Reflections on Br. Benedict's Death

A Eulogy for Br. Benedict by Florentino T. Timbreza, Ph.D. Philosophy Department

According to the Great Preacher, in all aspects of life under the sun, there is a time for everything and everyone: "There is a time to be born and a time to die... there is a time to be happy and a time to be sad, a time to be together and a time to part."

On July 7, 1927, a man was born into the world. Then in January 3, 2004 the same man had reached his time to die. As a Christian brother, he died single as 76 years ago he was born alone.

That man was Br. J. Benedict FSC, a man who was alone in his dreams, but who, because of his lifetime services and sacrifices, was always in the company of friends and colleagues.

In fact, it was during his 42 years of service at La Salle that Br. Ben had ample time to be together with others, a time to be happy, to crack jokes, to laugh and to smile. But now, that man is gone forever. That's why for us his friends and coworkers, this is "a time to be sad and a time to part."

Br. Ben had no children of his own but the high school students then (1959-1963) and the college students later (1963-1971) had been the sustaining source of his joy and inspiration. While still alive, he had no sisters and relatives in town, but over the years, La Salle employees, faculty members, alumni, and administrators had been his constant allies and companions.

Thus, Br. Ben was never alone because of his undying friendship. He was never alone because of his sincerity and concern for others. He was never alone because of his love for service. And never was he alone because of his obsession for continuous improvements in tertiary education.

It is precisely because of Br. Ben's unique qualities that we at La Salle are going to miss him. We are going to miss his commanding, booming baritone voice, his unassuming smile, twinkling eyes, his humble act of walking, his mild ways, his tight handgrip, and his indisputable integrity as an individual.

Most of all, we are going to miss his selfless loyalty and commitment to his one-and-only university, that is De La Salle.

For a period of 42 long years in the Philippines, La Salle, for Br. Ben, was a University worth loving and worth serving. And as it turned out now that he is dead, La Salle was a University worth dying for!

For Br. Ben, school service, be it administrative or teaching, was a form of self-giving, a giving of self, a giving of life, and a life of giving. That is to give and give until there was nothing more to give until death.

If only for this reason, with Br. Ben's demise, we have indeed lost a good friend and colleague, and La Salle has lost an efficient, thoughtful, and an indefatigable administrator.

In a different vein, the unexpected death of Br. Ben reminds us once more about the disturbing question that is life itself: Human life is feeble, frail, and ephemeral. Man is born to suffer and, finally, to die!

Once again, we become aware of the short span of human life, of the fact that without our will we are born and against our will we will surely die, and die before our loved ones or they before us, and there is no comfort in either case, except pain and suffering.

Glory, affluence, fame, and social positions or status are meaningless in the face of an impending death. The latter renders man's tremendous efforts and strivings useless and meaningless and apparently a waste of time and energy. To labor away one's whole life but never see the result, and to be utterly worn out with toil but have no idea where it is leading, is this not lamentable? Everything is only for a day, you will soon die.

Death does not discriminate against anybody. It does not choose its victims. It knows no gender, age, financial status, or social positions. Death is a great equalizer, a leveler of all men, as it plays no favorites at all; it is a life grabber, a cruel thief that robs an individual of his life.

Last year, in one of the rare occasions that I greeted him on campus, "Hello, Brother, how are you getting along nowadays?" With his characteristic guttural baritone and winking eyes, Br. Ben replied, "Well, everything is under control, except that times flies and man dies."

Truly enough, time flies and life is too short to be spent and wasted in petty bickering over trivialities. Death hangs over us and the measure of an individual's life is a point, for after a moment he will soon be under the grass.

Our life is but for a while, hence we must take advantage of it; we must live it well and productively, lend a hand to others, like Br. Ben, we shall soon be six feet under the ground. All things soon pass away and become a mere tale after us.

Throughout all the vicissitudes of teaching, research, and academic struggle, amidst life's roughs and tumbles, triumphs and failures, its joys and pains, let the following lines of a Levi Celerio-composed, favorite song be the source of our constant and sustaining inspiration.

Ang ating buhay/
Maikli, aking hirang/
Kung kaya't kailangan/
Pagsuyong wagas kailanman.