Benjaya’s Gifts is a captivating and intimate true story, which takes us on a journey into the heart of a family to share the legacy of one small boy. Benjaya B’Hahn was born into a blaze of publicity, the biblical photograph of his unconventional birth in water – the first water birth in the Midlands of England – encircling the world and igniting desire in countless couples to birth their children in a more empowering way.
Five years later, Benjaya slipped into a river while playing and drowned, exiting this life as he had entered – through water into a blaze of publicity – this time the poignancy of his manner of death touching countless hearts.
This book is the extraordinary story behind the dramatic headlines, sensitively woven by his mother, Carmella, and grandmother, M’haletta, who share a passion for unravelling the mysteries and meaning of life, especially in relation to the transitions of birth and death. It leaves readers with an expanded awareness of the nature of reality, the strange magic of synchronicity, and the phenomenal power of the human spirit. It is at times beyond belief.
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Excerpts from Benjaya’s Gifts
On 31st October I was late for work and rushed downstairs to the front door. The newspaper was spread out on the mat in front of me. There face upwards was the birth picture. There was an incredible impact. Incredible! It was the same sensation as when I saw the first image of the Earth photographed from the moon: the miracle, the whole sense of an expansion of consciousness, a new frame of reference, a higher perspective of life. This was not just the personal story of Abel and Carmella any more than the journey to the moon was just an incident in the life of an astronaut. It was an archetypal experience.
Carmella’s Diary Excerpts
I’m on the train now and it’s so, so slow. What’s happened to time? Why won’t this train move faster? I can’t stand it! My precious boy could be dying and I have to sit on a snail of a train not knowing anything. I just need to love and to release Benjaya to whatever is best for him. The horrific thought that he may have brain damage keeps pushing its way into my head bringing a bitter bile into my mouth. How could I live through that? I have to reprogram my thoughts in order to stay sane: “Benjaya, wherever you are, I’m sending you love for your healing process, be that to live or die peacefully. May the will of the Highest be done.”
…Next day I need to back track to catch up on yesterday’s events. It will be excruciatingly painful to write but I have a compulsion to catch the process on paper. Maybe it will be of use to others in times to come.
The train ride home was sheer hell despite my efforts to reach the highest space I could. Normality went on around me. No one ventured into my pain-racked space -except with their eyes before quickly averting them again. Two people even sat next to me with their noses in their papers as I sat and sobbed. What a sad separatist world it is. How many of us dare to care?
Eternity lived through, the train pulled into my station, but there was no friend waiting. The platform was flanked with police -one at every other door -and I knew, as did everyone in my carriage, that they had come for me.
I had become increasingly aware that someone within our family circle was preparing for the journey we call death, yet consciously I did not know who that person would be or in what circumstances it would occur. While I didn’t dwell on it, sometimes I would hear myself saying that we were expecting to be working more closely with holistic death at some future time to balance our holistic birth courses, adding that whilst I had had some varied experiences of death, I felt it would come closer to teach us more of its whole and holy nature…
Life pulsates in this family -who would our ‘teacher’ be? Afterwards I could see that many signs and symbols had been there preceding Benjaya’s death if only I could have ‘read’ them. As it was, I thought no more of the possibility of Benjaya’s death than that of any other family member. Nothing that I or anyone else might have thought or done would have changed the eventual outcome. Of that I am certain.
From the first moment of hearing about Benjaya’s exit in water I have believed that it was no accident but a perfectly orchestrated finale. When a leaf falls from the tree before it’s old and wrinkled we see it as a natural event -some leaves must fall first. When a child leaves this world it is more often as not seen as ‘a waste’, something dreadfully wrong. This is the stance that drains me because I believe with all my being that the opposite is true. Gut wrenchingly painful it may be to lose a child, but does that make it wrong and the life wasted? Do we only lovingly parent our children so that they may live to the age we expect them to? Or, might a five year old have lived five precious fulfilling years and have no need of living more?
I want to beg people not to say to me, “You must be feeling this…or that”, but to ask me how I do feel. Misreading my reality and making negative suggestions as to how I must be makes uncomfortable dialogue, which is sad given that the opposite is intended. People are well meaning and often don’t know what to say to the bereaved… all that is needed to gain rapport is something simple like, “I’m sorry about your son”.
I think it is important to start looking at how we face death NOW. I want to encourage those whose natural instinct is to avoid looking at death to do as Beauty did in the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. She was frightened but she dared to look the beast in the face and to be open to who he really was, rather than what he looked like or what others said about him. And when she gave herself the chance to understand his true nature he turned into a handsome prince, they fell in love and lived happily ever after.
We talk about Egyptian myths, Greek myths, but we have our own myths right now. The story of Benjaya is as important as those myths. Society in general hasn’t allowed itself to feel pain, and so the whole of society has been built around pain being present but not allowing it to be real, to exist. So society fears the pain that is our blessing. I do not feel that around Benjaya’s death which is why I’m calling it a living myth. It has stretched my heart in a way that nothing else could.
Reading Benjaya’s Gifts was like listening to Mozart. This gripping story is like that of the classical sonata form. In the overwhelmingly triumphant first movement we start with the major subjects expressed by members of the family. This is followed by a slow movement with the same orchestral line up but of almost unbearable sadness. It ripples out and mysteriously develops into something extraordinarily strong and confident. Ending with a short scherzo which is beautifully written and practical to the nth degree. It is not only because of my own personal experience as a bereaved parent thatI found this such a remarkable book. It truly touches something so complex and so simple -the vastness within a little child -that it deserves a wide and thoughtful readership. Francis Kinsman (Resurgence Magazine, December 1997)
Compiled by Benjaya’s mother and grandmother, Benjaya’s Gifts vividly and movingly describes his birth and death from the viewpoint of numerous people who were connected with him. The book expresses their understanding of the processes of life and its eternal nature. Benjaya’s family are deeply committed to their spiritual paths but you don’t need to share their particular beliefs to find wisdom and insight in this story. Much of what they say is common to many religious and mystical traditions.Even the most thorough-going materialist, reading this book with an open mind, might reflect usefully on the inadequate way our society generally handles both birth and death. Not the least of little Benjaya’s gifts would be to inspire us to deal with them more sensitively. Bob Mann (Totnes Times, January 1997)
Adam House and its family exist. This story is real yet transcends any concept of reality we had known until its telling. The book took 10 years to produce from Benjaya’s birth to publication, a quarter of Carmella’s life and more than one sixth of mineto that point. As we wrote, it honed and shaped us, filling us with a sense of Presence. It held a life of its own… and still does, drawing people towards Adam House and the Healing Sanctuary where Benjaya was born, to discover whatever they need to discover in the tranquillity that remains undisturbed by the passing of life.
To have “midwifed” Benjaya both in and out of life in this world has been a precious gift. I would not have chosen such a gift -what mother would! -but in living this story to its fullest and embracing the mysteries and shadows of birth and death I have been positively transformed. It is a joy to welcome others into the heart of this family journey because in so doing, the learning and healing process continues to weave its magic, and mourning continues to break.