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’.
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.
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.
Stephen brought Ben from the Fountain Theatre in LA to the Fountain Southern Baptist Church.