In the early dawn of Sunday, 5 January 2014, a young man lost his life in an accident that will never make any sense. He was so loved, and by so many; now his mother is wracked with the kind of grief that chokes your heart and makes it hard to breathe, his father almost mute with pain, his sister bereft at the loss of a brother she treasured more than could ever be described in anything so base as words, his stepmother bewildered and torn apart.
His name was Benedict Bock, he was 22 and he was my nephew. We knew him as Bene; he was 6’2″, maybe 6’3″, all arms and legs and soft sweetness and laughter in his eyes, kindness and compassion in his heart. I did not know him as well as I wish I could have. He was in Germany; I in Hong Kong. Occasional summer holidays over the years were the only times our paths would cross.
But even as a little boy, he radiated a sunny aura; an easy-going, calm (and calming) personality. He was the kind of child you wanted to hug. Bene was easy to love.
Even as I write this, two days after his funeral (where an incredible 200 or so of his friends, family and colleagues turned up to say their farewells), I struggle to understand and accept what happened. In the back of my mind, a faint, foolish light of hope still flickers that someone will say, “oh, it was all a mistake, he’s fine”.
I went to his christening — a tiny, placid, smiling baby in a long white gown — and I went to his funeral. It is wrong. It should never have happened.
One of the songs which his family chose for his service was Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Iz Kamakawiwo’ole; the next morning, after the clouds cleared, a huge rainbow arched over the Rhine Valley. I know all of us who saw it took a sharp breath as tears filled our eyes; I know we all believe that somewhere over that rainbow, Bene was letting us know he would always be with us.