Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tribute to Ben

Last Thursday, Cathy and I flew from Mexico City to Newark to Harrisburg, to take part in a memorial service and funeral service for my cousin Ben, who died at age 10 last week. It was an emotional weekend. On Sunday evening, I was asked to give a tribute to Ben's life. Here is what I said.

Tribute to Ben

We are here to celebrate the life of Benjamin Isaac Aungst, who went to be with his Savior and Maker on January 25, 2010, at Hershey Medical Center.

Ben directed the choir here at Word of Life Chapel, assisted by Jeff Aungst. He supervised sports activities, particularly 4-square games with Denny Mohr, and, having a well-developed sense of humor, provided an occasional moment of comic relief during Sunday school class. As one of the church’s greeters, he would greet friends as well as complete strangers equally, with complete trust and acceptance. With a smile.

Among his many occupations at home, he assisted in the shelling of lima beans and the husking of sweet corn. He loved equestrian sports, and adored his horse Leona, or “ona.” Among the several extreme sports that he enjoyed was swinging, on a squeaky swing that his father never quite managed to oil. He loved his uncle Tiny. He loved his dog Midnike.

Ben also enjoyed hanging out with his family at Gus’s diner. According to some unconfirmed reports, he invariably drew around him the cutest waitresses, and in his last days in the hospital, the cutest nurses.

His zest for life included giving Denise and Dee a hard time when he went to get a haircut.

Ben was 10. Ben had Downs syndrome.

He was, as very young children are, incapable of disguising his emotions, unable to act hypocritically, powerless to be anyone he really wasn’t.

Somehow, God in His grace enabled Ben, as he allows many Downs children, to maintain the innocence and wonder of a life untouched by cynicism, and the sarcasm that infects many of us.

Ben wasn’t bitter. He was incapable of being sarcastic.

Sometimes Ben was really funny.

He was always an encouragement to those around him. To us.

Although Ben’s life could have been viewed as a burden, and in many ways it was quite challenging for his parents, Ben’s life was a tremendous blessing from God, and a transforming influence in the lives of many.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the bumper sticker, “My kid has one more chromosome that your kid!”

His mother, Anne, says of Ben that he could love anyone without having a reason. Isn’t that, indeed, the definition of love?

So many lessons in this short life well lived!

It’s so much like God to speak to us through weakness.

It’s so much like God to humble us by humility.

It’s so much like God to break through our selfish, insolated, carefully constructed world and say, “Look at this!” Look at this life.

God says, “I am not speaking to you through the storm, or through the fire, or through the earthquake.” I want you to pay attention to a still, small voice. I want you to look at life and look at me through the eyes of a child who would never understand algebra, who would never drive a car, who would never even be totally self-sufficient.

See Me, God says, through the eyes of a boy who has chosen, as Mary did, the most excellent thing, and it will not be taken away for him.
When Ben was born, Dwight and Anne were informed by the hospital staff that they could give up Ben if they wanted to.

But God had given them both a verse. Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

They were convinced that God many times does things that we do not fully understand, nor do we always fully accept, but He is God, and He knows what He is doing. And He loves us very, very much.

D.L. Moody once said, “Soon you will read in the newspaper that I am dead. Don’t believe it for a moment. I will be more alive than ever before.

Today is not a “goodbye forever” but rather a “see you later” for those of us who believe that Ben, although no longer with us, is indeed still alive, in another place, another realm.

C.S. Lewis put it like this: I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country, and to help others to do the same.

I know it is Ben’s parents desire that His life and death serve this purpose, that you, and I, may be encouraged to press on to that other country, to draw near, or drawer near to God through the person of Jesus Christ.
Scram, you’re fired.
Chicken fries!
Tiny play.
Choir sing.
Mommy, sing!
Ben is now in His paw-paw’s house!
…and everything is beautiful!

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