Benjamin "Ben" Walker Burlock

Ben and his sister, Charley

Ben and his sister, Charley

Ben’s sister wrote the following for his service on January 5th, 2015.

I am not a procrastinator by nature. I am not someone who is good at improvised honesty. I like sticking to the plan. I like having things memorized. I like certainty. My brother would have laughed at me sitting down so many times to try and figure out what I was going to say here. He would have made fun of me for stressing myself out so much and overthinking it. For the number untitled word documents I half filled with phrases and fragments that I hoped I would be able to piece together into something witty and accurate. For the number of packs of gum I stress chewed. He would have laughed at me with that infectious head-back gurgle that was impossible to avoid joining. Benny had the unique ability to humorously to defuse complicated emotions without delegitimizing them. A trait that I have yet to see truly replicated in anyone else.

Ben and Charley

Ben and Charley

The last day I spent with my brother he drove me up to Napa to drop me off at a new art school. He laughed at me nervously trying to strategize a perfect arrival time and what to say if someone asked me, a very inexperienced artist, what my medium of choice was.

“Just tell them you do taxidermy” he suggested “that’ll shut up all those filthy vegan hipsters.”

With Ben there were no plans and thus no mistakes. Things always seemed to work out for him, consistently, seamlessly and almost without exception, humorously. Until suddenly, just once, they didn’t.

I have known my brother for seventeen years.

I have known death for less than two months.

Where I have far too many words to ever describe Benny I have far to few to describe death so I’ll have to borrow a few from an idol of my brother and myself. “Better to not know which moment may be your last. Every morsel of your entire being alive to the infinite mystery of it all.” –Captain Jack Sparrow

For us it’s excruciating. The abrupt permanence of it all. The fact that he was so young and so fiercely loved. For him I don’t think it was. We didn’t know he was dying but neither did he. He was vibrantly, fully, ecstatically alive right up until he wasn’t.

My brother was no stranger to adventure. He chased after any new experience with unwavering and exhilarating curiosity. I do not have a hard time believing that, for him, this may be no exception. I do not have a hard time believing that he would revel in the “infinite mystery of it all” with the same outrageous enthusiasm that he brought to every other mystery he encountered.

In the hours after my brother died I feared the sheer breadth of memory I had with him. I thought of each memory as something of a time bomb that I would have to individually diffuse, somehow desensitize myself to, or maybe bury somewhere so far down that their explosions wouldn’t threaten to crumble the surface. As much as I tried I couldn’t do that. Everything around me reminds me of my brother. The taste of my favorite foods. The sweet smell of dip. The sound of my own laugh. Everything brings back a memory of my brother and every one of those memories makes me smile despite myself. I don’t want every mention and memory of my brother to be laced with some unspeakable sorrow. I don’t want the only thing remembered about my brother to be the fact that he died. That will one day be true of all of us. Benny is not unique in having experienced death. He is however, unique in having experienced life in a way that many strive for, but few achieve. He lived every second of his two decades on this earth fully, unapologetically and in his own very weird way, and for that I am grateful.

I am grateful to have had my favorite person on this earth be not just my brother but also my best friend. I am grateful that he lived long enough for me to become someone we were both proud of. I am grateful for every late night phone call and every early afternoon breakfast. I am grateful for him talking me out of dumb stick n’ poke tattoos and nervous breakdowns. I am grateful for the terrifying and embarrassingly long period of time that my brother had me convinced that he was a member of a violent street gang and that any slightly ominous stranger that we passed was one of his rivals requiring us to immediately crouch behind a dumpster holding our breathe to avoid being noticed, and subsequently stabbed. I am grateful for our language of inside jokes. I’m grateful for our shared genes and parents and sense of humor. I’m grateful that, for seventeen years, I had someone who was unwaveringly there for me, whether he was across the hall or across the country. I am grateful, as we all are, to have had Ben."