If you know me in real life, you know that I talk a lot about my family. They’re a big part of the context that makes me. And they’re one of the reasons I love Jesus and pursue hope. They’re the people who are real with me and aren't afraid to be honest with me. I depend on these people more than anyone else and I can’t thank my parents and siblings enough for all they've done in my life.
On this blog, you’ll hear me talk about my brother Ben a lot. He died a little over a year ago in an accident and while in many ways I still feel like I’m coming to terms with his death and with life now as opposed to life with Ben, I believe I've come a little ways, far enough at least to write about it. C.S. Lewis was right when he said we don’t write about things we understand but rather we write about things in order to understand them.
In many ways, I didn't want to understand Ben’s death and so it was easier to just not write about it or talk about it. I definitely still don’t completely understand why he had to die or what exactly God is doing right now, but I've reached a point where I want to understand and even if God doesn't give me the answer, I still want to bring my questions to Him.
That being said, you’ll see Ben’s name frequent this blog a lot and it seems only right that I should give you all somewhat of an explanation of who he is.
1. First things first, Ben is my brother. That’s kind of obvious, I know, but it’s still an important fact worth mentioning. When death strikes it’s easy to feel like you've lost someone and in a way you have. I have to remind myself that whether here or with Jesus, Ben is still my brother. He didn't stop being my brother just because he stopped being on earth.
2. Ben was one of my best friends. I certainly wasn't his closest friend and I definitely didn't understand him all the time but Ben never failed to be there for me and of all the people I've known in my entire life, no one’s ever been there like Ben has. He was always just a phone call away. If I ever needed something, Ben would be there.
He also had a fantastic sense of humor and was always in the mood to laugh. If it wasn't for Ben, I don’t think I would have a sense of humor. Even today, Ben is the source and inspiration of many of my family’s inside jokes. He knew how to laugh at the world and at himself. He never took himself too seriously and he never got hung up over something for long.
3. Ben was a born leader. The Civil Air Patrol side of Ben is a side I didn't get to see that often, but Ben’s leadership skills weren't confined to CAP. Ben was a leader in my life. I liked to think of him as the “second oldest child” in our family. He was younger than me, but in many ways he was my older brother. He was the oldest boy in the family and had a lot of the same oldest child complexes. By the age of thirteen, he had surpassed all his older siblings in weight and height. Whenever it came down to a shouting match, Ben’s voice inevitably dominated and if you know my family, you know that sometimes it helps to be the loudest.
But Ben wasn't just a good leader because he could boss people around, though admittedly he was pretty good at that. He was a good leader because he inspired confidence in his followers. He wasn't afraid to be the first one to plunge ahead recklessly at the forefront, lead the charge if you will and blaze the trail. I remember thinking as a child, “If my brothers can do it, then I can do it too.” And to be completely honest, I never really stopped feeling that way about my brothers. Nothing boosted my confidence and made me brave like having the support and encouragement of my brothers.
4. Ben was great with kids. Some of my all-time favorite memories of Ben involve him and my little nanny charges. When it came to children, Ben was a downright pushover. I still remember the time when little blond one-year-old Bella came up to him one morning, saying, “Ben, Ben! Do you want to fly a kite? Let’s fly a kite!” And Ben stood in the kitchen archway, his face blushing with pleasure as he cried, “How can I possibly say ‘no’?”
5. Ben loved to sing. This was one of my favorite things about Ben. I think it’s fair to say that Ben’s love for singing was due in large part to his love for Jesus. We grew up in a church that sang, really sang. And I’m not talking mumble-along-with-the-worship-team or try-your-darnedest-to-keep-up-with-the-organ kind of singing. I’m talking A Capella four part harmony (or however many other harmonies you want to throw in there if you’re in my family).
I remember when our mother first persuaded Ben and Greg to join the high school choir ensemble. Both of them were at that awkward teenage stage where their voices were rapidly going from soprano to baritone but were still in the cracking awkward in-between stage. They protested joining choir on the grounds that they “couldn't read music” and “couldn't really sing”. My mom rapidly fixed this problem by teaching us to sight read using solfege. After that it didn't take long before my brothers didn't need any motivation to go to choir rehearsal every week.
6. Ben had incredible faith. He wasn't an overly philosophical or contemplative kind of guy, but when it came down to it, Ben’s faith was pretty incredible. I don’t know how many teenagers today would willingly attend worship services every Sunday morning or devote the amount of time, energy, and manual labor that Ben did to our church and the people he loved but I know that the majority certainly wouldn't. Ben loved His church. He loved His family and friends and His love was best expressed, as we all know, in his actions and the amount of time He spent on the people He loved. Faith without works is dead and Ben’s life was a stellar example of a faith that was alive and proactive.
Every summer, our church's youth group had the opportunity to participate in outreach work and ministry with our Pastor and a mission team of four to six people from various states across country and some even from overseas. During this week, we led a children's Vacation Bible School and conducted door-to-door outreach. We also had group devotions, memorized Scripture, and shared our testimonies with one another. In the summer of 2010, I remember hearing Ben's testimony for the first time.
He also had the best smile, teeth or no teeth :)
He cried as he said, "This last year I've been learning how life isn't always fair. I don't always get my way and sometimes it's tough.
"But I've been thinking a lot about how God always provides and just how amazing His provision really is. My little brother, Calvin, can barely keep two measly little fish alive in his fish tank and yet God sustains and provides for all of our needs..."
I haven’t even scratched the surface with my meager summary, but I hope that I've given you all a good introduction to my brother Ben. In short, it was incredible knowing him for the brief seventeen years we did. I've visited my brother’s cemetery where there are hundreds of sad stories buried in the earth. Some lived for almost a hundred years. Some lived for a few hours. Seventeen years is not long, but Ben did amazing things in seventeen years, the most amazing of those things being the expensive and strenuous way he loved others. Ben’s love was no accident. It was the clear result of the love he had found in Jesus and the immeasurable grace Ben received from him.
Photos courtesy of Hannah S., Jacob W., Elizabeth F. and Missy W.