Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gone too soon

Last Thursday night, I took the girls with me to an MDA reception on Capitol Hill.  The venue was nice and the food was tasty, but it’s only until today – one week later – that I’m realizing it was an unforgettable event.  Not because of the program, which was good, but because it marks the last time I got to see my sweet friend, Ben Cumbo IV, who had muscular dystrophy and, sadly and unexpectedly, passed away this week at the age of 27.

Receptions can be tiring and when I saw him, I pounced on the opportunity to get out of talking up strangers (all of whom were very nice) long enough to visit with my buddy.  Ben seemed a little tuckered out, but that didn’t stop him from being himself, which is to say he was funny, charming and real.

We talked about his recently completed Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and I immediately thought about the countless hours he had put into learning Arabic.  He was constantly studying and it was the first time in forever that I hadn’t seen him carrying a thick book with foreign-looking letters on his lap.  Yup, Ben was a reader with a sharp wit and an eagerness to debate.  But on that night, unlike so many others like it, he wore a look of relief about school, not stress.  He had thrown down the gauntlet, bested the beast; he was a graduate.  A master.  And his relief was well deserved.

I congratulated him and we talked about work and the future.  As usual, he had a plan; Ben was going to conquer the world.  And had father time not been so stingy, I suspect he could have.

Over the years we served together on numerous panels, taskforces and advisory groups.  We played off each other in front of large groups.  Ben quoted Nas, I quoted Tupac and silently we laughed as highly educated and usually out-of-touch audience members praised us for reciting what they assumed were classic works of prose.

And that was Ben.  Half intellectual, half gangsta – all heart.

He was dedicated to helping others, encouraging to those around him, hard working, committed to excellence and hopelessly hooked on politics.  And though we weren’t best friends, we were close.  We goofed off at telethon, talked about homeland security and laughed a lot.  He confided in me about dating and I told him about being a husband and a father – something I hoped he would get to experience someday.

He was my friend and I miss him already.

As a person of faith I know my days with Ben haven’t ended, they’ve simply been postponed for a while.  The next time we hang it will be by the Pearly Gates.  I expect Ben will be swinging on them and, ever the teacher and friend, he’ll be anxious to show me how it’s done.

But until then, I’ll miss him, think of him and revel in the memories.

You did good young man.  You did good.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A smashing good time!

I'm not big on major celebrations, but after this year's Easter festivities, I may be a new man.  My recipe for a great time: Eggs, dear friends and a great big mess.  That's right folks, it turns out that nothing says "Happy Easter" like an intense game of egg roulette!

Big ups to Bryce and our anxious smashers (and kudos to Jimmy Fallon for the inspiration)!

Hope everyone had an equally eggtasticly great celebration.