Eight Years and Two We Will Remember

October 22, 2018

Eight years now since Benjamin died by suicide and I am accepting that the old Helen and Jay are gone. 10/22/10 permanently marred and modified us. We will never be the same and I continue to find and adapt to my new normal. The impacts of his death are the portal we pass through every day.

Today I am writing a special Mara Moments Equine Therapy Blog post. This post highlights some healing I have experienced through two extraordinary men who reached out to me following Benjamin’s death. Today I want to share them with you on this the 8th anniversary of Benjamin’s death.

These two friends touched my wounded heart with their compassion and kindness. They deserve to be acknowledged on this anniversary because, sadly, they have both recently passed away.

Liz is a friend of our son, Peter, and her father is Jim White. I really did not know Jim until a few days after Benjamins funeral when he called me and said “Helen, Jim White here. I’m never going to forget you on this one, I’m with you forever.” I was so numb, so low and so out of it at the time I’m not certain what I said in response. However, Jim’s words during that first call amazed and touched me. The lovely part of this story and this man is that Jim actually did what he said he was going to do. Jim was a landline phone friend. He faithfully called me or left me messages and always stayed in touch. With little or no reciprocal friending back, Jim won me over as such a dear special guy! Sadly Jay, Peter and I attended Jim’s funeral on 3/7/18.

I lost an extraordinary friend. Jim was that rare person who, as Sarah R. pointed out truly “lived the Beatitudes” To be a recipient of his warm, kind friendship was an amazing experience. Thank you and Bless you Jim.

Then I met Todd Bol in 2011 because Jay and I learned about Little Free Library (thank you Mary R.) and we immediately wanted to have one as a memorial for Benjamin. Our family loves books, reading and libraries which were a wonderful part of Benjamin’s life, so a Little Free Library was a perfect memorial.


Benjamin Helen Peter Madeline Island Library

Benjamin, Helen and Peter

We met Todd and Susan Bol when they personally delivered and installed “Benjamin’s Books” LFL Charter number 260 on September 20, 2011 at Freedom Park. We even made the news in the Prescott Journal on November 17, 2011 when it ran this photo of the four of us along with a great story.

Helen Jay Todd & Susan Bol

Benjamin's Library

If I had never spoken to Todd again I would not have thought a thing of it. I had no capacity to make a new friend as I was still in therapy and struggling with depression, confusion and daily anxiety.

But Todd Bol was the extraordinary person who decided to be a friend in the midst of my pain. Todd would call me to chat and we talked about Benjamin and mental health. Todd would email me too. Several times Todd would circle back and ask Jay and me to participate in Little Free Library programs and events. Jay and I attended multiple National Book Events with Todd. Our story is in the first LFL video, and in the “The Little Free Library Book.” (2015)

Jay and I were married the same year as Todd and Susan, our children are the same age, we were all about the same age, and we all love books, libraries, reading and the mission of Little Free Library. Our connections touched us all.

I am currently a member of the National Board of Little Free Library, all because of Todd’s extraordinary capacity to be a friend and to include us among those he cared about and connected with.

After Benjamin’s death I designed a pocket coin in his memory with messages of the need for light and peace in our lives. Jay and I have had 3000 produced to date. We give them to people who have suffered loss or endured substantial pain. We also leave them in Benjamin’s library as well as in special places as we travel. Many family members and special friends have also distributed these “Benjamin coins” for us and we love their caring support with this task. Todd was a faithful carrier and distributor of Benjamin coins too. We gave him many bags of coins that he took on his trips around the country and to other nations to give away and share our story as he promoted Little Free Libraries. This truly touched our hearts.

Being in Todd’s magical sphere offered healing and positive activities for Jay, Peter and me to participate in that took us “out of the pits of our pain” and allowed us to share in the wonderful positive kind world of Little Free Library.

On this anniversary of Benjamin’s death, we are donating to the Todd H Bol Vision Fund as a memorial to Benjamin because Todd exemplifies qualities we value; supporting all people through the collective sharing of books in the most inclusive, creative and kind way!
Please join us in donating to this special fund if this speaks to your heart.

Todd Fund

Can be accessed through this link:

Todd Bol Vision Fund


On Monday, October 22, 2018, Jay and I will be focusing on Benjamin’s life and our memories of our family life with him. We plan to visit a favorite chapel to send up some prayers for Benjamin, Jim and Todd, and spend some time at Benjamin’s Bench.

Benjamin Bench Oct 2018

Later we will eat at a Thai restaurant because that’s where Benjamin would choose to eat. We will visit Mara B who is also feeling the need for rest and introspection.

Mara Resting

Thank you to all who read this and to our faithful Mara Moments followers.


Ride for a Friend

Mara B and I went to the lower meadow and the upper pasture on a dedicated solo ride this afternoon in memory of special friend Todd Bol. Todd was the founder and Executive Director of Little Free Library. Todd passed away this morning too young and too soon and our hearts are heavy. Todd and the people of Little Free Library have provided tremendous support to me and my family.

The upper pasture was extremely quiet, peaceful and so pleasant. We saw open Milkweed pods so we collected pods full of seeds and put them in my camera bag. They traveled home with me to be planted in our wildflower meadow.

Eternal peace to my dear friend Todd, whose own dad had a passion for riding and showing horses. Thus horses, books and libraries are solid connections between us!

Long View

Mara B kindly nudged the barn cats warming up in the sun on our way out the door this morning, it was sweet. Then Tera and Rosie joined us on a ride through the Meyers Farm and up to the power line look out.

We continued around the loop and saw a tractor working in one field and one parked where they have clearly started to plow under the field.

Both Mara and Rosie where great dealing with today’s wind. However Mara was feeling “off” after our ride and received some special attention from Melodee and me before I left the stable for the day. Hopefully she’s back to feeling better already. Sandi on chore crew tonight will give her an extra special eye when she feeds her! Mara and I both appreciate their assistance.

October‘s Changing Weather

Mara and I have encountered many weather variations these past few days! Conditions change daily, yesterday it was fresh snow that greeted us on Jay’s Sunday rendezvous with Ms Mara.

Today we appreciated sunshine on our ride to the cow pasture and through cut corn fields! Some apple trees are still loaded with apples while others have only the last few hanging on.

Riding through cut fields remains a favorite place for me to ride though, it reminds me of childhood rides in North Dakota.

So it was fun to circle around a cut cornfield this morning. Mara’s coat is getting very thick and felt warm from the sunshine when I rubbed her neck!


Today’s post is in support of World Suicide Prevention Day 2018. WSPD began in 2003, in 2010 I knew nothing about it.

The theme of WSPD 2018 is “working together to prevent suicide.” Please connect, care and communicate about suicide with your personal inner circle if need me.

Mara B and I dedicated our ride this morning in memory of Benjamin Curry Stassen.

Followed by a Monarch

Today’s ride was a dedicated ride for Paul B who is recovering from some major surgery. Yesterday I told Paul that Mara B and I would be riding for him this morning so to have a Monarch along with us was pretty neat.

Mara and I had a peaceful quiet solo ride and soaked in the calm stillness of the morning.

Our unique sighting was the ash and remains left from a small fire.

We concluded the ride without the butterfly but are hoping good things are around the corner for all of us!

Mara B was a very good girl.

Sweetest Treats & Quiet Ride Mask

Anika who enjoys riding lessons on Mondays at River Brink brought horse treats for her pals today! It was super sweet and made my day.

What a stash for the horses! Plus Mara B has a new ‘Quiet Ride Fly Mask’ that we tried out today and I’m glad we did, the gnats were certainly around.

Kim and Rio rode with us and we dedicated our ride to Matthew and Joseph today.

The peace of nature was soothing.

Geese along the Way

After putting some elbow grease to Mara, I was able to get the mud off and return her to a dusty gray color. We then headed down the road for a very nice walk to Sam’s, I love this stand of White Pines, that you see before the darling farmstead. Geese in the fields on both sides of the road were waddling around, honking and a few flew over head, not a distraction, simply a strong presence for us today. Mara and I dedicated today’s ride to Frankie and in honor of World Down Syndrome Day.

Mild & Milkweed 

The mild start to December allowed us to start the month “out.” Mara and I rode up to the cow pasture that is now looking very bare, however we saw this Milkweed still holding on to seeds. Coming down we had a good view of the back side of the stable. We also rode over to the backside of the neighboring stable. Today’s ride was dedicated to an extraordinary horse who left earth today but who remains in the hearts of so many.

An Addition

Starting in the round pen for Mara to stretch her legs and expend energy has been working well for us lately, it’s what we did today. Then we headed up to the cow pasture and found the new addition which signals big changes for our outings. Riding up and then back down from the cow pasture is good excerise for Mara and I like the views. A good ride for us, cool temps but calm winds.