Eulogy by Eric

I once swam with Ben at the beach near his house in San Diego, at night during a red tide. There were tiny little phosphorescent phytoplankton in the water, that, when disturbed, would light up like a glow stick. It was beautiful to watch the surf from the shore, each wave illuminated with green fire from within. It was even more beautiful to swim with him out there beyond the breaking waves in water over our heads, small in that vast ocean which lit up wherever and whenever we moved a hand, a limb, our bodies. As soon as we stopped swimming, the light stopped shining. Our activity gave light to that darkness, and made it beautiful.  Walking back to his house, Ben told me that swimming out there was one of the best twenty minutes of his life.

In the same way, Ben's life was a light shining in the darkness, marked by a flurry of activity and extinguished too soon. We all have stories to tell of Ben, how he touched our lives, how we loved him, how he loved us, how he made us happy, sad, ecstatic and angry. I am sure many stories about Ben have been told these last few weeks, and many more will be told in the years to come. Tell those stories, Ben loved stories.

Even if we knew all the stories there were to tell about Ben, none of us could know the fullness of the person that Ben was. In the book of Job, Job's friends speak about God, while Job questions God. Yet it is Job whom the Lord claims speaks rightly about himself. Ben left us too soon, and he left us with questions: questions to ask Ben, questions to ask God, some of them deep, probing, personal. Those questions aren't wrong, and by asking them we speak rightly about him, even now.

How can you have died, Ben? It seems unreal. How could you leave us so soon? Did you know you would die so young? Would you have done anything differently if you did? Why did you seek all that space and solitude in the mountains? Was it because your thoughts were so large, or because it reminded you that you are so small? Is it any comfort that you died doing what you loved? Why did you climb? Why did you run?

Like Job crying out to the storm, Ben had his own questions for God. For me, it is some solace to know that even the strong can struggle, and that needn’t diminish their faith. Our questions for God, even the ones we want to scream, are a sign of our faith and yearning.

Our questions for Ben, even the ones we want to scream, do not diminish the love we have for him, and they do not alleviate the pain we feel. Ben had a firm hope in the promises of Christ, that beautiful heaven awaits those who love and serve and believe as best as they are able. I know Ben had faith, hope, and love, and that in heaven there is no more darkness and no more need for questions, but only the light of Christ, brighter than a thousand suns. We are gathered here for this Mass not just to celebrate the life of the deceased and to pray for him, but to remember Christ's promises are made to all of us, to experience a foretaste of heaven, and to look forward in hope of the resurrection to the day when each of us will die.

We pray and talk and cry today thinking of Ben's life and how he affected ours, and about his early death and how none of us knows the day or hour we will die. Ben inspired many whom he met to live more fully, to love more truly, to believe more fervently. He was a bright flame burning in the darkness of this world. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Let us set the world on fire, and maintain the light.


Given at Ben’s Funeral on August 7, 2012: