I invite any and all readers to comment with like stories in their lives. If you are worried about speaking to me of Ben's death, DON'T BE! Precisely the opposite helps to keep his memory alive!
I have thought about this story for quite a while.I suppose all parents enjoy their enduring "memory moments". You know ... those remarkably preserved “mind snapshots” of earlier, less-troubled times when we “made memories”, as Ben’s mom liked to say.
Ben and I spent a remarkable moment once on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida many years ago. Having nothing at all to do with collecting seashells, building sandcastles or casting fishing rods, I did something ... for Ben primarily, but for myself as well. Though in retrospect it may seem somewhat incongruous, it is best explained probably by the fact that back home we had recently moved to “West Rogers Park", an orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Chicago.
At a time when still largely ignorant of even the bare rudiments of Jewish tradition and practice, I was nonetheless typical of many Jews whose formal Jewish training consisted of little more than a Sunday school education. Growing up within a largely secular environment, our Jewish holiday observance was limited to the following: only one Passover seder, not two; candle lighting and presents at Hanukkah; lots of good food at Rosh Hashanah and breaking the fast at the end of Yom Kippur although I am uncertain if ever any of the adults in my family observed the fast. “Shabbat” was Saturday morning … you know Saturday morning- a day off from school when we could watch cartoons and eat spaghetti for breakfast my older brother Ron prepared. On occasion, I would accompany my mother to her beauty appointment where next store I’d spend time reading comic books at the corner pharmacy.
Now that you know a bit about my Jewish upbringing or lack thereof, I relate the following brief story of anomaly and awakening.
We arrived in Jacksonville rather late one afternoon closer to evening than not. Never before having seen the ocean, my plan was to behold it for the very first time as early as possible the next morning while holding Ben in my arms.
Arising early that next morning, we hurried out to the beach where our special moment together lay just ahead! Racing to the water's edge, Ben leapt up into my arms whereupon I recited the following words:
“Baruch ata Ha Shem,
Elokeinu melech ha olam,
sheasa et ha yam ha gadol.”
(“Blessed are you,
our God, King of the universe,
who made the great sea.”)