There is a bench on Brittas Bay that looks out over the sea. The view is serene and the soundtrack of the sea is interspersed with the excited squeals of children playing in the sand.

The waves move in and out and time passes. But on this bench, there is a little boy who never grows old, a beautiful blond curly haired child called Adam.

Adam loved this beach and it was here that his parents Benji and Jackie created their magical moments.

Making memories

His dad, Benji, says: “Jackie and I love being out in nature and rain, hail or shine, we used bundle up the kids and go for walks in the park or on the beach, just exploring and having fun with Robbie, Adam and Harry.

“And we have this mobile home in Brittas Bay and we would spend our summers here, swimming and building sandcastles, building these beautiful memories with our kids.”

Those memories became even more precious in 2007, when Benji and Jackie’s life changed when Adam passed away. Benji talks about the days leading up to Adam’s passing.

“Jackie and I were sitting on the deck and it was a lovely day. I remember there was freshly cut grass and the kids were making haystacks. It was a hazy summer evening, you know the ones where there are insects everywhere but it was calm and quiet and you could hear the little giggles from the boys.

“The sun was going down and it was just a magical moment. I remember saying to Jackie, that we are just so lucky. We had each other, we had our boys, you know it was like we had won the life lottery.”

Saying goodbye

A few days later, it was Robbie’s birthday and Adam came in from playing outside saying he had a headache.

“We said, ‘Go for a lie down, would you like some birthday cake?’ and he said no, which was surprising. He didn’t sleep well and the next day, he still had the headache and he had gotten sick so we brought him to the doctor, but he figured he just had a bug.

Benji self-published the first book he wrote, which took off in popularity. \ Philip Doyle

“That night we were awake all night again with him, he was screaming that he had a sore head. So we decided that I would bring him to Crumlin and Jackie would stay there with the kids. I remember driving up in the car and Adam being very quiet and lethargic.

“So we were admitted into Crumlin and I was sitting on the bed with Adam in my arms and suddenly his whole body went tense. Then he started shaking and next thing, his body just flopped. All hell broke lose then, there were doctors and nurses running in, airbags, all that stuff you see on TV and you just don’t know what to do. I was panicking but none of it was really going in, I couldn’t understand what was going on.”

When the medical team finally stabilised Adam, they got him in for a scan. “The news wasn’t good,” he says. “His headache was the result of a huge vascular tumour which was growing and growing. He was essentially dying. I’ll never forget Jackie coming into the hospital that day.”

Benji and Jackie also have a daughter Molly, who is now 13. \ Philip Doyle

Adam was rushed to Beaumont for surgery but nothing could be done, there was no hope. “I remember him lying in the bed and ripping open my shirt to hold him. I needed his skin on mine, I wanted to suck him inside my body.”

Benji and Jackie had just a few hours to say goodbye to their little boy. “Jackie and I were in the room, each holding one of Adam’s hands and I said to her, we’ll be OK. We love each other, we told Adam we loved him every single day and we are strong enough together to get through this. We have to tell everyone how important it is to tell their child that they love them.”

Shortly after that, it happened. “Adam left us very calmly and quietly and beautifully and he was gone,” Benji says quietly.

Adam’s cloud

Afterwards, in their grief, Benji held onto this message. “Anyone that has a child that passes away will say spend more time with your child. But I wanted to do more than that.

“It felt like it was my job not just to tell parents that, but also to give them a tool or a reason to spend real quality time together, a time that fills them with an emotional experience that they would draw on for the rest of their lives. Adam’s loss, it couldn’t be for nothing.”

There are now nine books in the Adam's Cloud collection. \ Philip Doyle

Then, just a few weeks after Adam’s death, Benji started scribbling a few words. “I started writing about this wonderful camping trip that we went on and I wrote the words, ‘I love you much more than the sun moon and stars.’

“Then I thought, ‘How do you express to your child how much you love them? Well we all know that children love Christmas and Halloween and going on holidays or a day in the beach. So let’s tell them that you love them even more than that’.

“So the idea of the book (Before You Sleep) became about encouraging parents to tell their kids how much they love them and to take inspiration from the adventures that Adam goes on in the book, to do these activities and engage with their kids and have a bit of fun together.

But Benji says, it’s not just about all these big moments in life. Magical moments can also be the small everyday actions.

Benji Bennett urges all parents to treasure the little moments with their kids. \ Philip Doyle

“Life is busy for parents, so many of us are overworked and tired and stressed. And we have the guilts of being cranky or irritable during the day. But the bedtime story, that is a moment to treasure.

“In that 10 minutes, they sit on your lap or snuggle in, listening to the beat of your heart, the warmth of your embrace and they are told they are loved.”

Instant success

With that Adam’s Cloud took off.

“I decided to self publish Before You Sleep and we launched it on Adam’s first anniversary the following August.

I remember saying to the printer, ‘I want 20,000 copies,’ and she told me I was mad, but I said, do it anyway please.

“And within weeks, I was getting phone calls from Eason looking for more. So I rang the printer again and said, ‘I want another 20,000 copies’. She said, ‘Look I’ve seen this before you get a bit of a spike but honestly, they’re not going to sell.’

“And then before Christmas, I had to order another 10,00 and she said, ‘Ah sure you’ve broken all the rules at this stage, I’ll print as many as you want.’ By Christmas that year, we had sold 45,000 copies.

The following year, Benji won the Irish Book Awards and over the years built on the collection with a further eight books including another award-winning book, and personal favourite in our house, When You Were Born.

“Adam has brought us on some adventure. But he always was just a beautiful exceptional child. The day we collected his ashes, Jackie did a pregnancy test and we found out she was pregnant with our beautiful girl Molly who is now 13. It was like Adam’s gift to us.”

Adam died when he was four and he would have been 18 this year, but as the years passed his message has become even stronger.

“Christmas is such a magical time for families and as the festive season comes closer, I just hope people will think of Adam’s message.

“Those magical moments are life’s gift. Enjoy them, treasure them. Jackie and I will always miss Adam but we feel very lucky and privileged to have had such a wonderful child.”

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