'I will miss your uncontainable zest for life'
It's five years since the Cordners lost their 21-year-old son Ben.
One of the great privileges, and sorrows of running the Speakola website is that people share eulogies for their loved ones, sometimes lost in the most tragic of circumstances.
Today marks five years since Geoff Cordner’s eulogy for his son, Ben, who died just months after his 21st birthday in a freak accident on Australia Day 2019. Geoff and his wife Linda both spoke incredibly in the weeks after their unfathomable tragedy, and Geoff has founded a site called ‘Tapping The Beniverse’ to perpetuate the stories of Ben’s life, and to encourage readers to think differently about their own lives, and those of their loved ones.
Geoff has embraced Speakola, and has said some lovely things about our adding Linda’s and his speeches to our collection in 2023. He’s also become a paid subscriber to this newsletter, which is always much appreciated from those whose speeches become a part of the collection.
It’s incomprehensible to those of us who haven’t been through the pain of farewelling a child what standing up and delivering a eulogy in such circumstances must feel like. The sheer weight of a day like that. I read this speech and it made me cry, both for Geoff and for every parent who has ever felt this sort of pain. Linda Cordner’s speech at the Celebration of Life is every bit as moving. I salute you both, and thank you for sharing Ben’s memory on Speakola.
11 February 2019, Macquarie Park, Sydney, Australia
I remember vividly at Ben’s 21st birthday party just a few short months ago, as the speeches concluded, and Linda, Ben, Tim and I, were standing arm in arm facing the crowd, I felt a wave of happiness wash over me that was like something I had never ever felt before. At that moment I truly believed our life as a family was perfect. We literally had all that we could ever reasonably have asked for.
Then just over two weeks ago our world changed forever.
But it has changed in ways we could never have predicted. If you read or watch the news, which we haven’t for more than a fortnight, it is tempting to think the world is going to hell in a handcart. But our experience over this past couple of weeks has been completely the opposite; there is so much goodness in the world it is impossible not to still have hope. The support we have received from all of you, and from the wider community around us, has made us realise we are not alone in this – we are all in it together. And there is enormous comfort in that knowledge, and strength too.
The second very important thing we have learned is that, no matter how much we might have loved and admired Ben while he was here - and we loved him with all our hearts – we never actually gave him all the credit he deserved for the person he had become.
The stories we have been told this past fortnight by so many people about aspects of Ben’s life that we didn’t already know about have swelled our hearts even further with pride, and helped us to more fully understand that the pain we are feeling is shared by so many others. Because Ben touched so many lives while he was here.
It seemed to me that Ben was as happy this year as I have ever seen him. All aspects of his life seemed to be giving him so much pleasure. His relationship with Laura, his relationships with us, with his friends, his University course, his work, his sport. He was saving money, he was planning for the future, he was looking at the entire world around him with that captivating, infectious smile on his face, and it was smiling back at him from all sides.
I am indescribably sad that Ben has died. But if we had to lose him, then I am so glad I can carry forward with me the knowledge that he was truly truly happy when that happened, and that his life, cruelly short as it was, really meant something to him, and to all of us.
A few memories that I will always treasure:
The way Ben’s tongue, when he was small, seemed too big for his mouth, so that every word spoken was accompanied by a healthy spray of saliva.
Ben’s laugh as a young boy: now I know I might be accused of bias, but I would argue this was the most joyful sound in the history of the world.
Standing in the kitchen at our house about six years ago in tears after something on the TV had triggered a memory of my nephew Daniel, and having Ben come and hug me long and hard until the tears finally ended, and then a bit longer again, without either of us needing to say anything.
The many wonderful hours Ben and I spent putting together the slideshow for my Dad’s Celebration of Life.
The night we spent at the Big Bash just four days before Ben died. Tim was away on his bus trip, and Ben and I decided at the last minute to go out to Spotless Stadium to watch the Sydney Thunder play. I remember sitting with Ben that night at the game and feeling like we were just a couple of mates on a night out; like it was the most natural and comfortable thing in the world to be hanging out with your 21-year old son, completely relaxed in each other’s company.
Ben I am so glad you got your hair cut very short recently, because I will never ever forget the feeling of stroking it as you lay on that hospital bed during the final hours of your extraordinary life, and the love I felt for you as I did that will never leave me.
Ben I will miss you so much.
I already miss seeing you walk out through the kitchen to the bathroom in the morning, one hand on your phone, and the other hand on your junk
I miss the way you called me Papa Bear
I miss the way you filled in the missing answers for me in the cryptic crossword
I miss your razor-sharp wit, and the cut and thrust of our regular repartee
I miss the way when I used a word you hadn’t heard before – like repartee for example – you would repeat the word, and say “Who says that?”
I will miss standing at first slip while you kept wicket, and having you calm me down when some poor unfortunate misfielded, or dropped a catch
I will miss calming you down when you misfielded or dropped a catch
I will miss hearing you say “How Good’s Cricket”
I will miss the fact that we can never play Fambrose again
I will even miss that permanently messy bedroom
I will miss your uncontainable zest for life
And most of all I will miss that beautiful beautiful smile
I love you Ben, and I always will
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There will be a new episode of the Speakola podcast this week, featuring ABC radio host Julian Schiller and his best man speech for comedian friend Tony Moclair.
On the subject of grief, the great cricket writerhas started a Substack called . He wrote a piece that diverted from cricket, about the death of his brother Jaz at a young age. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Set aside half an hour to read one of the great pieces of writing.