This letter is in response to your obituary of Chris Bentley (“Mt. Airy polymath descended from Philadelphia giants,” Aug. 26). Chris was our neighbor since 2001. In the many accidental …
This letter is in response to your obituary of Chris Bentley (“Mt. Airy polymath descended from Philadelphia giants,” Aug. 26). Chris was our neighbor since 2001. In the many accidental curbside encounters, we found ourselves with a ready will to connect about family matters and each others’ general well-being and yes, about a snippet of neighborhood news (OK, gossip) worth savoring. We took comfort in and deeply enjoyed those connections, as well as the many multi-season glimpses from across the way of Chris tending to his beloved and magical homestead.
As Charlie and Robin, Chris' and Wendy's sons, became young men with life rhythms of their own and our own life paths became freer, an opening for a more intentional friendship occurred. A few winters ago, we assented to a spontaneous Sunday dinner invitation where we found ourselves in such gracious yet easy company that we didn’t hesitate to reciprocate with an equally relaxed and cozy Sunday meal. The warmth of those two evenings together seemed to hop-scotch our connection forward across the years leading us to believe that we had an unhurried, even leisurely path toward getting to know one another better.
Obviously, two unexpected phenomena put the lie to our wished-for leisure in deepening our friendship with Chris: the arrival of Covid and a year later, his unexpected battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) ... Even when AML made its way into their lives, though, and maintaining physical distance was truly a life-saving necessity, Chris and Wendy were open to safely connecting as his energy allowed.
In his book, “How We Die”, Yale neurosurgeon Sherwin Nuland eloquently reminds us each of a truth that Chris’ life and death embodied: “It is not in the last weeks or days that we compose the message that will be remembered but in all the decades that preceded them. Who has lived in dignity, dies in dignity.” Though our hearts ache for Wendy, Robin and Charlie in their loss of Chris, we can say with some confidence that although we never came to know him as much as we would have wished, we knew him well enough to know that the messages he composed in his 59 years were manifold and rich ones that will be there for the discovering and unfolding many years hence. Though our hearts are heavy now, we look forward to knowing him and each of his loved ones better across the years.
Suzanne Brennan and Karen Anderson
West Mt. Airy