Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chapter 7: Mazel Run Out

I kept hold of a deep secret for many years!

Something so dark, so terrifyingly foreboding that, had one been told, the only adequate response would have been:

“God Forbid!”

I tried consciously to suppress it whenever it occurred to me, but its probability seemed less remote with every one of our visits to the emergency room! It seemed as if it were a certainty, a foreshadowing of an eventuality.

Somehow I knew Ben's mazel, our mazel would run out someday!

Does it seem horrible a parent should have such thoughts about his own child? Maybe so, but I freely admit it did often occur to me. Problem was I just did not know when it would happen! After all, one whose child lives with two chronic diseases and survives innumerable close calls might begin to anticipate the imminence of the last day.

As it happened, Ben did not die either from complications of diabetes or epilepsy, but was fatally struck by a truck while riding his motor scooter for a messenger service. So when his mazel, our mazel did run out-as odd as it may sound-I had already prepared myself emotionally for its inevitability.

Not so strangely, I felt certain Ben had lived a fuller life in fewer years than many would have done in more.


Chapter 7a: Postscript to “Mazel Run Out”

Witnesses claim having seen the truck in the center lane when the driver, without signaling, executed an abrupt right turn into an alley crushing Ben in the process with his rear tires.

One witness testified having seen the driver exit his vehicle to see what had happened and then quickly returned to his cab, drove the truck further into the alley whereupon he turned his right turn signal on.

There is nothing in the reports to indicate he offered any aid or comfort to Ben.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chapter 19: Shomer

Certain acts are best characterized as “selfless” and, as such, are performed without thought of payment or recognition, as if to say:

‘I am doing this because it is the only decent and helpful thing I know to do.’

It is a Kiddush Ha Shem, an act performed to sanctify God's name, signifying:

‘In doing this for you, I expect nothing and will accept nothing in return.’

It is the ultimate act of friendship.

I have such a friend! ...

It happened on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2000 when Ben's mom and I, together with a few family friends, met with the funeral director to make the awful but necessary arrangements to lay our son to his final resting place.

In a way I think the worst part was the purchase of the casket. Our choice was simple. Made from pine, then lacquered and adorned with a Magen David, Star or Shield of David, the sighting of one exactly like it at a friend’s recent funeral brought back memories of that day when the funeral home staff delicately walked us through the casket show room. There was another choice, a simpler design without a lacquered finish, a flat rectangular construction. It reminded me of the caskets shown in the old cowboy movies that always had an undertaker in town.

Ben’s mom looked at me and I at her. Not quite enough we agreed for our beloved Benjamin.

That Thanksgiving was indeed a dreadful one: a quiet, somber but exhausting confusion. With so many suddenly necessary things to do and little time left to accomplish everything before Friday, it became an opportunity in abbreviated time when the angelic reflections of our souls shone brilliantly!

So many of our friends joined in to lend us a helping hand in our time of greatest need. A lady from my synagogue prepared me enough food for several days. A dear friend flew in from Canada. We were all so frenzied, and I recall feelings of surreal suspension which lasted until I heard the first spade of earth hitting the casket.

Our community experienced an ingathering that day, Thursday November 23, 2000 and for many days thereafter-a time when acts of chesed, kindness and gemilus chasadim, acts of loving kindness awakened our finest natures that really did manifest themselves in a common effort to mend that which cannot be fixed and heal that for which there is no cure. Each one comforted the next, quietly dreading the coming morning when would arrive the very last chance to say our ‘goodbyes’, but before which no one was left alone. No one!

A shomer sat next to the casket reading from the Sefer Tehilim, The Book of Psalms, throughout the night.

The soul rising higher...

This particular shomer knew Ben: who he was, where he lived, having conversed with him, seen him seated next to me in shul, discerned a fierce loyalty to family and friends; in sum simply this: the kind of person for whom one prays that his soul have an
aliyah, an ascent to a higher heavenly level.

Earlier that same day, this shomer sat near me while we finalized Ben’s funeral arrangements, whose selflessness later that night comforted me and whose tefilos, prayers, uttered on behalf of my son, I am quite sure, reached the “divine ear!”

I have such a friend!

Thank you Harv!