Strong Faith

Leah Millis

Lily Bennett, 8, makes a face as her sister, Faith Bennett, 16, styles Lily's hair before school at their home. Faith is up each morning at 5, wakes her sister up an hour later and helps her prepare for her day. Since their mother died in April, Faith has assumed many of the parenting roles for her sister and is the sole operator of Woofer Watchers, the family's dog daycare and kennel that her mother created.

Faith Bennett, 16, climbs onto the bed and starts gently shaking her younger sister. "Lily, Lily, time to get up." The girl doesn't stir until the deep voice of their motionless father sleeping beside her, rings out loud and firm, "Lily!"

Faith grabs Lily's arm and pulls her to the edge of the bed. "You're getting too old for this." she says, sounding strained as she carries her sister past the exposed feet of their father and to the bathtub, telling her to get in.

This has been the morning routine for Bennett family of Henderson since April when Darlene Bennett, Faith and Lily's mother and Ron's wife, died suddenly of a heart attack. The next night the three of them climbed in bed together and held onto what they still had – each other.

 "Eskimos, they'll all sleep together to stay warm because it's life-sustaining. We all sleep together for comfort and protection," says Faith.

In the hospital, Faith answered her mother's phone that wouldn't stop buzzing with clients of her Woofer Watchers dog hotel home business. The high school sophomore fielded calls and organized people who took care of the dogs while Faith waited to hear if her mother would make it.

Faith says she and her father never discussed it. Faith just took over the business. It's not unusual to see Faith with two iPhones, one raised to her ear as she types on the other, taking notes while she schedules an appointment with a client. Faith has one employee, an older woman named Faithful. Faithful takes care of the dogs a few times a week while Faith is at school or if nobody else is at home.

The morning after her mother died, Easter Sunday, Faith updated her Facebook page to let friends know. She wrote, "Yesterday, I lost my best friend. My other half. And the most amazing human I've ever met. The person I would run to when I was hurt, sad or angry, and somehow she would always make it better, no matter what.  Today, I celebrate the most important day. The day that give me hope. Without today there would be no eternal life, no hope for the lost, no comfort for those left behind. People ask me if I'm angry at God. And I respond with a resounding, 'no.' Yes, I have many questions, but I know Jesus came, died and was risen for HER, and for us, so I can see my mommy again one day. And for that, I am so eternally thankful."

Seventy-nine people "liked" that post. People still approach Faith to thank her and tell her how much it affected them.

She says that Lily is her reason to keep going. "I gotta take care of her," Faith says. "It's my responsibility. If anything happened to her, I feel like I would have let my mom down."

The family dog, Napoleon, watches Faith Bennett, 16, as she carries a broom into a barn that was converted into a kennel used for the Woofer Watchers dog hotel business to hold the larger dogs. Cleaning after the dogs is a daily event for Faith. It's one of the first things she does when she gets up in the morning and when she gets home from school in the afternoon.

Faith Bennett, 16, pauses in the doorway in front of a portrait of her late mother, Darlene Bennett, in her bedroom before getting dressed for the day as the rest of the house sleeps. Faith says mornings are the hardest for her because she's so exhausted and still plagued with nightmares about her mother's recent death.

Faith Benett, 16, carries her sister from bed to the bathroom to get ready for the school day. They go right past their father's exposed feet as he continues to sleep at their home. "I gotta take care of her. It's my responsibility," Faith says of her role in Lily's life. "If anything happened to her, I feel like I would have let my mom down."

Faith Bennett, 16, waits in the front seat of the family minivan as her little sister Lily, 8, climbs in and their grandfather locks the door to take them to a friend's house.

Faith Bennett, 16, yawns during her U.S. Government class at her small Catholic high school, Majesty Academy, in Owensboro. Typically by the end of the week, Faith is exhausted because she gets an average of two to four hours of sleep a night because of her responsibilities and homework load. She has managed to keep her straight A's by staying up late every night to finish her homework.

Faith Bennett, 16, pleads with her boyfriend, Daniel Reeves, 18, after he announced he was considering shaving off his facial hair. Faith's friend, Jodi Hagan, 15, (left), sits next to her before their teacher, Ben Thompson, (back), begins advanced math class at Majesty Academy in Owensboro.

Faith Bennett, 16, chats with her boyfriend, Daniel Reeves, about his calculator in between classes at their small Catholic school in Owensboro. The two have been dating since May when Daniel finally asked her out after two years of friendship. Faith and her mother used to attend his basketball games, and Daniel worked for Faith's mother for a while before she died in April.

Faith Bennett, 16, checks voicemails and calls clients of the family business, Woofer Watchers, using her two iPhones as her father picks up her and Lily, 8, from school in Owensboro. Because her schoolwork is very important to her, Faith leaves her phones in her locker during the day and uses the time during the car ride home to catch up with clients.

Faith Bennett,16, mops with a mixture of hot water and bleach to clean up the small dog castle-themed area in their converted garage in the early morning hours before school. She says her mother had a good eye for design and decoration. The castle theme was her creation when she started Woofer Watchers, a dog daycare, four years ago.

Faith Bennett, 16, attempts to pull a shirt that's too small over the head of her younger sister, Lily, 8, in the bathroom of their home before the start of a school day. After their mother Darlene's sudden death in April, Faith has taken on the maternal role and most of the responsibility for her younger sister because their father works a night shift driving a fork lift. She has also taken over her mother's dog overnight facility run out of their home.

Lily Bennett, 8, (center), is unresponsive as her sister, Faith, 16, tries to gently shake her awake in the morning so she can get Lily ready for school. Since their mother died in April, Faith has assumed many of the parenting roles for her sister and is the sole operator of Woofer Watchers, the family's dog daycare and kennel her mother created.