Technical difficulties kept me from publishing on Monday, so play along with me and pretend it’s Monday today.
Today give yourself some time and space to view this submission. ThIS video is a documentary about a remarkable young man whose life was cut short by cancer. His approach to his own illness was to capture the world in photographs. Below are words from his mother to introduce the video.
“When you are going through hell, keep going,” Silas read this quote to me off of an iced tea bottle cap, shortly after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer, just days before his 29th birthday in October of 2007. That same day he told me, “it’s going to be okay, mom,” and with all of my troubled heart his words became truth at that moment.
Silas “Sy” River Bennett was a wildly independent young man with a commitment to social and political change; someone who enjoyed the big debates and small wonders of life in equal measure. It seemed he was born with a sense of humor that he carried throughout life; a life that was full of plans and ideas. Silas knew that with stage IV cancer the prognosis was not encouraging. Yet, despite the challenges he faced, Silas continued to move forward with dreams and ambitions that were important to him. He planned, among other things, to return to Keene State College in New Hampshire, where he had been pursuing a degree in journalism until his diagnosis. With his electric intellect and creative mind, journalism was not only a career path, but a passion.
After his cancer diagnosis, Silas continued his journalistic work; first bravely documenting his life on video, and then turning to photojournalism shortly thereafter. During this time Silas endured brutal chemotherapy and radiation treatments, two surgeries to stabilize his vertebrae to avoid paralysis, and a clinical trial. He was in almost constant and severe pain, and was hospitalized frequently. His was an unrelenting, aggressive cancer, and within months Sy needed the use of a wheelchair. Photographing the world from this new perspective, often with his legs pulled up as it became harder to control the pain and get comfortable, his knees are visible in some of his photos. In looking through these unintentional “self-portraits” I cannot help but smile as I recall a remarkable man with tenacity and humor; an incredible and feisty spirit who remained optimistic even through the darkest of news. Through his photographs, Silas documented everything from the raw emotions of family members to the beauty of spring blossoms flowering as his young life waned.
On May 24, 2008, Silas awoke early. At that time, we were staying in a hotel room up on Beacon Hill which was close to MassGeneral, where Sy was receiving care. He wanted me to take him to a photo store close by. As with many businesses in Boston, this one was not wheelchair accessible. With much difficulty and the assistance of a compassionate manager and an employee, Silas stepped out of his chair and up into the store. Once he was settled back into his wheelchair, Silas looked up at the young manager, and began talking with him about how he had been doing some amateur photography, and was thinking of taking it pro. What equipment would be needed, my son inquired. There are not words adequate to describe the love and humility I felt at that moment. I will never forget the look of satisfaction on Sy’s face as we left the store with his purchases. Giving up was simply not an option, and the next day, camera in hand, Silas took the most exquisite photos of his dear friend Zack and Zack’s fiancée Kelly. Silas passed away just two days later, on May 27, 2008.
This documentary is a testament to Sy’s ability to live life to the fullest, even in the most despairing of times. ~Lorraine Kerz, Sy’s mom~