Ben was my friend. He was just 47 years old. His funeral was this past weekend.
I’ve only been friends with him for 15 years. That was nothing compared to some of the stories that were being told about him at his funeral. He had friends there that were part of his life from the very beginning. So 15 years doesn’t seem like much but to me he became a part of my heart.
I don’t even know where to begin with so many stories that he was a part of over the years. We went to the same church and lived close to each other and our families spend a lot of time together.
But for some reason it’s boys weekends that’s coming to mind right now. They were such great times that we all had together and were a bit of a microcosm of the Ben we knew and loved. He was such a fun guy to be a part of these things. And he was over-the-top quirky at times. When it was time to buy groceries it was clear that Ben loved crappier food than any of us. Horrible chocolate cereal. Boxes of Joe Louis and the lIke (One box for him and one for everyone else:) Just a lot of junk food.
We played a ton of poker at those weekends. There may or may not have been a fair amount of alcohol consumed. We loved to trash talk each other while we played but learned quickly that he did not want to be a part of that. (I may have tried anyways) It was a sign of endearment, at least I am taking it as that because I was the recipient of a ton of it, but he still did not want any of it. Maybe that made him the bigger man…
He was a coffee aficionado. He roasted and hand ground his own beans for crying out loud. On boys weekends he would lower himself to drink store-bought coffee beans. However when he would wake up he would even ask how old the coffee was and if it was more than just a few minutes old he would dump it out and brew a fresh pot. He was very serious about his coffee.
We would sit down for our meals but if there were no napkins there would be no supper when it comes to Ben. No napkins meant no meals. It was just plain not civilized to not have napkins at a meal.
He needed to dress properly for any occasion. And it wasn’t unusual to see him wear 2, maybe even 3 outfits in the run of a day depending on what we were doing. He was game for anything but always at his own pace. He was really into mindfulness and even disappeared once in a while to meditate. Sometimes it would have been nice if he told us that of course as he would disappear and we would wonder if he was OK.
We laughed a lot, played a lot of poker, ate a lot of food, listened to a lot of music, stayed up really late, didn’t get enough sleep, drank a few too many beers, and still had time for moments of serious chats together. We all learned a lot about each other on those weekends and yet we still liked each other afterwards:)
Ben was a husband to Kim, a father to Mabel and Judah, he had three older brothers, and was a son to his parents who are still alive. He spoke of all of them often and fondly.
We watched a lot of fun yet dark TV shows over the years. We absolutely loved the show called justified. We compared notes via text often about what we were watching and were almost always on the same page.
He loved watching basketball, football and hockey. We would watch his beloved leafs lose every year in the playoffs on a big screen in his backyard. He never got to see them win a cup in his lifetime but every year taught us a lesson about perseverance to the end.
He also loved watching curling, which made me very happy as none of my other friends like it.
He was a psychologist and walked with countless people through the ups and downs of this thing we call life. He worked a lot with clergy who were going through difficult times. In the last few years he even started his own practice called Greenwood psychology which he was very proud of. He built his practice close to where he lives. He wanted me to see it one day so I went there only to go through one of his walls with my wheelchair. He took it in complete stride and had it all fixed up in no time.
He taught mindfulness and how to be in the moment. His first lesson to many of us was by making us take 30 minutes to eat a damn raisin:) He was big on taking time to notice things and appreciate them. He always taught us to slow down. We were part of a contemplation group where we would take 20 minutes of complete silence and then take 10 more minutes to write down what God may have been saying to us during that time. I always loved those moments.
While I was getting sicker but still able to work, my boss let me work from home in the month of February because that was the month that kicked my butt the most. So I would spend that month somewhere south so that I could avoid the snow. I spent a few Februarys in Myrtle Beach. Erinn and Cate came and spent two weeks every time with me but the other two I was on my own. Ben came and spent a week with me during one of those times. And we had a blast. One of the first things we saw was a big jar of cheeseballs. And boy did that make him happy!
My bladder was already starting to be wonky add that point in time for. I would need to be an only have 3 to 5 minutes of warning time before it was going to happen whether I liked it or not. So we were often be driving through Myrtle Beach and I would need to say I need to pee, and without skipping a beat we would veer off into an alley and I would Pee behind the dumpster. And then we’d keep on going like nothing ever happened. (Yes I have marked my territory in Myrtle Beach)
I had a dream that I would possibly study to become a spiritual Director. That might have been the furthest thing from my mind at the time. But it took a hold of my soul. So because I was with a shrink that I trusted, I ran it by him. And he was the first person to affirm that this sounds like the perfect idea for me. He was really quite encouraging about it. That meant so very much to me. And I went on to pursue that dream.
I will never forget it.
And I will never forget him.
Towards the end we connected on even a deeper level because of our illnesses. We understood what it meant to be ‘the sick guy’. We even shared the occasional MS and cancer joke as we agreed that laughter is often the best medicine.
Ben was my friend.
I loved him.
And I know he loved me.