Recently I lost a good friend to cancer. He fought with everything he had, and I wanted to post my remarks from his funeral and create an ongoing list of things that he liked. Books, movies, games, and music in case anyone down the line wants to know.
Benji Edmund Eulogy
Benji has impacted so many. It’s all of you that the family is grateful for. For your outpouring of love and support. The many letters, messages, and donations were what kept these families going. This has been the strongest support group that I’ve ever witnessed.
And so for Benji… “May the force be with you”.
Most of you already know who I am, but if you don’t, I’m Jesse. Benji and I have been friends since we were 14.
Even though it’s a sad day, we are here to celebrate. To celebrate the life of my dear friend Benji, because that’s truly what he wanted.
For nearly the last 20 years, Benji and I have been good friends. We went to school together, I was the best man at his wedding, and I’ve even had the opportunity to work with him a few times.
In high school we played basketball together and Benji was always the smallest one on the court. He couldn’t really dribble or shoot, although his jump shot technique was actually fairly accurate. Most of the other kids were bigger than him, but nothing ever stopped him. Every time anyone would question him he would simply quote Yoda and say, “do or do not, there is no try” or if they were really getting in his face he would say, “don’t mess with the bull son, you’ll always get the horns”. I’m pretty sure he got that one from Brent.
Those simple statements sum up his philosophy on life — I can’t think of a time he ever gave up on anything he wanted to do.
Benji and Heidi are a real, true-life love story. When they met, that was it. Once they started dating it wasn’t long before they were talking of marriage, kids, and their future together. Heidi quickly became an honorary nerd in our group, even though we all knew she’d rather watch Friends than Star Wars. Benji loved Heidi so much that when he talked about their future together it’s almost as though he wanted to skip through the present and get to the part where they had grown old together. He could see their path in front of them. On their wedding day, there wasn’t an ounce of hesitation. No fear. No cold feet, just pure excitement. Benji took every opportunity to tell anyone who would listen how much he loved Heidi, and was always looking forward to some alone time for the two of them. Even during the worst of it, on his birthday in July he sent Heidi flowers to make sure she knew she was loved and appreciated.
He really only had eyes for you and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Benji and Heidi love their two pugs, Yoda and Vader… their first two kids. They were always the first to sign up for strut your mutt or to dress them up on Halloween… usually as Star Wars characters.
Two of Benji’s proudest moments were the days that Jonah and Isaac were born. I remember getting to the hospital after Jonah was born and Benji had clearly been crying. Now, Benji wasn’t much of a crier and at first I thought something was wrong – but no, he told me his heart was full and overflowing. His vision for his families’ future was coming true. Of course, before leaving the hospital, there was one thing Benji had to do. Make Jonah listen to at least one Pink Floyd album from front to back. He loved to wrestle with the boys, play superheroes and videos games, and share with them his love of all things nerdy.
Jonah and Isaac you are both so much like your dad in different ways. Jonah you have your dad’s thoughtful, introspective, and nerdy side. And Isaac, you have all the creativity and energy that your dad ever had. Your dad loved you two so much and if you ever want to know what he would do in a situation or if he liked something, you can come ask me.
Benji was proud of what he did for a living. It fit him. After high school I would try to get him to come out with us but most of the time his answer was “sorry, I’ve got to study for my MCSE”. Once he knew what he wanted to do that was it. Again, no hesitation. In a professional setting Benji was often scared, but he was never uncertain. He was an expert in his field and was always loved by his coworkers. He got to travel the world and had a unique ability to make friends wherever he went, whether it was in China, Europe, or India. When he took the job at Instructure he was excited for the opportunity to grow with them, and told me again and again how much he loved the people he worked with. The impact Benji had on the people in his professional life was immeasurable. I see a lot of them today, and I know that your support for his family will never be forgotten.
Benji and I shared a lot in our lives. Countless barbecues with “delicious grillables”, camping trips, lighting fireworks with our kids every 4th of July, Christmas cocktail parties, ringing in New Years, many Jazz games, our children’s birthdays, each other’s birthdays, and of course too many beers to count. There are many stories I could tell here about the beers we’ve had together and how he always encouraged people to “fire it up”, but I think it’s best to keep this family friendly. Jonah and Isaac when you’re old enough, I’ll tell you all about it.
Benji was fascinated by J.R.R. Tolkien. Every year our group of friends would get together and have what we called a “dork day”…. as Benji aptly named it. We would make food, watch movies, and it gave us an excuse to sample some of Benji’s homebrew. And without fail, Benji would be the first to make a suggestion on the movies he wanted to watch. All 3 Lord of the Rings extended editions in a row. Now, if you don’t know, these movies are about 4 hours each and so that makes this day at least 12 hours long. But that didn’t matter to us; we watched them all, made fun of Frodo, and Benji’s hobbit-like feet. Those were some days that I’ll truly cherish.
But more than all that I think I’ll miss his advice. He was wise beyond his years. As great of a husband and father he was – he was an even better friend. When I asked for advice, he didn’t always have the answers I wanted to hear, but he had the answers I needed to hear. He encouraged me, pushed me, guided me, and his friendship has made me a better father and husband. He was always willing to give the shirt off his back for his friends, and jumped at the chance to help whomever he could. Whether it was helping us move, working on a computer problem, or installing sprinklers, Benji was always there without an ounce of hesitation.
Benji was so proud of all his friends. Whenever he introduced one of us to someone new he would say something like “this is Eli – he’s the smartest guy I know” or “this is Tim – he is unbelievable musician.” Even though we weren’t perfect all the time, he always held us in the highest regard. Now it’s all of our turn to brag about Benji to Jonah and Isaac whenever we get the chance.
When Benji was diagnosed with cancer, it was devastating for us all. Everyone felt helpless, but at the same time willing to step in for the family in any way possible.
Heidi: your love and relentless dedication gave new meaning to the phrase “in sickness and in health”. You cried with him, cared for him, and in his final hours and minutes laid by his side. Even in his last breath, he was thinking of you. A real life angel.
There was never any doubt that he fought cancer with every ounce of strength he had. Throughout the process of tests, rounds of chemo, and surgeries – he stayed mentally strong. Most of the time Benji was the one holding everyone together; when it should have been the other way around. As long as he had breath in him, he was determined. He literally willed himself to continue with the treatments because of his love for Heidi and the boys. He gave new definition to the words “strength and honor”.
Benji was fond of a phrase from Braveheart – “every man dies, but not every man lives”. Well Benji, you lived. You lived with no hesitation. You lived more in your life than most people do in two lifetimes. I’m not sure how I’m going to go on without him, but I know many of us are better because we had the honor to know him. Benji’s legacy is far reaching. His strength and grace through this fight has shown us all how to be better spouses, parents, and siblings.
Our good friend Conor reminded me of a quote from Jim Morrison: “I see myself as a huge fiery comet, a shooting star. Everyone stops, points up and gasps “Oh look at that!” Then — WHOOSH, and I’m gone… and they’ll never see anything like it ever again… and they won’t be able to forget me — ever.”
I know Benji is looking down at us all now and smiling… sitting on the rings of Saturn.
Things Benji Edmund Liked
Movies & TV Shows
- Star Wars
- Star Trek (particularly The Next Generation)
- Firefly (move and TV show)
- Mad Men
- Lord of The Rings
- The Hobbit
Books & Authors
- CS Lewis
- JRR Tolkien
- Ready Player One
- Neil Gaiman
- Alice in Chains
- Guns N Roses
- Pink Floyd
- Led Zeppelin
- The Beatles
- Sufjan Stevens
- Jars of Clay
I’ll continue to add more as I recall them. If anyone who reads this has questions, please contact me.