It was that early Monday morning phone call from Rita yesterday -- we just talked to her a few hours earlier on Sunday afternoon when she told us Benno's in Honolulu hospital with very high fever and she told us she'll call us again with good news. I was most certainly not expecting a call from her so soon, my heart immediately sunk deeper with apprehension as she broke the unwanted terrible news to us! It's unreal, how can that be possible, God, it is not, it can't be, happening! But it was in Rita's tearful yet calm voice telling us Benno has left us! Just after he seemed gotten better overnight when he woke up asking for a glass of water. The hospital indicated that they have tried everything possible, but never did able to reduce the fever nor finding out what exactly was the cause of his ~ 105F fever that snatched Benno away from us.
Benno has left us! How can that be happening. All his bright smile, all his cheerful voice, now only exist in our memory. It is unreal, why should it be happening?
I am staring at the last sentence of the last email he sent me in January:
Everything here is good.
Aloha!That's the kind of greetings Benno gives since he moved to Hilo. He really likes it there. Five years ago in June of 2009 when I attended the yearly OMAE conference held in Honolulu that year, I took a side trip to visit him that weekend at the end of conference. Mena was away that weekend, so he spent the whole weekend show me around Hilo, the place of his home the place he chose for his retirement. He talked like a native, told me all the geographical and historical backgrounds of Hilo. The hotel I stayed overlooks the Hilo Bay, Benno told me that was once Hawaiian King Kamehameha's navy base. He's also quite familiar with the past tsunami hits on Hilo and pointed out to me all the now flourishing areas that was hard hit during the previous major tsunamis. His house is fairly close to the rocky ocean coast -- but inland enough that most average tsunamis don't come up that far. The house, he basically built himself from scratch, has a very large back yard and a man-made pond. He showed me his irrigation system around the pond he put in himself, they are not at all trivial -- some needs special design. I was trained as a civil engineer, but Benno has all the practical hands-on experience and practical applications in his own back yard. Rita recently visited him in March, Benno was in the process of building a large greenhouse in his yard, I can visualize his enthusiasm in doing it. When I was there 5 years ago he was planting and growing lotus in his pond, he has more varieties than the Hilo Tropical Garden he and I visited. He had done a good amount of research on growing lotus, gathered information and specimen from all around the world. I was impressed.
When he dropped me at the Hilo airport for my departure trip that Sunday, I was fully expected that I am going to visit him again -- never ever can believe that turned out to be my last visit in his life time.
What had happened is so unreal! He did not feeling well, Mena told him to see doctor. The local doctor suggested to go to Honolulu hospital. So they flew to Honolulu, checked into the hospital on Thursday, three days later, Benno left us. Totally unbelievable! It's a nightmare and I am still in it!
I love Benno like a brother, but he is my brother-in-law. I don't remember exactly how have we met. It was in the mid-1950's in Peitou Catholic Church where our pastor Father Joseph Kung organized a church youth group. Benno was the leader of the group. Among the church activities, Benno was in the choir, I was an altar server. We were there during every Sunday mass and other functions and we were both belong to the pastoral Legion of Mary, meeting weekly for Rosary. Our homes were not far from each other and we quickly become good friend, I was a Junior in college , he was a junior in high school. My frequent yakking about college life impresses him. I also belonged to a Sodality group in college and invited him to join, somehow Father Kung vetoed the idea. Because that will be too much activities for him. Anyway that was how our friendship started. I was purposely stayed away from his younger sisters when I was in Taiwan. Not until I came to US and later Teresa also came to US, I went to visit her and then proposed to her. Benno was never in the loop! For all the years I am part of the Wang family, I continued to think of myself as Benno's friend rather his brother-in-law. Perhaps Benno's daughter Frances has the right idea. Once she introduced me to her 6 year old son as "Your Kung-kung's good friend!"
I think because of Benno's influence both of his parents had duly baptized into catholicism. Now may be a little untimely, but he has just joined his beloved parents in heaven, along with brother-in-law Stuart, Father Kung and my parents are also there welcoming him. While we are mourning him here on earth, I think he must be busily and may not be unhappily adjusting into his new life in heaven.
Allow me to use mostly the same line I bid farewell to Stuart for my farewell to Benno:
We are all terribly missing your cheerful voice and bright smiling face.
Not a consolation, but I know we’ll meet again -- --
in the world ever shall be without end.
So Remembering until we meet again,
Dear Benno, my best friend,
God speed on your new journey and rest in peace!