A Tribute to VMT Practitioner, Ben Van Rensburg: 1968 – 2013
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Our Directors have asked me, as someone close to Ben van Rensburg, to write to you about the passing of this lovely man. I have struggled with this task, because there are no words to adequately express the feelings of deep grief and profound loss we who came to know him through the VMT trainings are experiencing.
For all of us – peers, students, colleagues – he was a source of wisdom, wry and sometimes outrageous humour, and warm understanding. I first knew him as a keen and challenging student, then as a wise and dedicated therapist-teacher and colleague, and finally as a true and beloved friend.
Shortly before I met Ben and he began his Training in VMT, he had a massive heart attack which left that organ physically compromised. In all other respects, his heart was as big as all outdoors! Perhaps, during the entire time I knew him – an all too brief three years – he was living on borrowed time. If so, all I can say is, what a time! what a life!
When I remember Ben, I see his smiling, loving face and hear his always cheerful greeting; I recall his love of animals and flowers; his joy in the act of painting and his appreciation for beautiful things. Most especially, I remember his living in a way that was gracious and funny and gentle and kind. He used to say, “I don’t do ugly” and he was one who created beauty around him in so many ways in his daily life.
He also created new ways of working with VMT: with “body map” drawings which a client or student revisited and re-layered several times over to evolve a graphic and often stunningly beautiful testament to their individual personal journey and progress; with a couple of very simple hand gestures distinguishing the “mine” from the “not mine” which added richness and clarity to our understanding and use of the sphere; with a way of working with VMT within the context and structure of a residential addictions clinic to help individuals gain back their breath, their spirit, their sense of self through the voice. This last he documented in his thesis -Facilitating Change through Voice Movement Therapy with Clients with Addictions – which, in my opinion, provides us with a wonderful model of how to use VMT successfully and well within an established clinical institution.
The particularity of his thoughtfulness towards people is remembered by a student, Nukobonga Mathole, who writes:
“For everytime it’s somebody’s perfomance he will dress in a special way to honour the perfomer. This sudden loss has left me speechless and confused. I was so ready to work with him. So kind and compassionate. He was absolutely a man of great spirit. I will always keep him in my heart.”
We remember many things, both large and small. I could go on and on – as could others -about aspects of his work, wonderful times shared, terribly funny things he said when it was all getting to be too much, other ways he gave support and direction, his visions for the future…. It is a necessary process, this remembering and retelling, and once begun, there is a strong reluctance to stop, to let go, to let him go….
When I expressed to his partner Kim my deep regret that Ben had worked so hard this past year and not taken more time to play, he said, “Oh, but he loved VMT! It was so important to him.” And he was, and is, so important to us. I can only hope that his last few years brought him much satisfaction. I can only pray that I shall be able to carry some of what I learned from him with me and make it actively present in my life.
The only comforting thought I can find, for myself and perhaps for others, at the loss of this extraordinary person who was so young (42) and so full of the joy of living is, were we not lucky to love someone so well whom we will miss so much? If it is possible to feel totally bereft and enriched at the same time, then that is how I feel. A Lakota Sioux wise man named Fool’s Crow once said, “Life is like licking the honey off the thorns.” And so we do, we try, and we keep on trying. That is what our friend did. Good-bye, lovely Ben. We who had the privilege of knowing you will hold you in our hearts, always.
A letter from Anne Ross Maarman
Dear VMT Family,
Greetings from South Africa.
Monday 8th of May we got together at Anelma’s house to travel to Cape town from George to say goodbye to Ben, and met with Kim, Deirdre, and Pierre. From George it was myself Anelma, Boniswa, Nokubonga, Deedee and Gertruida (her husband Steven drove us). It was a beautiful sunny day.Armed with our own emotions we drove off with much music and laughter. Ben would love that.
As the road unfolded we all went into our own space. We picked Lerina up at the airport and arrived on time, with Deidre waiting for us at the door of the church. It was time to face reality, tears left our eyes and caressed our cheeks. We did it the VMT way, we just cried…
This truly was a sad day for us, as it was for all of Ben’s friends. I know he has gone to a better place but he shall remain with all of us in our hearts. He finished his journey. Having worked with Ben throughout our time in VMT there were times of so much laughter, joy and silence, as with everyone else. However, if I had ever needed for someone to cover my back or share a foxhole with, Ben would have been my choice as he never backed down, and always remained true to VMT and his fellow students. May he rest in peace.
My ego wants to force a smile as we enter the church, but my soul doesn’t feel the need.
This little sadness doesn’t taste bitter; it is sweet.
The service was short and the loss big, as both Kim and Deidre were so strong when they brought their last honours to a great friend and partner.
The question with all of us, “How will we go on without him?”
We had tea and meet with Kim, it was so obvious who Ben was when Kim meet us through the eyes of Ben, in saying that, before we could introduce ourselves he called out our names.
From all of us we want to thank you, walking with us through this most difficult time, with your thoughts, words, tears and prayers.
A special word of thanks to Anne Brownell, who was there for us not just through the loss of Ben but to carry us through all other times.
Much blessings to all of you may God bless IAVMT and may we all bring joy in the hearts of many as we continue our journey with IAVMT
Love to you,
Anne Ross Maarman (South Africa)
A letter from Marlies Polzhofer