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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ashes to ashes, Fountain to Fountain.

On Friday we buried Ben. Sigh.As luck would have it, Ben's family is from here so while we are not able to be with our Fountain Theatre family in LA at this time, we are able to celebrate Ben's life and say good bye to him here, in Maryland. I feel like I've been to far too many funerals in my life. I also realized that I have crossed that age threshold where 60 years of age is 'so young...too young'.

Dude, I think that means I'm really an adult.

The funeral was at a Southern Baptist church deep in Baltimore. I have a confession...Baltimore scares me just a wee little bit. Ok, a lot. And I'm an LA girl! But I owe Baltimore an apology because the people of Baltimore, specifically the people of the Fountain Southern Baptist Church couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming.

I'm not Southern Baptist, (if anything after all my searching and studying I fall pretty much to the Catholics, I love the Saints. Love them. Except for the anti-homosexual thing, and the priest thing, oh well that's why I haven't fully chosen a church yet...that's another post) but let me just tell you that this church was awesome! I absolutely loved it. On such a sad day this congregation and ministry had the perfect mix of honest reflection, sadness of Ben's passing and the true celebration of the gift of life. The Pastor gave a speech about the Twenty Third Psalm that was so brilliant and inspiring that this girl found her self nodding emphatically and saying 'Amen!" along with the rest of the congregation. It was truly moving.

Ben was well loved, and well remembered. I'm pretty much in love with his cousin who spoke about growing up together and their 'generation'. They were of the same 'generation', 3rd generation from slavery.

Think about that.

To me slavery seems like a bajillion years ago. I can't fathom that it was ever even remotely an actuality it's so foreign and wrong! Third generation from slavery...that's like Max's Nana who we had Thanksgiving with just this year. I can't wrap my brain around it.

Ben's cousin spoke beautifully about the calling to be an artist. To make people think, to challenge their paradigms and to hold a mirror up to society so that we may see our reflections both flattering and disturbing and hopefully make changes. Ben directed plays like that. He was committed to choosing and directing shows that captured the African American experience. The tragedies and the triumphs.  I've seen many of them and at the heart of it all, it's simply the human experience. I'll miss his voice and vision. I have a calling to the arts as well, and whenever I try to deny it God pretty much smacks me in the head to get back to business!

I've been thinking a lot about Ben and of course about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend. We've come so far but still have so far to go and how the arts can do so much to not only help move society forward but to capture the emotions of any given time as it happens.

After the funeral we did just what you're supposed to do, we talked about Ben. At first sadly, but as the day went on we started sharing our favorite stories and then you could hear tentative laughs springing up here and there. Ben's mother came over and shared a story about our favorite chef that made our hearts warm and our cheeks hurt from smiling. What a treasure to have her share that.

We were blessed to also see our friend, and Ben's co worker and friend Stephen who traveled with Ben's body from LA to Baltimore and who, as always, delivered a beautiful speech. I wish I could remember it word for word...it moved me. It was about the stuff of life. The cars, the houses...it's all stuff. The people you love and who love you...that is life.
He wrote it better. That's because he is one hell of a writer.

Stephen brought Ben from the Fountain Theatre in LA to the Fountain Southern Baptist Church.
There are patterns all around.

Ben's brother was supposed to be in Haiti. He cancelled his humanitarian plans in order to tend to Ben's death. I can't even grasp the heaviness of that. So much so that I can't even come up with a better word than 'heaviness'. His brother so like him...the one to greet us with open arms and smiling eyes. Ben was the first one to welcome you to the theatre and his brother was the first one to welcome us and invite us in and to meet his parents.

My favorite memory of the day was one of Ben's cousins who came to chat with us and said with a glint in her eye "I want to hear the dirt on Ben" we all laughed and then she grew serious still smiling and just asked:
Was he happy?

I teared up as Stephen was able to answer honestly that yes, he was.

May all of you be happy. Hug your loved ones close.

And for reals, a happy post coming soon!


Christy said...

i am sorry for the sadness of losing a friend...but it sounds like he was much loved and a great addition to your life
stopping in from sits

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, that was beautiful. I wish I'd known Ben and his family - both of them - and I wish I could hug you.


~ Homegirl

hopeinarden said...

Thanks Steph. Beautiful. Made me cry. Wish I could have been there...but your wonderful writing made me get closer...love to you and yours...we all need to remember to live out loud!! xoxHope

Divine Mrs D said...

Thank you for your post. It was beautiful.

Saw you on SITS

Kate said...

I love the "calling to be an artist" thoughts. Beautiful. I'm so sorry for your loss. *hug*

JDaniel4's Mom said...

He sounds like a very special man who touched those around him.

Stopping by from SITS!

Salt said...

I'm so glad you were able to be here to celebrate Ben's life with his family and share such fond memories of him and even laugh a little bit. I'm sure that's how he wants to be remembered...not for the tragedy that took him, but for the wonderful life he led. :)

I know just where that church is btw.

Haha maybe that's why I thought LA was such a piece of cake. I'm a hardcore Baltimore gal!

Amo said...

I'm so sorry you lost your friend. This was a beautiful post. What a tragic loss.

Also, i am just catching up on your latest posts. I LOVED Little House on the Prairie. BIG Almonzo crush. HUGE. Those blonde locks of his...I wanted to be Laura after she grew up and married him!

Mandi Miller said...

I am sorry that you lost your friend. Sounds like he was a pretty awesome guy. And it sounds like everyone had a good time remembering him. I hope that you and his other friends and family receive much comfort during this time...
(((((cyber hug)))))

One Cluttered Brain said...

I like this post! I'm not sure why your blog doesn't show up in my dashboard all the time but I have to go looking for new posts. I think i need to delete some blogs that i read and only put the people that update often in my reader.
That's a job.

Ahh. You mentioned that Ben seemed to live life with no regrets. Maybe you didn't exactly word it that way but that's what i got out of it. That's cool. And that everyone was there at his funeral, his brother re scheduled Haiti, ppl wanted to know the dirt on Ben. *chuckle* (It didn't sound like there was any dirt.)
Thanks for this post. It made me think. And also thanks for commenting on my blog today. i look forward to people's responses to what I post everyday! ;) Thanks again!

One Cluttered Brain said...

May you find comfort in your loss and may God be with you at this time.

One more thing--Southern Baptist. Did they sing? i LOVE love the way southern choirs sing. GEts me all tingly inside. Southern Baptist choirs are AWESOME!

Any-hoo talk at ya later! Looking forward to happier posts when U feel better and more comforted.

Amy said...

So sorry for your loss. What a beautiful post. Hugs to you and thanks for stopping by today.

Mrs. Fish aka Two Fish said...

Such a beautiful tribute to your friend. So sorry for your loss...the passing of any loved one is never easy, but seriously...weeping over your wonderful words.