Today, I sat in a sanctuary with many others who knew and loved our friend Ben. Tears fell from my face as I grieved this friend, but also as I saw the faces of the many he loved so deeply. Voices lifted loudly in honor of this dear child of God. Then it came time for the commendation and I along with 60+ other rostered leaders stood around Ben’s urn as we commended him to God’s care.
Voices of all shapes and sizes declaring in these words, “Let us commend Ben to the mercy of God, our maker and redeemer. O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Ben. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your own mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”
That image will forever be engrained in my heart and soul as this cloud of witnesses gathered with Ben’s wife Mara, their daughter Elizabeth and so many others. Each hand extended to the person in front of or beside them. But I also know that this cloud of witnesses was extended far beyond those sanctuary walls as so many from the Wartburg Seminary community rally oranged for Ben and joined us from around the world.
Today was indeed a celebration of Ben’s life. As Nate said, Ben loved us and we loved Ben. Today embodied that love in so many ways. A love that was grounded in Ben’s faith and the claim that he is a beloved child of God. Ben was really good at reminding us of that. My heart aches and will for awhile because this friendship was a gift to me and to so many others.
It can at times be hard to capture friendship in single words or phrases, but for my friendship with Ben, it is easy. Ben was one who had a huge heart and loved big. As Bryant shared, Ben taught me that there is always room in our hearts for more. As I looked around the room this afternoon, as we toasted and sang in Ben’s honor, my heart ached because my heart is full of so much love and it still aches for another loss; taken way too soon. But I’m going to try my best to let my heart expand that love because Ben taught me that too. He always made you feel loved and welcomed…without question.
In the midst of death, this Lent seems so very long and we are more than ready for the Easter promises of resurrection hope. And as we stood around Ben’s lego urn, I believe we saw a glimpse into that Easter morning. A cloud of witnesses proclaiming that death never has the final word. Thanks be to God!