Reflection by Liora

I met Ben here, at the RMC, 11 years ago. The first time I really remember talking to him was outside the coffeehouse – he was taking a journalism class that semester and he was interested in writing news articles for the Thresher, where I was the Senior News Editor. I wish I could remember anything about that conversation besides his incredibly blue eyes, sparkling like they knew something I didn't know.

Since Ben died, I’ve been thinking a lot about memory, what the purpose of it is. Why some memories can be so painful, others so joyful. I have over a decade of memories with Ben, we lived in four different cities at the same time and traveled to 22 countries together. There were so many adventures.

But some of my simplest and happiest memories were with him, here, at the tail end of his time at Rice. Staying up late at Martel and talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which he was organizing a conference on. Sitting in the grass near Fondren for hours, trying to catch a squirrel. Making my first public service announcement at the KTRU station. Hearing his senior recital at the Lovett Undergrounds. Cracking his piggy bank into the fountain at Hermann park, then collecting all the pennies, and heading to the nearest smoothie place, much to their dismay.

After Ben graduated, I took him to the airport, and he cried when we said goodbye. At the time, I was struck by how hard it was for him to say goodbye to me, but  thinking about it now, I realize how much he was also letting go of Rice, all the relationships he built here, including with himself. My Rice experience continued to be very affected by Ben after he left. I worked on campus that summer and spent hours writing him longhand letters about God and life. I joined ADVANCE on his recommendation, which changed my senior year experience. We wrote each other while he was in Kyrgyzstan, no doubt influencing my decision to systematically reject my Texas-based job offers, and move abroad instead. And I just remember walking around campus and occasionally catching a glimpse of another curly blond head, and my heart leaping up, even though I knew it couldn’t be him.

Most of us have memories of Ben here at Rice, many of them over a decade ago. I find myself asking why I have these memories, what I do with them. When I spoke about Ben at his San Diego memorial service in August, I said that my plan for maintaining the light, to demonstrate how I understood him and the ideals he lived out, was to be less afraid. In the months since, I’ve found myself very much afraid to sit with memory, to feel the sadness and the loss. But recently I’ve understood more the purpose of memory, the gift of it. How sadness is inseparable from joy, how central memory is to our survival and our capacity to love. I’m taking this opportunity to take a deep breath and recommit to maintaining the light, to honoring Ben’s memory through the celebration of my own.