Jeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they taJeremy…husband of Catherine, father of Ben, Simeon, Tom, Joshua & Lydia. Up until the end of April 2015, he was pastor/vicar of a group of churches on the edge of Exeter in Devon, UK. In early October 2014, aged 48, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer, a stage four malignant melanoma presenting as a tumour on his lungs. The usual life expectancy is 8-12 months. Then, in late December 2014, 23 year old Ben suffered a seizure. After prolonged medical care for what was most likely to have been a viral infection affecting his brain, Ben died in April 2015. Jeremy has up until recently seemed to have responded well to pioneering immunotherapy treatments that can extend life, but from September 2016 is now facing the fresh development of brain tumours and potentially now just months to live. On January 27th 2017 Jeremy took his last breath and went to be with his Lord and Saviour. The family share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as they take this painful and unexpected journey.

My Tribute to Ben

Delivered at his Service of Thanksgiving, Friday 8th May

DSCF0669_3I still clearly remember the day in Timaru, back in our native New Zealand, the day Ben was born. On my way home from the hospital, where I’d earlier laid this not-so-small 9lb 7oz baby on my chest, I had to stop the car and weep as the enormity of it all swept over me. And now, here I am, weeping again, for my precious first born, for Ben.   

But it’s been an amazing life. And I want to invite you for a few moments to imagine you’re walking with me around a gallery – a gallery with pictures on the wall, an exhibition. But in this case, they’re pictures, snapshots from Ben’s life.

As we come into the main exhibition hall, there’s one taken when we lived in Auckland. He was about three years old, and on a swing I’d made out of an old tyre, with his small friend Christopher. 

“I’m on a rocket”, Ben is saying, “and I’m going to the moon, I’m flying fast”.

“No”, Christopher said, “you’re on a swing”.

Ben's Vision of HeavenBen's Vision of Heaven 2Ben was always one with huge imagination and creativity – we’ve got paintings at home by him; he was a dreamer and visionary who saw and imagined things we don’t always see...you can see an example alongside here of a vision of eternity he tried to capture on paper some years ago (click on them to enlarge)

But then we move along the wall in the exhibition hall, and here’s a picture of Ben, Macbook on his lap, iPad next to him, iPhone alongside, the very same Ben who said to me in 2008 (with a twinkle in his eye) as I went off to buy a new laptop, “Dad, if you come back with anything except a Macbook, I’ll disown you”. It’s the same Ben who then had, as his first and only occupation after graduation, the job of a translator for a software firm in Brazil. He loved his technology, his gadgets. But also in the picture on the gallery wall, he’s showing someone else how to do something. Always there for others. But his techie passion did though get him into trouble at one point at his first secondary school, when he went a little further than he should have done, hacking into the school system, something that led gentle, ever kind Ben to be asked to leave. Everyone was shocked…! But Ben dealt with it, and we all learned to smile about it, and Ben then, before he was married (and with a real sense of repentance), sought to put it all right, I’m sure motivated by his love for Christ. 

DSCF0133But then, as we move out of the main exhibition hall, we move up the stairs into the World Room, the international room. And there on the wall is a picture of Ben, passport in one hand, globe in the other. For those who knew him well, you can’t have met anyone who suffered from ‘wanderlust’ more than him! Always wanting to be somewhere new. His globe at home has red sticky dots all over it for the places he’d been, or even just stopped over, memorable trips being his 24hr jaunts to France with friends from Plymouth: numbers of times back to New Zealand, twice unaccompanied; a long camping road trip with me and Tom to Portugal. Then short one or two day visits to Ireland, to Germany, and to Spain with university friends, and of course his beloved Brazil with three extended visits before settling there.   

IMG_2324But there, alongside that picture with the passport, is one with Ben holding a foreign phrase book. However, it seems he didn’t really need it too much. Maybe it all sprung from his unusual ability to speak backwards, (where he was able to completely reverse sentences he heard, letters included), but he discovered, as he was leaving school, a passion for languages. And maybe it was helped along by a certain young lady from Brazil he met on Twitter, but within a short time he was speaking Portuguese…and then Spanish. In fact, his love for languages turned him into a bit of a grammar-policeman at home, and saw him writing a letter to his grandfather in Latin. But the picture that’s right alongside side that one though is a wedding photo – there he is with beautiful Gabriela, the love of his life, his soul-mate, his precious Dabi, who in these last few weeks has always brought a broad smile to his face whenever she walked into his room at the Mardon Centre…Dabi, who’s now so badly hurting…and we just give you so much love, Dabi, for all the happiness and joy you brought him.

Then we come into the Memory Lane Room in the Gallery.  And there’s a picture of Ben aged five, holding the end of a hose pipe up to his mouth. It was a day in Christchurch in 1996. From inside my study, I heard this young but firm, clear voice outside in the garden. And looking out, I saw Ben, speaking into the hosepipe as if it were a microphone, other hand gesturing towards the trees above, “You birds, you better believe in Jesus. He loves you. You need to say sorry for the wrong things you’ve done and follow him.”

At the time I had a combination of reactions such as ‘poor preacher’s kid’ and ‘how funny’, but since then, watching him grow and observing the man he became, with such a heart for God and a heart for mission, I realise that God was at work in him even back then preparing him for communicating the message of the cross, not to birds, but into foreign places.

But this picture is joined to another picture alongside it, and that picture is of Ben only three years ago…I’m standing next to him at his church in Plymouth, with a bible alongside him, and his hands raised high above his head in worship, expressing that passion for God, for Christ… passionate and praying for others to come to know his Saviour… working out that call that God had placed on his life, even from those many years before – even in his relatively short life – that call to make Jesus known. Only last year he sent me a long email, describing a dream he’d had of him straddling a wide river, standing tall over it, helping others across to the other side, helping others to know Christ. And I sense he’s kind of doing it again today as we remember his life.

IMG_0173But then the final picture, an actual photograph taken on a home visit just eight weeks ago, surrounded by all but one of his siblings, with Catherine and me. Ben who was so loved, respected and looked up to by Simeon, by Tom, by Josh, by Lydia – Ben who loved us, who resigned his job, his life in Brazil, and with Dabi at his side, came back here to be with us because of my health, not knowing he was coming home to die, coming home before he went to his greater and most perfect home. At home with Jesus.

For us, it’s the most heartbreaking pain, but paradoxically also a deep peace. He’s there where he longed sometime to be. Safely there all because of Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

I’m so thankful to Father for the gift of Benjy – my son, my friend and my brother in Christ. 

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Comments on: "My Tribute to Ben" (17)

  1. Tracey Walliis said:

    What a wonderful gift from God. I pray Gods peace to overwhelm you all, Dabi included, for as long as you need it xxxx

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  2. Anne Thomson said:

    How beautiful. I love his explanation of eternity. Thinking of you all today.
    Much love and prayers, Anne and Hamish Thomson

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  3. Yvonne Howarth said:

    Deeply moved by the courage of your family. Catherine’s beautiful poem, your wonderful letter and walk with you through Ben’s life. The posts here and there from his siblings and of course Dabi’s lovely post on fb.
    It’s still hard to believe that Ben has gone to a land far better than here, free from pain and fully whole again. Standing broadly with his Heavenly Father or sitting at his feet.
    My gallery includes times when our Josh played with Ben and went to after school activities with him. Ben was the quite one, the opposite to my youngest son, gentle eyes and shy smile, with a warm caring heart.
    Thank you for posting your thoughts, I loved reading them.
    I am sorry we are away at present, but I’m sure I would have found some way to have attended the Thanksgiving service, my thoughts prayers and love were with you however.
    My continued prayers, thoughts and love are with you still as you face this uncertain future you find yourselves in, without your beloved Ben and Jeremy with your health problems.
    Our God is a great big God and he holds you all in his hand. See you soon Ben, in the twinkling of an eye.
    Much love to you all Yvonne. Xx

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  4. I can hear your voice saying those words as you you spoke with so much passion about him yesterday. xx

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  5. Ruth Prince said:

    I weep with you all and am so sorry I was not with you yesterday, except in spirit. With much love and prayers.

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  6. Bonnie said:

    I am so glad I got to read this. I was thinking about you all yesterday while here in the U.S. Lots of love to all of you!

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  7. Susannah T said:

    I didn’t know Ben but this was beautiful to read and you brought his character to life. Ben sounded funny and caring; the bird anecdote made me laugh. I’m so sorry for your deep pain but I hope you take comfort in knowing he is at peace.

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  8. John Humble said:

    Jeremy;
    Truly a touching tribute to your son. I know that Jesus is wrapping his arms around your whole family and bathing you all in his love. Know that my prayers are still with you and your family. May the Lord continue to bless you in all your ways.
    John Humble
    Canada

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  9. It was such a privilege – and a blessing – to be with you at the Service of Thanksgiving. It was such a powerful testimony to the hope we have in God. As you all spoke your words, the Lord spoke directly to my heart too, and reminded me of some passages from scripture. I hope it’s appropriate to share them here.

    The first, I think, is probably relevant to all of us, who cannot quite comprehend what is going on: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

    The second made me think particularly of Dabi: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)

    The storms that you are going through at the moment seem unconquerable, but every single drop of rain contains within it a potential rainbow, a reminder of God’s promises for us; all it needs is the light of the Holy Spirit to release that rainbow and make it shine in all its glory. I believe we saw glimpses of that rainbow in the service on Friday.

    The Psalmist says:
    “Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
    all you waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

    By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me-
    a prayer to the God of my life.

    I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
    Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
    My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
    saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

    Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
    Why so disturbed within me?
    Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.”
    (Psalm 42:7-11)

    Matthew xx

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  10. Marian Stack said:

    Jeremy, the sentiments you’ve written here about Ben, are so heartwarming and comforting to all who read them. I grieve for you and your family’s deep loss but hope all the wonderful memories you have of Ben will bring a smile to your face and a lift to your heart.
    God Bless your whole family,

    Marian

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  11. A truly lovely poem. What a wonderful son he must have been. You must be so proud of him. I know you must miss him such a lot, but knowing that he is now with the Father in heaven will bring you some comfort. He has now passed to a higher service where he can do so much more.
    I realise how you must be hurting having lost my brother a few years ago at the age of 22.
    Our love and prayers are with you all. Love from Mary & Peter

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  12. Oh Jeremy and Catherine, My pain for you all is not easy. I’m at the Computer now,…Had some very awkward moments, healthwise, and now receiving a 12 week treatment in London to where I have to travel. My sympathies and prayer are with all of you and Dabi, and it must have been very agonizing indeed. Nevertheless, the Lord in you, expressed quite usefully and audibly, the Assurance we all have in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the uplifting of our hearts and the uplifting of The Saviour’s Name to a people in the world at large, that we are not defeated in Death, but Victorious, as the Lord conquered the Grave. Death is swallowed up in Victory. Thank you and Catherine, for your life of witnessing to your family, and an exceeding great encouragement to so very many. You remember one of my Old Quotations:- THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST. Hope to get in touch soon. Our Love to you all….Simeon and Dharamdai.

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  13. A heartfelt tribute to a dearly loved son. Both the grief and the love shine through the stories, the snapshots of a special life. I’m one who did not have a chance to meet Ben, but can tell how much he meant to you all. Hearing of his passing made me remember – we were in each other’s presence once, briefly – when you both came to my ‘going away party’ in Christchurch, having driven from Timaru to attend, and Catherine was pregnant with Ben. Though I never got to meet the wonderful young man he became, I look forward to saying hello in heaven one day. Kia kaha, e te whanau, ma te Atua e manaaki.

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  14. Lisa Smith-Paterson said:

    my thoughts & prayers have been with you all so much. Just so glad my sister Lesley was there to share this time with you. Gods blessings xxx

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  15. May your memories of Ben, though tinged with sadness now, bring smiles to your hearts – until all are together again, at home with the Lord. With our love and prayers.Jean & Frank.

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  16. Sarah Wood said:

    Dear Jeremy and Catherine

    I was away at the funeral time and had received the sad news the day I left for a holiday. I passed it on to all the pray-ers in the churches I have served in N Devon, who have also passed this sad news on for prayer.

    Now home, and having read what you said at the service, I rejoice, in the midst of great sadness and pain for all of you and Dabi especially, that this young teenager I used to see – so challenging in his faith- had accepted the call and opportunities to serve our Father God in a very special way..

    Your words are so moving and deeply loving, which shine on and challenge each of us in our walk with the Lord, who longs to see us fulfil his plans for each one of us until we too are too are received into His Presence.

    I thank God for all the faithfulness, love and care that you and your family are allowing us to share – in the pain, despair, hope, joy and tears which will continue to flow in and out of your lives as you face all the changes in the future.

    Something that has helped me and have shared with others is the verse in the 23rd Psalm

    -“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me – thy rod and staff they comfort me.”

    If there is a shadow in the valley then there has to be sun shine to cast it!

    and “Perfect love casts out fear” so hang on to he love which God has for all of you and that which you all have for him.

    May you all be conscious of God’s blessing and deep love as you walk through the valley.

    With much love and prayers,
    Sarah (Wood)

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  17. Rebecca Judson said:

    Thank you Jeremy for sharing these precious words with us. I feel we are SO privileged.
    I pray that you will all continue to know His presence, comfort, peace and love for all the family though this difficult time.
    Much love and prayers to all,
    Beccy

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