Susan Bohrnstedt–Rocks4Ben

My name is Susan and I paint rocks.  A lot of rocks.  Over 300 in the last nine months.  Excessive?  Maybe, but in painting rocks I’ve found healing, inspiration and some days a purpose—a reason to keep moving forward.

On March 28, 2017, I lost my son, Ben.  Life as I knew it was over.  I didn’t know who I was anymore. A piece of me was gone.  As his September 9 birthday approached, I found myself more and more withdrawn and anxious about how we would honor him on his 20thbirthday.

And then, on August 12, I didn’t realize it at the time, but something came to my life that changed everything—a painted rock.  I came across a FB post for EVV Rocks—a group of people who paint and hide rocks merely to bring happiness to others.  I joined and after a few weeks of seeing all the joy being shared by both painters and finders, I decided this is how we would honor Ben. My family and I got together, shared stories, laughed, cried and painted 20 rocks. Most had special meanings; all were made with love.

September 9 could have been very somber for us, but instead we spent the day traveling all over town leaving rocks where we had special memories with Ben, snapping photos and posting clues for the group.  The love and support they gave us was amazing, and it seemed everybodywas on the hunt for one of Ben’s rocks.

And that was just the beginning…

I now understand what the term “Beauty for Ashes” means because that is exactly what these rocks represent for me.

Yes, in these rocks I’ve found healing.  I call it my “Rock Therapy.”  I can always count on painting to calm me when I get anxious and overwhelmed about this journey that I’m on.  There is peace because Ben is with me as I paint.  Each rock is a tribute to him, and his name is on the back of every one.

I’ve found inspiration.  Not just in the art, but in the connections I’ve made with complete strangers.  Many have encouraged me and some have even shared their own stories.

Because of these rocks, people who have never met Ben have said they feel drawn to know him.

Some have offered to take rocks on their travels.  As a result, Ben has rocks across the United States, in Africa, Canada, Iceland and Mexico to name a few.  I can’t even explain how awesome it is to see a photo of a rock I painted in Evansville, Indiana, sitting on the steps of the Sidney Opera House or mortared into the doorway of a family home in the Dominican Republic.

I have the most incredible story of a woman from Northern California who found one of Ben’s rocks while vacationing in Utah.  She was so touched by what the rock represented that she kept it with her and took the most beautiful photos of it as she hiked through seven National and State Parks.   She is now a dear friend, and I was thrilled to actually get to meet her this past April.

But what really gets me is when I am introduced to someone in the group and tell them about the rocks I paint and I hear, “Oh my gosh, you’re Ben’s mom!” Like they knowhim, like he was just hanging out at their house playing video games with their kids.  My heart swells and I say “Yes, I am Ben’s mom.”

And also, I’ve found purpose. On days when my world gets really dark and doesn’t seem to make sense, I am reminded of my self-proclaimed purpose: to try to make someone else’s day a little brighter.  I feel I’ve been blessed with a way to do that with a simple painted rock. I may never know who found it or what their reaction was, but I like to believe it gave them a smile.

My name is Susan, and I paint Rocks4Ben.

(Susan is an accountant and a mom in Evansville, Indiana.)


In the letter below, writer and yoga instructor Ana Holland Krawec explains her idea of the light within. The photo, also by Ana, explores and plays with light…

My dear friend,

Because you are thoughtful and detail-oriented, you probably remember the stamps you used to mail my little moleskin notebook. They were three beautiful stamps, each of a delicate sea creature that looked like spun glass, with the words Bioluminescent Life.

Of course, bioluminescence is the ability of some living species to create their own light. How uplifting is the notion that perhaps each one of us, too, has the potential to generate our own light.

The practice of Yoga acknowledges that what we seek is already inside us; all we must do is find who we are. The thousand-petalled lotus flower holds at its core a jewel, and those who practice yoga seek to gently pull back the petals and ultimately uncover that core. This is enlightenment. Light. The jewel that lies in each of us.

If we tap into our bioluminescence, we don’t have to seek others to find light. We don’t have to seek others to make us happy, or rely on the approval of those around us to establish our self-worth. While we can be nourished and enriched by our friendships, we can seek the jewel within to fill our core. We have the capacity to shine from within and to share that light with others.

Seek the light within. Be luminescent.

That’s what I’ve been wanting to say to you… ☀️

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