Words by Alan Eder, Ben's Uncle

How do we console ourselves upon the loss of anyone near and dear to us, much less those who are taken long before their time? When people who are loved and cherished so much, and by so many, how are we to make sense of them suddenly vanishing from our midst? How can a loving God who created us take us away, seemingly at whim?

These and so many other questions have been agonizingly turned over and over in the minds and hearts of all of us gathered here today to honor the four good men who perished last Tuesday when the Nesika capsized.

Benjamin Alan Eder, beloved son, brother, nephew, cousin and grandson, was named after his father’s father whom he never met. He came to know his late grandfather both through the recollections of others and, eventually, through the blossoming of his own character and personality, so much akin to those of his namesake. Armed with boundless energy and enthusiasm, Ben had already accomplished much in his short life. To contemplate what might have been had he lived four times as long as his mere twenty-one years simply boggles the mind.

Although he didn’t spend too much time in houses of worship, he relentlessly probed and wrestled with the mysteries of the notion of God. His Grandma Betty, a Catholic, relates an exchange they had when Ben was just a young boy. Gesturing towards the sky, he asked, “You don’t really believe God is up there, do you?” “Yes, I do,” she replied. According to Grandma Betty, he concluded the exchange by shooting her an impish glance of disbelief. Ben was too young then to know the word agnostic which, as he grew into a man, he later used to characterize how he thought and felt about God. He wasn’t sure whether or not God existed, and if he did, where or what God was.

For the celebration of his 13th birthday, his Grandma Edie took him on a trip to Israel, the first of Ben’s world travels. Before Ben went, he asked his good friend Derek of this very church what he could bring him back from the Holy Land. “Water from the River Jordan,” Derek replied. To fulfill his friend’s request, Ben asked his Grandma to take him to the River, where he carefully collected samples of the special water for Derek and others who had requested it.

Thoughtful and sensitive to others as he always was, he knew that faith was something very real to so many people that he respected, and that intrigued him. In fact, in addition to the essentials he took to sea this last trip was a thick paperback book entitled “Islam.” It’s not that Ben was aspiring to become a Muslim. Rather, it was simply another step in his attempt to solve the perplexing puzzle of who we are and why we are here.

While he may not have been affiliated with a religious denomination, Ben regularly worshiped at the roof-less house of nature. There he experienced his deep connection with the unity of all creation. Perhaps that explains why he once drove from Portland and back just to share the sunset over the ocean with someone who hadn’t ever witnessed this wonder. He wanted not only to drink in Mother Nature’s precious gift again himself, but also to enrich the life of another, which he did routinely with the trademark passion with which he approached all aspects of life, great and small.

Nowhere was his investment of his entire being more apparent than when he was fishing. Many aspects of commercial fishing had an irresistable allure for Ben: the multi-faceted nature of being fisherman, weatherman, engineer, electrician, and plumber, all rolled into one, plus ample opportunity to work his butt off like nobody’s business. And Ben understood well his father’s joy and connection when it all came together.

Ben was an exemplary older brother. The extraordinarily close
and exceptionally caring relationship he and his brother Dylan
shared made me want to have children of my own. My sons are just mad about their much older and bigger cousins. I can’t imagine better role models and more loving cousins than Ben and Dylan.

In closing, many of you are familiar with the t-shirt he often wore which said it all, “Attitude makes a difference.” Ben was ever eager to contribute, and his attitude was always overwhelmingly positive. On that note, I leave you with a quote from Winston Churchill, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going!”