Eulogy by Math

Encapsulating Ben is impossibly hard. Or to borrow one of Ben’s similes: Harder than a Chinese Google Search for Tiennamen. But, like tankman, I will try.

Ben’s week beats your year. He climbs unclimbable peaks after running inhuman distances only stopping to write, rap, pray, or read up on how to start the revolution. He never settles or merely copes. People might say Wholehearted. Unrelenting. He maintains the light. Persistent. Deliberate. He says it’s his 100% raw Lithuanian beef. I call it guts. Ben’s running hero Prefontaine ran to see who had the most guts, but Pre never raced Ben.

On his record-setting Appalachian trail thru-hike, dragging me along for a few dozen miles, making sure he stepped on every single step of the trail, deliberately not even taking the smallest of imperceptible shortcuts that I was unwittingly making. Even when  the rangers warned us bears that had attacked campers were in the area and we had to make serious distance by that night to get out of the danger. Guts. We woke up to a sickly, hungry black bear poking around a few yards from our tent, closer than Ben or I had ever been to one. And all our Boy Scout tricks of banging on pans and shouting and ignoring eye contact weren’t working; Ben just acted, just did it, put himself between me and the dangerous beast and picked up the whole campsite without packing it up and fled, pushing me, full tent in hand. Guts. Pray now Math, he forcefully whispered. Was he rattling off Hail Marys to prevent an attack or to have God’s words on our lips in case of tragedy?

When Grandmom died he picked up the burden of no one in the family any longer pronouncing the days of the week in the Baltimoron way. It was important to him that someone should continue saying Tuesdee. Hey Math, It’s Mondee, just calling to say what’s up and I love you. I’m going climbing on Fridee. Guts.

At the Wu-Tang concert showing me how to stand my ground against people pushing me twice his size (four times mine). Muscled his little brother through the moshers so I could high-five the rapper. Guts. Making sure we all knew all the words to his favorite rap songs but deftly turning down the volume knob when precisely where the bad words would show up. Guts. Writing his own raps and despite his limited lyricism, forced rhymes and goofy flow, getting by on sheer willpower and managing to rock every mic he ever picked up. Guts.

Beating level 19 height 3 in Tetris, debating 1984’s meaning, teaching me what “indie rock” means, the difference between real hip hop and just whack rap, exemplifying how to reject the rules of fashion, exposing me to my first Fugazi concert. All life-changing for me. No one thing he did matters, though, nor any one thing he said, or one million quotes he stole to live by.

Who Ben is matters – a godly man who knew the difference between being good and just nice, who thought about things and acted, who prayed and served, who loved you exactly as he knew you needed. A man who was stronger than the devices, cultural nonsense, babble, and materialistic chains that he has escaped from. His body may go, but we can never forget his guts.


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