men we love

3 weeks ago

Yesterday we received sad news on the passing of our beloved brother-in-law, Benno. He had cancer of the oesophagus and the last two years had been challenging. He was on tube feeding and he managed all this by carrying it in a backpack, this enabled him to be mobile. For two months he was down with flu and never really recovered from the infection. The thorascope investigation done yesterday had shown tumour growth.

What do I remember of him? Not much of the last few years, except for some photos and medical updates, I imagine him to be quietly reflective, disciplined in his daily routine, never complaining of his ordeal. Most of all I have plenty of past precious memories. I especially love to recall the time he would spend in his garden – standing by the pond, thinking of what to replace and for a time, contemplated and installed zen features. Maybe it was good I did not see him in his weakened state. But I have regrets that I did not see him for last time when I could have.
I have images of him as one with a strong will, with a great sense of (Dutch) humour, respectful of people’s feelings and above all, thoroughly sincere.

He was not religious as we expect of church-going Christians but he possessed the reverential fear of GOD. I recalled some years back after he was first diagnosed, during one of his visit here he said with only the slight-ess tinge of sadness – he quoted Job from the Bible – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. 
Yes, Benno did not charge GOD with wrongdoing, there was no anger in his tone. He acknowledged the sovereignty of his Creator and accepted his portion in life and however it should end.
I have deep respect and love for my brother-in-law.

During such times, I reflect on the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes (some selected verses)

Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 

The sun rises and the sun sets and hurries back to where it rises.
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; 
the days have already come when both have been forgotten. 
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Benno, my wise brother-in-law, lived his life well. He dearly loved and cherished his family – wife and two daughters, he cared deeply for those in the extended family – in laws, cousins, nieces and nephews. My three children have very precious and fond memories of him when they were young – an uncle who made them laugh, tumbled on the grass, who suggested to their impressionable minds (brought up in the city) that the smell of cow manure is nature’s perfume as they took countless walks to the farms. 
Benno, my wise brother-in-law, lived his life contemplatively. He was never hurried or rushed. He savoured the time. He breathed the air and took in every bit of its goodness.  He had contentment and was never wanting more than what was his portion in life. He was happy and satisfied.

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. 
He has also set eternity in the human heart; 
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 
I know and remember Benno as one who was truly happy and willing to do good and offered kindness to others. He was hard-working at work and at home, he found satisfaction in his toil – this is the gift of GOD.  
He could not eat for the last 2 years but subsisted on tube-feeding. Even this burden he did not find offensive,  he was quietly thankful that it sustained him. In my eye, he was brave and courageous. He had many good and healthy years, for that we are grateful. Indeed GOD has blessed Benno with a positive and right attitude. His was a beautiful life.

Consider what God has done: 

Who can straighten what He has made crooked? 
When times are good, be happy; 
but when times are bad, consider this: 
God has made the one as well as the other. 
Therefore no one can discover anything about their future.
Now all has been heard; 
here is the conclusion of the matter: 
Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 

GOD has allowed a little bit of “crookedness” at the end of Benno’s life. Who can reject it? Which mere mortal? 
Benno had his own way of acknowledging and fearing GOD, we are different but we respected each other. He was more true to GOD’s ten commandments than some typical church-going, Bible-carrying Christians. whose obedience is superficial. 
Benno’s faith in GOD was special and genuine. 
Benno, we love you and we will miss you. We will see you one day in the heavenly shore.