Reflection by Dalia

My name is Dalia Ghanem and I am one of Ben’s friends from UCSD.

First of all, I would like to thank Father JP and everyone who organized the memorial mass yesterday.  There could not be a more beautiful mass in honor of our beautiful Ben.

Almost five years ago, I arrived in San Diego from Egypt.  I was lucky to meet Ben at the Orientation at UCSD. We instantly became friends and soon after we were really each other’s family here in San Diego.  We were there for each other in good times and bad.  We agreed and disagreed.  It was a real friendship, where we were not afraid to be honest with each other, to disagree because we knew that we loved each other unconditionally and we saw the good in each other despite our differences.  We knew we will always be family.

Ben and I shared a lot of core values and passions.  One of these is our deep interest in our respective faiths and our admiration for other faiths and cultures.  Ben was a devout Catholic, but his religiosity did not bring him away from people of different faiths and cultures.  On the contrary, he saw the beautiful in other traditions and was always interested to learn about other people’s beliefs.  He always knew when Ramadan was and would ask me how the fasting is going. He would be very supportive during that time and would come and break the fast with me at least once every Ramadan.  So it is not that he was just polite or wanted to collect data about other religions, but he actually cared about people practicing their faith, even if that was different from his own.  This is a truly beautiful quality about Ben, and in that respect, he sets a beautiful example for all of us.  It reminds me of a story about Jesus that is very famous among Sufi Muslims, Baha’is and many other religious and spiritual groups that I would like to share today:

One day Jesus and his disciples were walking in the old city … and came across the carcass of a dead dog. … One of the disciples said: "Whew ... piff! What a horrible stench!" Another one said: "The very sight of this makes me sick to my stomach." One by one they made their way past the dead creature, even as others in town gathered around the carcass to further remark on its hideousness.

Jesus, and Jesus alone, stopped by the dead dog. He knelt down, and lovingly gazed at the dog. After a long pause, he finally said: "Praise be to God, what beautiful teeth this creature has."

I heard this story for the first time about 11 years ago, and it touched and opened my heart tremendously.  Several days after the news of Ben’s transcendence (I cannot call it the other word), this story came to me and brought me a lot of peace.  I had found the way for me to maintain the light, to cleanse my heart and to follow the example of seeing the beautiful in whatever may seem different or ugly, whether this is a person or a circumstance.  I know that this is the right way for me to keep Ben’s memory in my heart, and to help guide me to make the difference in the world that Ben and I would want me to make.

Ben, you left a deep hole in our lives, but our love for you will maintain the light in our hearts.  We love you!

Given at Ben’s Memorial Service on August 14, 2012: