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We welcome Thom Fiet to The Twelve today. Thom is pastor of Lyall Memorial Federated Church in Millbrook, New York. This is a eulogy Thom recently offered. Thank you, Thom.
This place and our being here marks a catastrophe. Our son, friend, neighbor, lover has died. This handsome, kind, funny, hardworking kid of 26 years of age has died and we are all left holding a great bag of grief and pain that will always be with us.
We know that Ben was a lover of people and of stories. His whole short life was spent collecting experiences and then shaping those experiences into crazy, funny stories.
This, I think, is one motivation for those who enter the fearsome waters of drug and alcohol abuse. It gives us an experience and then a story to tell, the thought being that the one thing worse than drug addiction is a life where nothing much happens. Drinking and drugging give us room to enter in order for something to happen, a story to evolve. Some say it is out of sadness or despair that we turn to drugs and alcohol, and such a motivation can surely be involved. But some want to stretch and mock the boundaries of life, and drinking and drugging is one way to do it. It is a guaranteed practice in warding off a life where nothing much happens.
Even so, living on that edge, sooner or later it will bite us eventually. We hang on to a tiger’s tail only so long. We stand on the shore in face of the full fury of a hurricane only for so long. We mock the furies of life only for so long. And then they turn, and face us, and then hang us out to dry. And then all that remains is a story, but a story that is carried like a cross by all who love us; dragged on our backs for the rest of our lives. And the beginning of such a burden begins now, right now, here at this graveside, right now because this terrific kid is gone.
We know some friends and family who live so nothing much will happen to them. We understand that some are repelled by drama, challenge or risk. We understand the impulse to do nothing, and yet we also know that such a life is so often devoid of much of a story. Without risk and trial we so often forfeit a story; we become a lump on a couch.
But there are others, like Ben, who yearn for something to happen, some story to emerge and fashion and tell to our friends and family. There is a kind of perverse admiration for one so bold as to enter the fearsome waters of addiction. You just know that there is going to emerge many great tales; we just know also that this ocean will swallow him whole one day. This day, as it turns out.
If Ben only knew that God is also a collector of stories, great and inspiring and even the most peculiar of stories. God is the Author of Stories we say in my tradition. But unlike addiction, God’s stories, however, conspire to redemption and restoration. God also wants something to happen to us, something beyond our comfortable, reliable yet numb realities. God wants us to enter his story, with all the drama and mind expanding qualities any illegal substance can offer. With one difference: Addictions will seek to kill us in the end, whereas in God’s story we shall all live and have some story to tell on top of it.
In my tradition we say God’s love story shall overcome; that God is the Author and Keeper of Life for any willing to enter. In that great truth we then offer our beloved Ben to this good God, who shall enfold him into his marvelous story of redemption. Then, Ben, you’ll have some great story to tell; and so, heaven help and preserve us, shall we. Amen
Not sure I appreciate the glorification of addiction as looking for adventure, a way to ward off “a life where nothing much happens.” How Indiana-Jones-ish to “stretch and mock the boundaries of life” through drugs and alcohol. I am grateful that our God is bigger than addiction and grateful that so many have found relief and restoration through twelve-step programs. I think I would have taken a different approach to eulogize this young man.