Benjamin Lloyd Plunkett died on April 27th, 2020. He was 46 years old. He was a brilliant writer and poet. He is the reason Rambling Ever On even exists. But, he was so much more than that. Ben was a wonderful son and brother. He was an amazing and loyal friend. He was a devoted follower of Jesus and everything in his life spoke to his deeply held convictions and faith. Ben has been called home much too soon for those of us left behind, yet we trust in God’s plan. We will miss him more than we can say. Ben, we will see you again. But not yet. Not yet.
Ben was my best friend.
I hate that word, “was.” It’s not a fair word. From a certain perspective, it is much too final. And frankly, it doesn’t do justice to the truth. Was is a lie. Ben is my best friend.
I met Ben prior to starting college in 1995. He was already friends with my older brother, Mike. We were introduced, realized we had a lot in common, and our friendship hit the ground running.
The last thing I want is for our tributes about Ben to be disingenuous. Ben was not perfect. No one is. But, Ben was patient, kind, gentle, gracious, hilarious, witty, and above all, deeply devoted to his Savior, Jesus Christ. From this point on, this tribute will be more of a random sampling of things that stand out to me about Ben. I am sorry for the less-than-cohesive collection, but this is how my brain is processing all of this right now.
Ben was the absolute best person to cook for. He ate anything and liked nearly everything. Ben and I were roommates after college. I slept on his sofa and from time to time I cooked for us. Prior to that, he had been eating beans out of a can like some Old West cowboy. No matter how rudimentary my cooking skills were at that time, he was always appreciative and encouraging of my efforts in the kitchen. After I was married, Amy, my wife, would often cook for Ben when he came to our house. One particular meal, though, stands out above the rest. Amy made a broccoli and cheese casserole to which she kept adding jalapeno’s because it never tasted spicy enough. The end result was blisteringly hot – so spicy that Amy and I could not eat much of it. Ben sat there and kept stuffing his face with the stuff, proclaiming that it was very good. Sweat was pouring down his reddened face yet he did not stop eating until he had finished every bite on his plate. I can’t say for sure, but I think he even had a second serving. That was Ben. If you put food on a plate and offered it to him, he would eat it. And to make it all even better, he was always effusive with his praise for whatever meal you prepared for him.
Speaking of effusive…Ben was a wordsmith. One of my favorite things was to sit with Ben and try to outdo him with more elaborate and absurd verbiage and commentary. I’m sure we sounded crazy but that never stopped us. We spouted off lines like demented Shakespeares, giggling ridiculously at our own creativity and nonsense. We had planned to one day write a screenplay together. It never really got off the ground but I will always be grateful that we were able to create and collaborate with Rambling Ever On.
I made Ben laugh and felt like a comedy god based on his reactions to my jokes. Seriously, if you could get Ben laughing, you were in for a good time. He would laugh until his face turned red and tears streamed down his cheeks. Everyone else would join and share in his laughter because you had to – because Ben’s laughter was just that contagious. Yet, Ben was always the funniest one in our conversations. He had a razor-sharp wit he would unleash at the absolute perfect time. Timing is everything in comedy and Ben’s comedic timing was impeccable.
I am so full of emotions writing this that I feel I need to wrap it up soon. I am smiling and crying in turns. Just a few more thoughts and I’ll let a few others have their say.
Ben loved his family. I know you read that as “Ben loved his family” but unfortunately those four words are entirely insufficient in fully articulating what I mean. Ben LOVED his family. Fiercely. Passionately. Protectively. He spent the last years of his life caring for his father, Lloyd. He loved and was proud of his sisters and brother. He spoke so highly of them all. Before I had even met his younger brother Daniel, I was sure he was a Saint, Apostle, and possibly a demi-god by the way Ben had described him. Of course, after I met Daniel I realized that no one could possibly live up to Ben’s description. But I also realized just how much Ben loved and respected him. He loved his nieces and nephews and was more than ready to share some story about them any time. He loved his mom, who passed away over 10 years ago. Ben was a momma’s boy and he missed her dearly. I am filled with joy to know that he is with her now.
I’m going to miss Ben. More than I even realize right now. I’m going to miss our talks about books, movies, music, theology, and any random nonsense we could think of. I’m going to miss my friend, my roommate, and one of my biggest supporters. I know I will see him again. I have that hope. But, until I join him, I’m sure he is engaged in various conversations with Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Paul the Apostle, and Jesus and is making each of them laugh and smile.
Losing Ben this week was shocking. I don’t expect someone I went to college with who is in their mid-40s to pass away. Even though Ben had faced health challenges all his life and had a downturn late last year we all thought he was improving. He was able to go home recently and even the hours before he passed away he seemed in good spirits. So it was definitely a shock. There are so many positive things I will remember about Ben. Many of those will be mentioned in this tribute or by others on Facebook. I will chose to dwell on a couple things that brought us closer together over the years.
When we were college students one of us had a class that required us to read a C.S. Lewis book. I don’t remember the class or even which book it was. We had both read the Chronicles of Narnia growing up so we were familiar with Lewis, but we really hadn’t read much further than that. We made a vow that year to read every Lewis book we could get our hands on. Shout out to the Welch Library for having so many of his books available! We each carved out some time in our active social lives to read and discuss 15-20 of his books over the course of that school year. Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters were my two favorites, I don’t remember Ben’s favorite, but I know he really liked The Problem of Pain. I learned a lot that year in school, but I may have learned and grown even more in the reading I did and the discussions Ben and I had.
Another tradition we started around 15 or so years ago was to go to a movie together on each of our birthdays. We were sometimes a month or two late in getting together, but I don’t think we missed a birthday theater trip until last year when Ben was in the hospital on his birthday in December. We saw some great and some not so great movies together, but the quality of the movie wasn’t really the point. We had even made tentative plans to catch a movie when Ben was feeling better and all the COVID 19 stuff was behind us. I will miss not being able to watch that movie together, but I am confident that Ben won’t miss it. He is in the presence of his Savior now.
I will always cherish our times together here and look forward to seeing Ben again in a place where his health will be perfect. Miss you Ben!
Ben was a character. Anyone who met him knew this. As Phill mentioned, this manifested itself through the hifalutin words he used. And as only he could, instead of coming across pretentious as a result, he used vocabulary to express his unique and joyous personality. In his honor, I will use as many Ben-esque words as I can in this tribute. Like “hifalutin”.
I have found sincere joy in writing since I was in middle school. Yet as an adult with the advent of the internet I’d never once considered starting a blog or having my writing published online. I had no idea what I was missing until Rambling Ever On was born. I owe Ben more than I could ever repay for galvanizing us to create it.
Beyond the inspiration, he contributed a voluminous amount of delightful and inimitable content. He gifted us and our readers with nearly all of our poetry. He composed our most substantial short story. He cracked us up with his Bigfoot series and his Five Reasons Why I Don’t Have Horns Surgically Implanted On My Head. And word-for-word I don’t know if anything I’ve ever read on the internet has amused me as much as his Five Hours of World Conquest. That article has entertained my brain so much I’ve shared it to Facebook several times. In a country where blogs and articles are ubiquitous, Ben’s writing stood out. He was anything but status quo.
But more importantly, Ben cared deeply about communicating insights and truths from our Bible. The fact his article on Five Fundamentals of Christianity has garnered more views than any of his others has always struck me as appropriate. His commentary on the Five Greatest Christmas Hymns rose to be his second most popular, which is equally as felicitous. Because it was quintessential Ben. He not only penned beautiful expositions on the five songs, but introduced me to songs I’d never heard of before. Ben’s love for obscure works of art from decades ago was both known and respected by his peers.
There is no doubt Ben’s Rambling Ever On contributions, both inane and serious, form a cornucopia of classic reading material.
Not to be overlooked by any on our staff, however, is that Ben did yeoman’s work editing our articles. None of us are experts in that area and it is tedious, mind-numbing work. Time and time again, Ben stepped up and did it. He no-doubt spent dozens and maybe hundreds of hours going over our submissions. We have achieved far more excellence because of Ben just in this area than we would have without him.
I do not want to limit my memories of Ben just to the web site. He added so much more to my life that I’ll never forget. Like the time five years ago when I was in Nashville to see my fiancee and several from our staff met at Dalt’s to hang out. Ben took a picture of the group and, not having a selfie-stick, was only able to get the top left corner of his own head in the frame. His eye was prominent and this led to a million Lord of the Rings “Great Eye lidless, wreathed in flame” jokes. Which fit Ben to a tee. He also regularly worked in Seinfeld quotes into our conversations, and always in the most hilarious way possible. In fact, the last sentence I read from Ben before his death was in context of us trying to put together a Zoom call. Ben, like most of us, had never used this app before. And he commented, “I don’t know about this Zoom. Frankly, it sounds made up.” Which is something Kramer once said about Joe Mayo. It was random yet perfectly inserted in the conversation and caused me to lose it laughing. Ben caused me to lose it laughing more times than I could ever count.
Benjamin Plunkett had a way of talking in an esoteric and engaging way at the same time. He could opine on profound theology one minute and induce laughter from a crowd with silly humor the next. He could sound sophisticated even when addressing scatological humor. It was the most remarkable thing.
He cared about righteousness and orthodoxy. He was as pure in heart as anyone I ever met. The void created by his loss will never be filled. But like everyone else I do not grieve the way the world does. Because I know by faith what he knows now by sight–that Jesus’s death and resurrection matter more than anything in all of human history. I can’t wait to see him again one day. Until then the articles, the stories and the memories will have to suffice.
I was 11. Ben was 17, already the “elder statesman” and I just another annoying little cousin. He didn’t need any more of those. Didn’t need any, he had a little brother annoying enough to satisfy. Yet he patiently (mostly) entertained us all, day after day sharing with us his creativity, wit, humor, and fantastic imagination. Ben introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien and his world of hobbits, dwarves, and elves. He gifted me with imaginary friends that helped me through the next few years.
I was now 17, and he was 23. The freshman and the senior. I arrived at college with no real friends – was incapable of making friends on my own and nothing over the past 23 years has really changed that. Ben had a tight group of close friends and had no need of me, still as annoying as ever. Yet he included me. Where Ben went, I went, and eventually, I was an accepted member of his group. He gifted me with real, lifelong friends with whom I now share the grief of his absence and the joy of our shared memories.
They say the measure of a man is how he treats others. Specifically his inferiors (J.K. Rowling), those who can do nothing for him (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe), those who can do him absolutely no good (Samuel Johnson).
I never did bring much to our relationship. A bit of occasional tech support, perhaps. I don’t know that Ben even much liked me, not that I mean anything negative by that, and he certainly never said or implied that he didn’t to me at least. I wasn’t often likable if I’m honest. Ben, as kind as he was, could also be marvelously cantankerous and curmudgeonly, and I had been known to take pleasure in provoking him. He always eventually returned in laughter (and the occasional unassailable retort), though. Nobody could laugh (or retort) like Ben.
How does he measure up? He treated me astonishingly, exceedingly well, just as he did everybody. Benjamin Lloyd Plunkett was a giant.
We know Ben meant a lot to many people. We would love to hear your stories. Please share them with us in the comment section below or on Facebook. Come and mourn with us for a little while, until we meet again.
“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”J.R.R. Tolkien