A Series of Vignettes about My Son, Olav Ha Shalom
Alan D. Busch
A Note to Readers: Below please find the current Table of Contents to In Memory of Ben and Chapter 1
Please feel free to comment. Not to worry ... this bereft parent welcomes any and all feedback!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Contents ~~~~~~~~~~~~
Preface: In Memory of Ben
Chapter 1: The Last Time
Chapter 1a: Postscript-A Glimpse at an Earlier and Happier Moment
Chapter 2: Asher Yatzar es Ha Adom B'chochma
Chapter 3: Tattoos
Chapter 4: Diagonals
Chapter 4a: Postscript-A Glimpse Forward in Time
Chapter 5: Lancets, Cotton Balls, Syringes and Insulin
Chapter 6: To Have His Own Place
Chapter 6a: Postscript-Kimberly's Deposition
Chapter 7: Mazel Run Out
Chapter 7a: Postscript to Mazel Run Out
Chapter 8: Evocative of the Presence
Chapter 8a: Postscript-A Moment Forward to Zac's Bar Mitzvah
Chapter 9: Al Ha Nissim
Chapter 9a: Postscript to: Al Ha Nissim- *Rachomim
Chapter 10: Kindergarten Chairs
Chapter 11: Reaching In
Chapter 12: Ben ... Torah
Chapter 13: Choices
Chapter 14: Comforting
Chapter 15: Unhealable
Chapter 16: An Act of Trust and Kindness
Chapter 16a: Postscript to An Act of Trust and Kindness-A Baby's Blue Blanket
Chapter 17: Fractions
Chapter 18: Letter to Ben
Chapter 18a: Addition to Letter of Ben Just Prior to Erev Rosh Ha Shanah, 5766
Chapter 19: Shomer
Chapter 20: An Acrostic about Ben
Chapter 21: Erev Shabbat and The Letter
Chapter 22: A B C (s)
Chapter 23: Bais shel Emes
Chapter 24: Time Passage and Anticipation
Chapter 25: The Tenth Plague
Chapter 26: Mourning's Reflections
Chapter 27: Thanks to My Friends: "Bentzi" and EliDov- Zac's Letter Found
Chapter 28: Shem Tov-A Good Name
Chapter 29: Learning Lessons Late
Chapter 30: Fragments
Chapter 31: Halfway
Chapter 32: " ... Who Endured Illness with Majesty and Grace ..."
Chapter 33: Standing at the Edge
Chapter 34: In a Better Place
Chapter 35: I Wish I Could Have
Chapter 36: How Many Children
Chapter 36a: Kimberly's Comments
Chapter 37: "27"
Chapter 38: Grief Progress Report
Chapter 39: Ben and Zac
Chapter 40: I Was Just Beginning
Chapter 41: The Messenger
Chapter 42: A Blessing, the Ocean, Ben and I
Chapter 43: My Other Children
Chapter 44: Of Late
Chapter 45: Like Father ... Like Son
Chapter 46: No More Pictures
Chapter 47: Reflections on Dr. Gordon Livingston’s Book On Spring
Chapter 48: With Whom I Never Grieved
Chapter 49: Five Years Ago
Chapter 50: Everyday is a Thanksgiving
Chapter 51: Measurement … Memory
Chapter 52: God’s Role
Chapter 1: The Last Time ...
I believe it was an act of Divine Kindness that I last saw my son Benjamin Wednesday morning, November 22, 2000. Having just left shul to drop off my dry cleaning, I turned around to leave and saw Ben standing just behind me. He had woken up late for work, saw my car parked outside the dry cleaners, and asked me to drive him to the train. It was pretty much like any other morning but with two significant differences: I was pleasantly surprised to see Ben that morning. Why so unusual? First, Ben lived in his mom's house. I had moved out the previous summer. So seeing Ben that morning was a special treat, and secondly ... this was to be our last few moments together. Off we drove to the train but five minutes away. Our last conversation as I recall went something like this:
"How are you, Ben?"
"Fine, Dad. You?"
"Okay. How are you?"
"You feeling good?"
( by this time we were right in front of the train station. I pulled over.)
"Do you have money on you?"
"Yes, Dad. See ya later!"
and off he went ... I got to work a few minutes later. Seemed like just another day until about 1:30 or so ... when I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as an ER doctor at Cook County Hospital. He told me that Ben had been in a very serious traffic accident, and that I should come down immediately!
Upon arriving, I was rushed into the ER whereupon I saw Ben. They placed me behind a glass partition with a full view of a frenzied team of doctors, nurses and technicians struggling mightily to save my son. Having called my dad on the way down, he arrived soon by my side, choking back the tears and pleading with Ben that he hold on! I subsequently learned that the attending trauma surgeon later testified in a deposition I read that he was worried about my dad witnessing what proved to be futile efforts lest something befall him.
Open heart massage ... failed! Oxygen mask ... failed! Electric shock ... failed!
Moments later, the lead doctor turned to me and sadly shook his head. Ben was gone! He asked me if I wanted to be with him. My dad was taken aside. A curtain was drawn. Whether it be in life or death, and at that particular moment, the transition from one to the other was almost entirely seamless-the dividing line being so thin-that I stood over Ben's face, placed a *kippah upon his head, kissed his handsome nose and repeatedly sang the 23rd Psalm, thanking him for having been such a good son! It was all I knew to do at that moment! We spent about half an hour together that final afternoon, just the two of us, Ben and I.
Soon thereafter, the body had to be moved. My friend Rabbi Louis had arrived just minutes before. Almost as gut retching as watching Ben leave forever was that now Ben's mom had to be told. She had just arrived from work, having had to drive a far greater distance than I. I was led to a room opposite the emergency room where she sat awaiting news. Accompanied by my dad and Rabbi Louis, I approached her. My younger son Zac sat off to his mom's right. Several of Ben's buddies were there too. It was they whom I later learned had brought Zac to the hospital.
"Ben is gone!" I cried out placing my forehead upon the top of her head. Only from a bereaved mother can there be heard such a primal utterance of pain! I shall never forget its sound! Between that horrific moment and my hallway conversation with the lead doctor, I do not know what subsequently happened in that waiting room. I soon thereafter informed the doctor that Ben was a Jew and that I forbad any autopsy. He assured me that he understood. After several hours, only Rabbi Louis and I were left. When there was nothing more that we could do, we left the hospital. We walked together to my truck. I was to drive him home as he had taken a cab to the hospital. Therein we sat. Rabbi Louis called Rabbi Moshe, a chaplain with the Chicago Police Department, to see if he could expedite the transfer of Ben's body from the morgue to the funeral home. When the truck was warm, I drove Rabbi Louis home just a mile or so from my apartment. After that, I remember nothing more of that Wednesday, November 22, 2000 the day before Thanksgiving. I think I fell asleep that night in my apartment!
*Kippah ... a skullcap signifying God's presence overhead.