Thursday, July 10, 2008

Honoring Ben Berry's Father, David Berry

Ben and David Berry, on a fishing trip in northern Ontario, 2001

Many of you know Ben Berry. He came into Dangerbird to be my assistant in January '07, and quickly put a root down in our organization. Because 'assistant' is outdated and doesn't really describe Ben's purview accurately, I have come to refer to him as my right-hand man. He is always right where we need him to be, usually before anyone's even thought to ask him. And his hand is always helping anyone in our crew, at any time of day or night. From the moment I called Ben about Pablo, he has availed himself to my family for anything and everything.

Putting titles aside, from day one Ben has been a comrade, a man who believes in the Dangerbird mission, and has made it his life's work to put his mark on it. Every day, Ben makes our company, our family, a better place. Strong. Present. Highly observant. A wry sense of humor. Just the kind of guy Peter and I like.

Example: for about 15 minutes one day, I decided to build a casual, yet cool '-jc' signoff into my email signature. Within minutes of Ben's receipt of the first '-jc' email, he was on the floor, throwing 'Jesus Christ' daggers my way. A few minutes later, he'd superimposed my face onto an illustration of Hey-soos Krees-to himself. Effin hilarious.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
Sometime in July 0f '07, Ben's mobile phone rang in the office. He let me know he needed to step out onto the roof to take the call. I knew the look on his face–serious, scared, dutiful–and had a strong feeling that when he re-entered the office, we'd be having a chat. Ben is a young guy, so I figured his parents were young as well, and never thought there'd be an emergent issue coming from his hometown of Detroit Rock City. That was when I still thought cancer and age had a relationship. That was when I still thought only 'old' people got cancer. That, despite the black and white fact that Scott was emblazoned with the word/term/news/label CANCER when he was just 37. I hadn't yet learned. There was still that 'it happens to other people' thing commanding my mind.

So, Ben walks back into the office. His face is reading a deeper intensity than before. I never told Ben this, but it scared the hell out of me. With that look, I knew what was about to come out of his mouth. And it scared the hell out of me. He said (and I am paraphrasing), 'That was my dad. He's just been diagnosed with cancer. It's stage four. It's in his brain. I have to go home to Detroit to see him.'

I don't remember if I hugged him, or just gave him the verbal embrace of empathy and 'Anything you need, don't hesitate to ask. Take all the time you need.' But I recall having a few instinctual instructions for him: take it easy; take it one minute at a time; he needs you to be clear more than anything. I had lived the phone call from the midwest. I had lived the cosmic bomb drop. I had lived booking the flight, trying to sleep, trying to make sense of it, and the torturous flight home the next day.

Over the ensuing year, Ben made hundreds of rounds out to the roof (our office is on the roof of a building in Hollywood). It got to the point where he no longer said he was taking a call. He knew I knew what was going down when he walked out. In our company, we form a safety net under any person in need. It happens without words. It just happens. It's how we roll. In the past month, the drumbeat from Detroit started to build. For those of us who've moved away from the homestead, that's the way it goes down.

In Ben's case, the drum started to pound louder and louder on the eve of a Detroit trip he'd planned as his summer vacation. In my experience, this is a common occurrence. Things line up so often when we take a moment to recognize.
Ben got back to Detroit on Friday June 27. He hung with his dad, his mom, his brother and his family. The next afternoon, Ben's father, David, passed away at home, as he'd wished.

The long lead in this post–the anecdotes and observations I wrote about Ben–is a testament to Ben's father. None of us met David–at least not in the way you'd typically think. We have come to know David by becoming brothers with Ben. By seeing the kind of dude that Ben is–a caring, passionate, heartful man–I think we all know David pretty damn well.

On behalf of Jo Ann, Pablo, Grady, and the Dangerbird Massive, I extend a Pablove ray of light to the Berry family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I Visited Jeff last Summer and met Ben, and he is everything Jeff said he is and more. And there is so much truth when they say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Best to Ben and his Family