he took echoed with sounds of smaller feet.
"It was a joy. My children were the greatest gift I’ve ever been given," Allen said.
Joy arrived for the first time in 1982, with the birth of his son, Matthew, though the childbirth was anything but ordinary.
"He was 3 1/2 weeks before due date and my wife had a seizure and ended up in the hospital. They had to induce labor and in the midst of going through the labor, they gave her a transfusion of platelets," Allen said.
At the time, the transfusion proved life saving for his wife Lydia and Matthew. After an extended stay in the hospital, the Allen’s went home to start their family, but the happiest time of Benjamin’s life also came with a great deal of stress as Lydia and Matthew both dealt with years of reoccurring health problems and no explanation.
"Something was wrong and we just didn't know what it was," Allen said.
The search for answers led the Allen’s to one, very scary possibility. In 1985, the AIDS virus was still very new, but very deadly and many of the documented cases had been a result of blood transfusions.
"We did ask the pediatrician, ‘Could this be HIV? And she said, ‘No, there's no way,’ and it was so early in the epidemic, we read about it, it was in the paper we knew Lydia had a transfusion. We didn't find out until the blood bank called us during what was called a Look Back program, two-and-a-half years later," Allen said.
The blood bank informed Lydia the blood donor from her first pregnancy had died from the HIV virus. By that time, the Allen's had given birth to a second son, Brian. At five months, their newest arrival was also suffering from a number of health complications.
"When Brian was five months old, all of us were tested and all three of them were positive. We did not think any of them had very long at all. The first thing we did was we decided it was going to be quality rather than quantity; whatever time we had together, we would live it to the fullest," Allen said.
Their decision proved pivotal. Just three months later, Brian was the first to die from the AIDS virus; he was just eight months old. Six years later, in 1992, Lydia passed away, leaving Matthew and Benjamin together for three more years until his death in 1995, shortly after spending his 13th birthday in hospice care.
“The most difficult time was the passing of matt, not only because I was closest to him, but also because he was the last to go. My life that had been invested in loving and caring for these three beautiful people ended that day. What was left was what I called the after loss. I wasn't a father anymore, I wasn't a husband anymore, I left my job and moved to another city and people didn't know my journey and did not walk with me. So, the real question was who am I in relation to this new world in the after loss? Who am i now?
Finding the answer to that question took Allen overseas to places like Guatemala and Australia as an English teacher. Part of what he learned in dealing with devastation is the important role others have played in his healing process.
"The most important help a person can give to someone who is in loss is just to be present. It's just to know they are present for the other. They don't have to say anything; they don't have to fix anything. The person in loss just needs to know there is someone there," Allen said
That someone in Benjamin’s life ended up being a fellow teacher.
“Rachel has never gone through this type of loss and Rachel does not pretend to know. She knows that she loves me and I love her,” Allen said.
Re-married and relocated to Incline Village, Benjamin and Rachel are starting a new life, while embracing the road that ultimately brought them together.
“It’s a very long road to get here and there's more to come, and the beauty of that is that the journey was just as special as this destination and this moment," Allen said.
Allen has written a book on his journey, “Out of the Ashes”
It is currently available electronically by going to www.theafterloss.com