This past Sunday seemed so perfect. I had been out on Friday and Saturday nights for Highball. Next to Pride, Highball is one of the big community events here in Columbus that I look forward to all year. In fact, I might even look forward to it more than Pride because, while I love the Stonewall Pride Festival, for those of us who are active in the LGBTQ community, in addition to being a lot of fun, Pride is also a great deal of work. It’s exhausting. Highball is just fun.
So, tired from being out late Saturday night, I slept in Sunday morning. After I woke up about 11:00, I spent some time working on some reading for one of my classes. Later in afternoon, I got a shower. I have recently begun attending a new church service in the evenings. It just works better for me. So, many other days of the week are filled with morning classes, coffee meetings, and other commitments. I appreciate being able to keep Sunday truly as a day that feels restful to me and enjoying a more leisurely pace to the day.
The service began at 5:00 and ended about an hour later. Within minutes of leaving the service, I received a text from a friend asking me if I had heard the “awful news.” I told him that I had not. The next text from my friend would feel like a violent shaking of my inner being as I read the words that told me that a young and dear friend had been killed in a bicycle accident. I felt an emptiness wash over me. Then, I got pissed. Why was he saying this to me? Was this a joke? It couldn’t be real. Why would anyone think this was funny? Then, the reality of it began to sink in. Mind you that I went through this strong and complex series of emotions within a handful of minutes. Then, as I was still processing, my friend sent me a link to the news article about the accident. Any shred of doubt began to be pushed to the side as I read the words. My heart began to break even more as I began to imagine what those last few terrifying moments of life were like for him.
As a person of faith, as a seminary student, and as someone who, through counseling, hopes to be able to help others make sense of the pain in their lives, I have to admit, in that moment, I was unable to help myself. The so often asked question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” filled the central arena of my mind. Why did this have to happen to Ben? He was such a sweet kid. A student at Ohio State, I had driven him back to his dorm many nights after volunteer nights at Equality Ohio. He had worked passionately as a part of the Why Marriage Matters campaign. He had even recently traveled with me to my hometown of Zanesville, Ohio to be a part of some organizing there. What made Ben even more amazing was that, while he was always willing to give of his time and passion to causes that we important to him, he did so while balancing school and multiple jobs, striving to get ahead and to build the life he wanted for himself.
1995 - 2015
During the very early hours of Sunday morning, all of that passion and drive was prematurely snuffed out. The true and full impact of what he would have accomplished will never be realized. I have suffered a great deal of grief and loss during my nearly four decades on this planet, but the death has rocked me significantly. I have struggled within myself asking what I should do. Tonight, I just felt the need to express some of this. Writing is my outlet and sometimes putting the words on the page helps me to work through the emotions that drive them.
Ben, I miss you. I’m so sorry that, for whatever unfathomable reason, this had to happen. Know that you made more of an impact in your brief time on this earth than many ever will. When I was twenty years old, I was embarking on a journey to deny who I was in an effort to create a version of myself that was more in keeping with the expectations of others. You were true to you every day that I knew you. I admire your courage and bravery to be your authentic self at such a young age. The world needs to be better for young people like you. I commit to keep doing the work that you were so passionate about and to do what I can to make the world better for young LGBTQ people, for those who choose to travel this earth in more environmentally friendly ways, and to work against injustice wherever I encounter it. Your flame was brief, but it was bright.
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