Friday, December 28, 2007

Dear Readers,

Click here to purchase Snapshots from While you have finished the book, write a brief review and post it on the site.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dear Readers,

Here is a summary of the online sites from which you can purchase copies of Snapshots In

Memory of Ben:

or you may contact me directly at

Thank you,

Alan D. Busch

Monday, December 24, 2007

Dear Friends,

Snapshots is now available for purchase at

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dear Readers,

Please continue to purchase copies of Snapshots In Memory of Ben at

Thank you!

Of the thirty or so chapters of my book, the chapter entitled "The Last Time" underwent the most revisions. Here is a revised ending that will appear in a literary anthology around Pesach 2008. More information forthcoming. In addition, a slight variant of my Succos article that was published in, Stepping into the Sukkah will also appear in the same anthology.

"After I dropped Rabbi Louis off, I was drawn back to my old house where both my heart and younger son Zac were. Ben's mom was home too. I thought of her plaintive cry with all its anguish and horror. It haunted me. I circled the block repeatedly agonizing about what I'd do. I could not forget Ben's house was no longer my home and hadn't been for a year and a half. My dilemma was not over whether I should I go in, but if I could. Ben was our child, Avrum ben Avrum v' Yehudit, and while true we loved him in common, his mom and I could not share the plague of his death as we had the joy of his life.

I drove off to my apartment. .

I stood on the threshold of my door. It was there I had kissed his stubbly cheeks the previous Pesach. Funny what we remember when we remember. I began to sob. Ben, Ben … I spoke to you just hours ago but you died in silence. I'm already lonely for you, forever.

Wednesday, the eve of Thanksgiving 2000, ended quietly together with my world as I had understood it just several hours before. I dozed off a drink or two later hoping the morning might come sooner than it did."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dear Readers,

Good News! Snapshots In Memory of Ben will be available at the Skokie Public Library. Click here. First, it must be processed and catalogued, then put on display with other new acquisitions.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Postscript to Snapshots In Memory of Ben

"Weeping For Loves Lost"

She said I had never grieved for Ben. Now what I think she

may have meant but did not know is my grief for my son hasn't come to

an end, and, to the extent that that is true, I cannot get

on with the rest of my life. Now there is a problem or two with

that point of view: first, let me state unequivocally there is no

end to grief. It is interminable and as much a part of a bereaved

parent's everyday life as heading off to work or tidying up the

house. Grief becomes, in effect, a constant in the equation of

one's routine.

I first mourned our loss of Ben bound by the framework of Jewish law and

custom. I moved onto grief thereafter where I remain.

Grieving for a lost child in not at all like thumbing

through old photos that you put away when you have had

enough. An interminable process, grieving becomes a presence, a part of

oneself, a companion. How each bereaved parent memorializes that presence

is entirely individualized.

I chose to write a book, something, I felt, I needed to do.

Now unless you don't already know, this business of book writing is a protracted

process and, as a matter of fact, consists mostly of

rewriting. Historian William Appleman Williams defined it as the art of applying the seat of

one's pants to the seat of one's chair and remaining there until you

have something on paper. Searching for that precise word,

that ever so elusive turn of phrase that will clinch it for the

reader. Such strivings for that illusive "perfection" take time

and unfathomable amounts of patience. The stakes were and remain high.

My happiness, future, life itself at risk. There were times when I drove myself hard to

finish a chapter, tweak a sentence, give voice to an

amorphous thought. And I know now that regrettably too often

I was driving myself too hard. It is almost as if I had made a pact with the "maloch ha maves"

promising me a reunification of his body and soul if only I could tell my son's story.

Everything and more depended on it.

We each choose a "derech," a road, a way, a path. Yes, and

one can reasonably expect there will be detours, rough

pavement and traffic snarls along the way. While living with

loss, one mustn't forsake the living to memorialize the dead.

There is, in fact, a time and place for everything. My most

difficult challenge has been to strike a balance between living my life

and recalling my son's.

We all know what happens when we lose our balance. That's right ... and

the getting up, you can be sure, is painful indeed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dear Friends,

Click here to learn about my publisher. You can also buy copies of Snapshots In Memory of Ben
by clicking on the bookcover. You'll see it. Before I forget, don't you forget to visit my other blog at

I'm contemplating my second book ... Glimpses, Portraits, Impressions.

Have you ever thought about why select persons with whom you have interacted at varying moments in your life, from fleeting to lengthy periods of time, remain by you forever?

Why this individual and not that one? It may be that The Aibishter sends these melachim to help us along life's path. Think about that. You have your own ...

I'll be posting rough drafts about my melachim ... I welcome any comments.

Lastly, remember to click on to purchase a copy of my first book.

Alan Busch

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dear Readers,

Please click on either of the links below, then scroll down toward the bottom of the homepage where you will see the bookcover for Snapshots In Memory of Ben. Click on the advertisement. You can pay in one of 3 ways:

1. check to author directly. Address is there.

2. credit card

3. paypal

Thank you,

Alan D. Busch

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dear Friends,

During the weeks of 12/10 and 12/17, I will be advertising the sale of Snapshots In Memory of Ben on two Chicago radio station homepages. They are:

WLS AM, News Talk 89,


You will see an advertisement box showing the cover of Snapshots. Click and follow the prompts to make your purchase.
Thank you,
Alan D. Busch

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

Dear Readers,

After reading this review of my book, scroll down to the prior post for instructions about how to place your order for Snapshots In Memory of Ben.

Below find a review of my book Snapshots In Memory of Ben by Adam Donaldson Powell

“Snapshots In Memory of Ben” is an non-fiction book based on real-life experiences, authored by Alan D. Busch, Copyright 2007, 136 pages, 5 x 8, perfect bound, softcover price: US $12.95. Published by Water Forest Press (, New York, USA, ISBN 10: 0-9723493-8-3, ISBN 13: 978-0-9723493-8-3.

“Snapshots In Memory of Ben” will bring tears to your eyes. Many readers will not be able to read the entire book in one sitting, and some may not finish it at all. Normally, I would reserve a so strong opening statement in a book review for a literary masterpiece which glitters with the same emotionally-affective qualities as a masterly painting that has survived countless centuries, or a Hollywood-style film whose success is measured by its ability to get the even the most hardened macho-type viewer to cry tears of happiness and sorrow.

This book is not a work of “fine literature”, nor is it a work of art or a film. However, it contains a most special quality in that it often functions as a successful hybrid of all the aforementioned. It is an honest account of the most painful life experience possible: seeing your own child die before you do. Death is a difficult issue to write about, even for a dramatic novelist, a poet or a psychologist. Death is not only about endings, but also remembrances and the fear of letting go so that new beginnings may begin to take hold. We all know that we need to let go, but the need to cling to the memories from a now-missing part of ourselves which still lives on within us is an overwhelming and indescribable process. And that is precisely what Alan D. Busch has nearly done in a perfect way: to describe that process in a way almost everyone would be able to relate to – regardless of whether they lost their parent(s), wife, husband, lover, partner, child or best friend .. to natural death, an accident or to suicide. He describes both the pain, the difficulty of acceptance, the other-worldliness of the experience, the value and the pain of memories .. and the resolution of the unresolvable (i.e. acceptance of death as a part of Life to be embraced emotionally; and not merely in terms of over-simplified aphorisms).

“Snapshots of My Son: in memory of Ben” is an important book, which is both painful and healing to read .. and impossible for those who do read it to do so without recalling their own personal memories and processes in connection with the passing of loved ones.

Do buy this book. Read it when you are ready to become engaged in your own processes ranging from grief/sorrow/loss to healing. It may take you a while to get through it; and you will most probably read several individual passages over, again and again. It is not easy; it is about Life.

And yes, it would make a good film or television movie.

- review by Adam Donaldson Powell (2007).

ALAN D. BUSCH is an independent writer in Skokie, IL. He has published articles and poetry in Living With Loss, Bereavement Publications, the Chicago Jewish United Fund News Magazine, Passing, An Anthology of Poems by and Alan is married to "Kallah" and is the father of three children: Benjamin, Z'L, Kimberly and Zac.

ADAM DONALDSON POWELL (Norway) is a literary critic and a multilingual author, writing in English, Spanish, French and Norwegian; and a professional visual artist. He has published five books (including collections of poetry, short stories and literary criticism) in the USA, Norway and India, as well as several short and longer works in international literary publications on several continents. He has previously authored theatrical works performed onstage, and he has (to-date) read his poetry at venues in New York City, Oslo (Norway), Buenos Aires and Kathmandu (Nepal).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dear Friends ...

It has been between 4-5 years that I have been writing this book. Tomorrow it goes to the printer! Please contact me, Alan D. Busch, aka, to purchase the book. Total cost of one copy shipped USPS regular service is $12.95 plus $4.00 (shipping) = $16.95. Personal checks are accepted while I pursue the construction of a website with a paypal link.

I am,

Very Sincerely Yours,

Alan D. Busch

Dear Readers,

I announce the publication of my book Snapshots In Memory of Ben by Water Forest Press. You may place an order by emailing me at I am currently looking into websites so the above arrangement is temporary.

Your cost is $12.95 plus $4.00 shipping. Response time will be speedy. Guarenteed! Payment by check is perfectly fine under this temporary arrangement.

I am very pleased to link your attention to a very generous review by liteary scholar Adam Donaldson Powell whom I wish to thank.

As Always,

I thank you,


Friday, November 30, 2007

Dear Readers,

I would be pleased to accept your order for copies of Snapshots. Email me at I guarentee a speedy response. Sales price is $12.95 plus shipping (around $4.00 for regular USPS service) I anticipate the books being ready as early as late December or early January. Thank you in advance. ... copy amd paste into your browser, follow prompts.

Alan D. Busch

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dear Readers,

Copies of Snapshots In Memory of Ben will be available in early January of 2008. You can reserve a copy by emailing me at

New Books On The Horizon:

Snapshots In Memory Of Ben, by Alan D. Busch

Snapshots In Memory of Ben will bring tears to your eyes. Do buy this book. Read it when you are ready to become engaged in your own processes – ranging from grief/sorrow/loss to healing. It may take you a while to get through it; and you will most probably read individual passages over, again and again. This is a book many of us have been waiting to write ourselves. Alan has done it for us.

Adam Donaldson Powell

This is the heart-wrenching, intimate story of love and strength of one divorced Jewish family where the bechor, the older son, has suddenly died. His parents, and two remaining siblings, must recover from the tragedy of their family’s unexpected loss. “During the publication of this book, I took a small step into the world of life and loss of the Busch family. This is a devoted father’s memoir, who although stricken with unimaginable grief, has written in the spirit of celebration of the life of his beautiful son, Benjamin. The author’s words are honest and candid, as he shares family history and relays with impact, the untimely death of his beloved son. A ‘staightforward—deep-from-the-heart-and-soul read.’ For anyone who has or is going through the loss of a loved one, you must read this book.”

Victoria Valentine, Water Forest Press Publisher

Snapshots In Memory Of Ben is a well written memoir of love and loss, appropriate for readers in all age categories, but particularly those readers dealing with members of a young family, struggling with the grief of losing a child. Memoirs take on the appearance of the real, in the way we have loved one another when the life shared in common vanishes. Memoirs appear as the re-presencing of this absence or loss, revealing to us that there is a value in our bereavement to be reclaimed. Writing memoir is one way we tend this soul.

The (re)presence of an absence is a leitmotif running throughout Snapshots In Memory Of Ben. This is the gripping story of one divorced Jewish family where the bechor, the older son, has died. His two remaining siblings, mother and father, must recover from the tragedy of their family’s loss. The puer-senex (father-son) pattern frames the story narration, unfolding the memoir as if a rite of passage through a soul landscape in deep grief, excavating the memoir and scribing it in a kind of writ of passage to which the image title, “Snapshots,” alludes. Just as snapshots in a family photo album illuminate or re ‘tell’ lived stories, in a way that lets our deepest values held sacred in our imaginal life heal us, the telling style of Snapshots In Memory Of Ben reveals a powerful story of human love.


CONTACT: Water Forest Press
A subsidiary of Skyline Publications

C/o Victoria Valentine, publisher and editor
New York, USA

(Published by Water Forest Press, a subsidiary of Skyline Publications, C/o Victoria Valentine, publisher and editor, New York, USA,,
E-mail:; ISBN 10: 0-9723493-8-3, ISBN 13: 978-0-9723493-8-3 )

December 2007 - New York, USA


CONTACT: Water Forest Press
A subsidiary of Skyline Publications

C/o Victoria Valentine, publisher and editor
New York, USA

ALAN D. BUSCH – SNAPSHOTS OF MY SON: in memory of Ben.

“Snapshots of My Son: in memory of Ben” is an non-fiction book based on real-life experiences, authored by Alan D. Busch, Copyright 2007, 116 pages, 5 x 8, perfect bound, softcover price: US $14.95. Published by, New York, USA, ISBN 10: 0-9723493-8-3, ISBN 13: 978-0-9723493-8-3 ).

“Snapshots of My Son: in memory of Ben” will bring tears to your eyes. Many readers will not be able to read the entire book in one sitting, and some may not finish it at all. This non-fiction book has all the innate emotionally-affective qualities of a masterly painting that has survived countless centuries, or a Hollywood-style film whose success is measured by its ability to get the even the most hardened macho-type viewer to cry tears of happiness and sorrow.

“Snapshots of My Son: in memory of Ben” is an important book, which is both painful and healing to read .. and impossible for those who do read it to do so without recalling their own personal memories and processes in connection with the passing of loved ones.

Do buy this book. Read it when you are ready to become engaged in your own process ranging from grief/sorrow/loss to healing. It may take you a while to get through it; and you will most probably read individual passages over, again and again. It is not easy; it is about Life. And yes, it would make a good film or television movie.

Alan D. Busch is an independent writer in Skokie, IL. He has published articles and poetry in Living With Loss, Bereavement Publications, the Chicago Jewish United Fund News Magazine, Passing, An Anthology of Poems by and Alan is married to "Kallah" and is the father of three children: Benjamin, Z'L, Kimberly and Zac.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dear Readers,

Tonight through Monday, Cheshvan 24, is Ben's seventh Hebrew yahrzeit.

Dear Ben,

You have so many friends,

but I'll mention three in particular

who care for and about you even now ...

when you are elsewhere, no longer with us

by our side.

Your first friend is Benzion ...

who turned on your memorial light

in time for davening this morning.

just as he had said he would.

His word is finer than gold.

Do you remember how many of those lights

there are on the southern wall?

Yet he always gets them right.

Your second friend you don't know,

but who knows you.

She's my friend too who

has taught me how to memorialize you better

with every word.

She was worried lest you be forgotten this day!

I assured her that I'd see you.

Your third friend has a heart, Ben, like yours!

Always doing for others.

Were you listening this morning?

Eli and I were there.

Did you hear "Mizmor L' Dovid" and

"Kel Mole Rachomim?"

I'll be in shul today ...

to recite the "evening vespers,"

as Rabbi Louis likes to say,

tongue in cheek.

You remember his sense of humor,

don't you?

It has kept me standing these seven years.

Maariv will be around 5:00.

See you then ...


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dear Readers,

Please go to the above site at, read my article and don't forget to leave a message in the bottom window of the article.

Many thanks,


p.s. there are seven comments there already. We can do better than that, can't we? :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

“Portrait of a Righteous Man”

In memory of my late friend and teacher Mr. Irwin Parker, Isser ben Avrum, Z'L whom I believe was one of the Lamed Vuvniks of this generation.

He stooped forward. The kapos at Mauthausen beat

him severely. The same perpetrators broke his nose

repeatedly. Never reset properly, his nose became

permanently misshapen, its tip out of alignment

with the bridge. Other beatings caused his left eye to

appear as if he were looking at someone else when, in

fact, he was looking at you, but for which one had to

look at his right eye.

Do we ever consider where the other person was

yesterday? What may have happened, what amalgam

of circumstances congealed to bring that person into

our lives today and tomorrow?

I did not meet him the first day I attended, but

within the minyan sat Isser ben Avrum whose

acquaintance I would soon make and friendship

I would cherish forever. Outside the tiny, picturesque

refuge of the minyan, he was called Mr. Irwin Parker,

but he allowed me to call him Reb Isser. Though small

of stature and slight of frame, he was a lion of a man.

Like others of his generation, his life changed

irreversibly when the German blitzkrieg overwhelmed

the Polish defense forces in the weeks following

September 1, 1939. Although Reb Isser survived

Mauthausen, his wife and children did not, but a

handful of souls among the incalculable kedoshim.

He immigrated to America in the early 1950s and

began life anew, remarrying and raising a second


Our friendship may have seemed odd to some, I

suppose, but as a boy, I had learned to rise up before

the hoary head. I brought Reb Isser home one day to

meet my family as if he were a new school chum.

While we sipped tea in the kitchen, I showed him a

photo of my Grandpa Austin to whom he bore an

uncanny likeness. Like my grandfather, he too placed

a sugar cube or two between his lower lip and gum

where it functioned as a filter through which the tea

passed on its way down. More than simply amused by

this quaint custom, I knew it represented nothing less

than a sweet fragment of an old world.

Reb Isser, who had been trained as a

pharmacist in Poland in the years before WW2,

was not, I suppose, an untypical Jew of his day.

Neither a yeshiva bocher by education nor a great

chochem of Gemara, he did attend cheder and

graduated … a mensch. A prototype of chesed, there

were a few in the congregation who did not like him,

many who loved him, but I dare say not a single soul

who did not respect him. Had you known him as I did

and seen how he interacted with other members of the

shul, how he commanded their respect-not by the

arrogance of scholarship or the external, often

superficial signs of piety-but by the kavod they

accorded him and which he characteristically

rejected, you would have concurred that his was a

yiddishe kop but never a swollen head.

His middot were such that he naturally greeted

everyone with a smile and an extended hand. I

gravitated toward him like an iron filing in search of a

magnet. He became my teacher in the ways of

Yiddishkeit when I was forty years old and he in his

late seventies or early eighties. For reasons he never

explained, he took me under his wing and taught me

siddur, tallis and t’filin. Though I would have preferred

to learn in private, what he may have lacked in

delicacy he more than made up in generosity.

One summer evening before Mincha, Reb Isser

reached into the cabinet below the reading table and

pulled out a small blue velvet bag containing an aged

pair of t’filin.

“Roll up your sleeve,” he nodded toward my left arm.

“Slip your arm through this loop and slide it up to your bicep.”

“Like this?’ I wondered, my legs shaking.

“No, no. You see this knot? It has to be on the inside facing your heart.”

“Oh, okay. I got it.”

We tightened the slip knot to my bicep, wound the

black leather strap seven times around my forearm

and recited the brocho. In comparison, donning the

rosh was much easier.

How does one dispute such a man or turn down his

invitation to impart treasures from the old world?

I was being shown the ways of our fathers by a

righteous man who had survived their worst travails.

How did I merit this gift? Perhaps Reb Isser saw in me

a fledgling fallen from the nest or a reminder of

someone he had lost in his first life. Frankly, I do not

know, but I remain grateful to this man and his


Even the most cursory of examinations would

demonstrate that Reb Isser bore the weight of moral

authority-in whose person resided indisputable proof

that a new pharaoh arises to destroy us in each

generation. He was the handiwork of The One Above

whose unfathomable ways are revealed in individuals,

such as Reb Isser. His amazing life of courage and

survival would be otherwise inexplicable. A tough,

gentle soul, he was, I believe, one of His original

prototypes of which there have been few copies.

“ukshartam l'os al yadecha v'hayu letotafos bane einecha.”

So reads the memorial leaf I dedicated to his memory

on the Etz Chaim in my shul. Isser ben Avrum, Z’L

passed away on erev Rosh Ha Shanah, 2000.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Casket ...

Dear Friends ... I am currently revising the entire text of In Memory of Ben. I am thinking of renaming the book Snapshots of My Son, In Memory of Ben. We are just 13 days from the 7th yahrzeit of Ben's passing. The other day, I was looking for a pair of shoes in my closet. The shoes I did not find, but I did find a picture of Ben I had not seen in a while. He was probably around 20 years old when the photo was taken, and it was an especially good one of Ben. It may sound saccharine, but I sure do miss him.

It is unlike anything else you have ever purchased. When I

saw the same casket at the recent funeral of a friend, I was

reminded of the morning at Weinstein Family Services when its staff

accompanied me and my wife through its casket showroom. I

wondered what it must be like to have to sell a casket to

bereaved parents.

We chose one characterized by the dignity of its simplicity.

Beautifully lacquered and adorned with a Magen David, it

seemed to reflect the kind of person Ben himself had been-

neither too plain nor ostentatious. There was a variety of more

expensive choices but only one other casket caught my

attention. It was nothing more than a plain unfinished box.

One grade lower than the one we chose, it looked like the

caskets the town undertaker crafted in the old westerns we

watched as children. Ben’s mom and I looked at each other. Not

quite enough we agreed for our beloved Benjamin.

Thanksgiving Day was unlike any other my family had

ever experienced, surreal, frenzied though with an inexplicable calm

that enabled us to complete the many urgent tasks I feared we would not finish

before the funeral on Friday morning. Our many

friends lent their helping hands in the time of our greatest need and

experienced an ingathering of souls. Everyone huddled

together in an effort to mend the irreparable tear in the fabric of our

lives and heal the wound we had all sustained just hours before.

The angelic reflections of our souls shone brilliantly.

We sat opposite the funeral director and, together with

several of our closest friends, made the awful arrangements

to lay our son in his final resting place. Our world had ended

catastrophically the day before on the eve of Thanksgiving

when Ben was fatally struck by a truck. He died two hours

later in the emergency room at Cook County Hospital.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dear Readers,

I am currently in process of revising all of the chapters of In Memory of
Ben. My goal as always is to say things better with fewer words but more cleverly so that at the end you'll be nodding your head in agreement and muttering how right I am ... or, at least I hope that is what is going to happen.

There are those who say they are in a "Better Place …”

It is not easy to console a mourner. Consolers mean well. It’s

just this figure of speech-you know the one about being in a better place-is trite

and hackneyed however sincerely it may be uttered. If ever consolers have any doubt

about what to say or how to say it, I recommend they hug more and speak less. Never

fails. We could provide genuine comfort if only we remembered silence is

a better communicator of our sympathy than are poorly chosen words.

Though he had not suffered the loss of a child, I tried to comfort

my friend who had just lost his father.

“I knew your dad as a fine gentleman," I said softly, trying to

to sit comfortably on the floor.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“We shared many meals together over the course of ten years at the

Rabbi’s Shabbos tish,” I added, “but he used to say one thing that

distinguished him from everyone else in the congregation,” I related,

hoping to elicit a tiny smile.

“Oh … what was it?”

“Your father was the only one to call me by my Hebrew name Avrum

ben Avrum.” His son smiled appreciatively.

Time does not heal all wounds as many consolers claim. It is for

this reason Jewish law wisely restricts time spent in mourning.

Unlike its public nature, grief is a private matter and quite capable

of overwhelming parents who fail to fashion a cheshbon between

themselves and God.

Author and bereaved father John Gunther in his chronicle

Death Be Not Proud documents the heroic but futile struggle of his son against brain

cancer. In a provocative postscript, Frances, the author’s

estranged wife, expresses doubt about whether she loved her

son Johnny as much as she could have. Naturally, this led me

to wonder if I could have loved Ben more. The trust she had

placed in God strengthened her to resist the temptation to cast

blame for her son’s death at anyone’s doorstep. Instead,

Francis ponders two alternative approaches that might have saved

her son. She argues Johnny should not have been sent to boarding school

but kept at home where he would have been more comfortable.

Secondly, he might not have died from brain cancer had she and

her husband saved their marriage.

While it is understandable bereaved parents may feel guilty

about mistakes they may have made, is Johnny’s brain tumor

attributable to his parents’ failure to save their marriage? Is he his

parents’ victim? While we can sympathize with her mea culpa we

cannot truthfully attribute Johnny’s death to the poor choices she

and her husband may have made.

Although the Ribon shel Olam governs the occurrence of

human tragedy, we would commit spiritual suicide if we

believe that He denies life to children.

Whether our affliction is sickness, misfortune in business

or the premature death of a loved one, we can avoid the abyss of apostasy by

trusting in God’s attribute of rachomim . There is a limit to what we can do to

avoid bad tidings. Notwithstanding the precautions we take, tragedy may befall us.

Should I believe God chose Ben? Had that happened, how could I

believe in a vengeful and capricious god? Sure it's reasonable to look back and

say "I should have done this differently. If only I had been less concerned with 'a'

as opposed to ‘b’, things might have turned out more to my liking.”

However truthful this supposition, it does not follow that had

conditions been different, their outcomes would have been

better. I acknowledge Ben might have suffered a fatal injury

that day had he never suffered any chronic illness.

The heart of this matter is life will always be precious,

exceedingly delicate and precarious by its very nature! That when

we proclaim: “L'Chaim” we are not making a banal toast as some

may think. Rather do we remain obligated to be always

mindful of the sanctity of our lives and to live them b'simcha.

Alan D. Busch

Revised 10/14/07

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dear Readers,

The following is a revision of "Bais Shel Emes" excerpted from In Memory of Ben. I would ask my readers whom I appreciate and thank for their on-going readership to be aware today and tomorrow are Rosh Chodesh Marcheshvan during which we will commemorate the seventh Yahrzeit of Benjamin Z'L on Cheshvan 24 corresponding to the 5th of November.
Bais Shel Emes

I had been feeling down for several days, and I did not know why.

“Maybe I’ll feel better,” I muttered to myself. “After all, he’s not too

far away.” So, I decided to gather up a few cleaning supplies with

which to wipe down the headstone and set out to visit Ben.

Man does not know when the morning of his final awakening will

be. His days are finite. This he understands. Before November 22,

2000, I was aware my son’s days were numbered. I somehow knew this,

that his mazal would run out. Over the course of these seven years,

I have learned to live without him. Despite the unfairness of losing a child, I

believe He governs the universe with rachomim and din.

The approach to the grave along the winding path fills me with a

mixture of dread, anticipation and slight physical symptoms. I stand

before his parcel of earth both assured and numbed by the irreversible

reality of his death. It is a curiosity of human behavior that people talk

to their loved ones when standing before their graves. I do it too. I

mean there is only so much one can do. What else is there that can be done?

If only I could come closer.

You can’t “listen” because the other does not actually speak to you.

So, try listening to your imagination ...

“Ah, Ben. It’s been a while. I apologize,” I begin.

“Oh, that’s okay, Dad. No problem,” characteristically generous

in letting me off the hook.

“You know Ben … while standing here, I think of some of my favorite

moments to tell you and picture you as you, as we, were.

“Like what? Oh, wait! I bet you’re thinking of the Radio Flyer red

wagon, right?” thinking he had gotten the best of me. “Yea, I

remember that too. Kimmy sat in front of me and I held on to her

from behind,” he recalls appreciatively.

“Yea, that was good. ‘Member’ how I used to fix Kimmy’s hair like

Pebbles on The Flintstones?” I relished that reminiscence particularly.

“Yea, that was funny. You really liked

"dragging" us around a lot, didn’t ya?”

“I sure did. I would purposely seek out clumps of people who would

tell me how beautiful my kids were.” Ben blushed quietly.

“Listen Ben, I gotta go. Talk again?”

“Sure, Dad,” he replied agreeably.

It feels like you’ve hung up the phone. I do not linger much

longer. I tidy up the area around the headstone and read three

chapters from Sefer Tehilim.

It may seem macabre, but it comforts me to know where

Ben is and has gone. I’ll even venture a remark that may seem odd to some.

As strong a pull as it is to stand before Ben’s grave, I struggle at times to

sense his presence. Oh yes. I know his body is beneath my feet,

but that’s just it. Ben’s body remains, but his neshuma,

his soul, is elsewhere. Where it is, well … that’s anyone’s

guess; it’s in the Olam Haba, floating-as it were-like a feather

caught up in the draft of God’s exhalation-or somewhere in

shamayim waiting for another aliyah that’ll bring him closer to

God. But such is the paltriness of our conception, as if it were

possible to approach Him, The Infinite Holy One. For that

would imply physicality, finiteness of which He has none. Even

the “He of Him” implies a ring of closure around our

conception of what God is and where.

His body lies under the headstone: "Avrum ben Avrum v' Yehudit, Benjamin, son

of Alan and Janine.”

Therein lies the essence of the bais shel emes. For as long

as the body is alive-though temporal in time and being-the soul

dwells therein. When the body dies, the soul departs, and with that,

the spark of life flickers out. The body itself becomes cold. We then

return it to the dust from which God fashioned Adom Ha Rishon.

His death has diminished us. Bridging the chasm between us has

become my futile challenge.I leave the cemetery feeling empty, desolate …


October 12, 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dear Readers,

This is a revision of a chapter excerpted from In Memory of Ben

Lessons Learned Late

I announced I would not eat the matzoh ball soup.

My wife had been preparing the seder meal in the

same manner she had always done. The tension

between us had been simmering for some time when

the pot boiled over the afternoon of Erev Pesach. I

could not have chosen a worse time to make such an

announcement had I tried.

At issue was a can of treif chicken broth, but that

alone was only the tip of the iceberg. Given the state of

our marital affairs, the last thing we needed was to be

arguing about kashrus.

“Must you use that particular broth?” I asked her,

wishing I had kept my mouth shut, but I kept on.

“Folks should be able to reasonably expect they will

enjoy a kosher meal on Passover at the very least.”

“What are you talking about?” she shot back. “It

makes no difference because our kitchen is not

kosher,” she reminded me-a fact that my daughter

would echo in several minutes.


I had been brought up in a Reform environment. My

wife and I chose it within which to raise our children.

My contentment with Reform, however, began to wane

when I began pursuing my religious agenda. I joined a

traditional minyan and began learning with the rabbi

as part of a Federation program to broaden Jewish

literacy. For the first time ever, I felt excited about

Jewish learning. Missing though was any guidance

about how to bring this new knowledge home without

disrupting my family.

Choosing to become observant requires changes

that reach to the deepest roots of family life.

It is a team undertaking and no one parent can impose it on his family.

Even under the most optimal ofcircumstances, additions to

home ritual observance are best approached gradually. Family members can

then learn the content of the new practice and enjoy

time enough to assimilate it into their routines. The

bottom line is family members can deepen their

observance only by taking manageable steps together.


My wife was opposed to kashering our kitchen

because she knew it would lead to a more observant

Jewish lifestyle she wanted neither for herself nor for

our family. I was so busy pursuing my personal

religious odyssey I failed to recognize the danger it

posed to my marriage. None of us was ready for a

religious makeover.

The worst part of this Erev Pesach arrived

when my daughter Kimberly confronted me on the

steps leading to her room.

“Dad!” I could see steam coming out of her ears!

“Uh, oh!” I knew that look on her face.

“You have ruined Passover for me and the family,” she

vehemently asserted. Her voice became louder but

then cracked a bit.

“Sweetheart, I am trying …” proclaiming my


“Oh, I know what you are `trying’ to do. I see the

groceries you bring home. All kosher. I see it.” I stood

in silence and listened to her rebuke. No one had ever

been so passionately angry with me. Always ready,

willing and able to express herself, Kimberly attacked

my insistence that only kosher food be served at seder-

labeling it “an absurd contradiction.” I could say

nothing in my defense. She and her mom were correct.

What was the point of pursuing a kosher agenda if not

done properly and without the assent of my family?

While true my family did not know the halachos of

Pesach, we had always enjoyed its spirit at our seders.

I poisoned that spirit. This regrettable incident should

have been a wake-up call for me. The truth is I

remained “asleep” on a path strewn with stumbling


Older eyes often need assistance to see things more

clearly. Mine certainly did. I sat with Kimberly one

afternoon in my mother’s kitchen not long after

her mother and I had divorced. I continued to struggle

with observance and my family’s exasperation with


“Alan,” my mother advised, “Please listen to your

daughter. She loves you and wants only the best for


“Dad, your clothes: that suit, that black hat: they

make you look like an old man! And shave your

scraggly beard! Your beliefs are your own. Your

observance may work for you, but it doesn’t for me.”

”Alan,” my mother chimed in. “Young girls want to be

proud of their dads, not embarrassed by their

appearance. You’re so nice-looking. Why do you have

to dress like an old man?” echoing a sentiment

Kimberly’s mom used to say all too often. I sat there in

silence as I had done on Erev Pesach. A few tears fell

from my daughter’s eyes.

This was such a confusing set of issues. There were

so many things I wanted. Kimberly showed me that I

could not have them all without making some

accommodations when my level of observance

was at odds with my family and children.

I would find a way to live observantly without jeopardizing their


Alan D. Busch


Figure 1. Alan Dear,
Please remember family first. Nothing else is as important. Love you, Mom. Be well.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The pain of a broken heart is reminiscent of bereavement.

My marriage to Kallah ended after a brief fifteen months, a mournful

experience not unlike the personal grief from which I have suffered since

November of 2000 when my first-born child Benjamin died.

The three weeks prior to Tisha B' Av is a period of time when we deny

ourselves many enjoyments and comforts culminating in this solemn

fast day characterized by the reading of the Book of Lamentations, a communal

mourning for the destruction of the Beis Ha Mikdash and a heightened awareness of

our Jewish national identity. Our tradition holds that many other historical

tragedies also befell the Jewish people on this joyless day.

It happened toward the end of the “Nine Days.” Minyan was scheduled

for 8:00 that evening. Arriving about fifteen minutes early, I saw an elderly

man sitting in the social hall. He appeared to be preoccupied though

patiently awaiting Mincha. He looked sad, so I approached him with a


"Good evening, Sir.”

"Good evening," he responded, seemingly happy someone had stopped

by to chat with him.

“I was worried we would not have a minyan. It's nearly 8:00 o’clock

now, and I've yahrzeit for Maariv.”

"Oh," I sought to quickly reassure him. "We'll have a minyan.

Guaranteed. Please do not worry about that. Your name is, Sir?”

"Talisman, Irving Talisman," he said. I saw he had almost said "Yitzhak," his

Hebrew name, but did not. I looked at him intently. He was dressed in casual slacks,

a pale yellow golf shirt and a perspiration stained cap. His focus on my words

suggested that he was a bit hard of hearing. "Reb Talisman, for your wife, your

parents you have yahrzeit?”

He twisted his left forearm over with the assistance of his right hand

revealing six green numbers. I was speechless. I had seen such tattoos before, but

the manner in which he exposed it staggered me. His quiet, dignity left me unsure

if he bore it as a badge of honor or shame. He looked up at me with glistening eyes

and whispered "my parents.” His eyes, sunken and sallow, were underscored by dark

rings, an image almost as indelible as his horrific tattoo. I wanted to take

care of this man.

"This way, Reb Talisman," inviting him toward the Rabbi Aron & Rebbitzen Ella

Soloveitchik Beis Ha Medrash. I accompanied him down the hallway. Together we

opened the door. Reb Talisman paused. "Should we enter? There seems to be a bar

mitzvah lesson going on." Indeed there was.

Looking quite grumpy after a typically long day of meetings, Rabbi Louis

was finishing up with the bar mitzvah bocher after learning that a ceiling ballast

had blown out. It was an especially busy night at shul. The sisterhood was holding a

program and the junior minyan was learning with the Rabbi’s son. Seeing that I was

escorting an elderly gentleman to minyan, Rabbi saved his upset for the next two

hapless fellows who followed us in after we had shut the door.

"Close it!” Rabbi barked.

"Abba, it’s 8:05, time for Mincha. We have a minyan," announced Rabbi’s older son

who, as it happened, was one of the two who came in after us.

I directed Reb Talisman toward the one chair unlike any other in the beis

medrash, a comfortable seat though not of the stackable variety, well-cushioned and

distinctively but peculiarly pink in color. It had been the favorite of Reb Helman,

the late father of Rabbi Louis's wife Saretta. When I turned to check on him

however, he had chosen to sit by the “omed” opposite the Ark.

“No problem,” I thought, "as long as he’s comfortable.”

Rabbi Louis gave a klop on his shtender. "Ashrei yoshvei v'secha,” we davened

Mincha after which he lectured about the laws of Tisha B’ Av. Several minutes

later, we prayed the Maariv service, but, by which time, I had lost all my

concentration. Now I know one should look to the heavens should he feel his devotion

waning, but I simply could not. I was thinking of Kallah. She filled my head, and I

knew she'd not be there when I arrived back home. I closed my siddur and stared out

the window.

"Maybe she'll pass by," I mused, "or drop in to see me." I turned to the doorway

thinking I had heard a feminine voice.

“Oh … just one of the younger guys,” I muttered to myself.

"Amen. Yehey shmey rabba …” The beis medrash emptied. I escorted Reb Talisman to his


"Good night, Sir," I smiled.

"Good night," he said.

I touched his arm comfortingly and watched as he got in his car and drove

away. I fumbled for my keys. "There surely has to be a lesson here," I reflected,

turning on the ignition. During the minute that it took me to drive home, I

fantasized about seeing her car in the driveway, but then realized

The One Above had sent Reb Talisman to remind me others are

grieving too. An act of chesed brought a smile to an elderly Jew.

How I would have liked to share this story with her … perhaps tomorrow.

Alan D. Busch

Revised 10/03/07

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear Readers,

May you and your family enjoy a Sweet, Happy and Healthy New Year!

May you and yours be joyous on this "zman simchasenu!"

Alan, Kallah, Benjamin Z'L, Kimberly and Zac Busch

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dear Readers,

Please copy and paste this link to read my newly-published article in

Thank you,


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dear Readers,

Please find a story for Succos that I hope will be published by

The richness of Jewish life had somehow eluded me

in my childhood. I was left so unschooled that I could not

distinguish between Shabbos and Shavuos or differentiate a

siddur from a chumash. However, as little background as I had

had, my youth was not entirely barren of Jewish experiences.

We gathered at my Aunt Iris and Uncle Marvin’s house for our

one seder on the Eve of Passover, knew enough to eat matzoh,

read the story of our exodus in the “Haggadah shel Maxwell

House,” feasted on Rosh Ha Shanah and broke the fast of Yom

Kippur. I recall fondly how my mother “lit Hanukkah candles” by

plugging in an electric menorah. No brachos, no songs, we didn’t

know any. In other words, my childhood did not lack the threads

so much as it did the fabric of Jewish life.

Many years later, my wife, children and I moved into West

Rogers Park, an orthodox neighborhood on Chicago’s far north

side. My Jewish identity although thoroughly secular in nature,

slowly began to awaken to the “segula” of Jewish religious

tradition, but it was not until after I had attended the

Goldmeyers’ bar mitzvah of their first-born son, that I became

aware of some of what I had missed in my childhood.

While I delighted in walking to an orthodox shul for the first

time together with many of my neighbors on the Shabbat morning

of the bar mitzvah, my anxiety-together with an equal measure

of intimidation-gave rise to a classic case of the butterflies. My

feelings were borne out when the seeming mayhem of orthodox

shul dynamics swallowed me up. In short, I was clueless. Taking a

seat as far back as I could, I opened a siddur and found Hebrew

text only, much to my dismay. With both seats on either side of

me occupied, I placed it on the floor under my chair.

No sooner had I done so that the gentleman, seated to my

right, reached under my chair and retrieved the mislaid siddur.

“This is yours?” he asked, waving it gently but a bit too closely in

front of my nose.

“Well, I … uh,” I stumbled inarticulately, feeling guilty but unsure

of the charge.

“This book contains G-d’s name. We do not put it on the floor,” he

said with a gentle reproach.

“Thank you,” I whispered, grateful he had been discrete.

“No offense taken, a gentle slap on the wrist was all it was,” I

reassured myself.

Though I hadn ’t even begun in earnest to trod the path of

religious observance, I was confident I would learn the ropes in

time. For the time being, I would remain what I thought was the

quintessential Jewish outsider. However, having gotten my feet

wet in shul that Shabbos morning, I soon found myself immersed

in a sink or swim situation.

It was the early afternoon of Shabbos Chol Ha Moed Succos

when- while reading on my back porch with my feet perched atop

the railing-that I happened to look up momentarily to espy my

neighbor Rabbi Twersky walking through the alley. Donning a

double-breasted black kaftan and streimel, but appearing

troubled by the way he was fiddling with his peyos, I would

never have imagined it.

“He’s coming over here,” I muttered in disbelief.

I watched as he entered through my back gate. Nearly

falling backwards off my chair, I alighted and flew down the back

porch steps to greet him.

“Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi,” I said, extending my hand in

Shabbos courtesy but feeling somewhat annoyed with myself for

not wearing as much as a baseball cap. “Then again, better that he

should see me as I really am without any pretense of observance,”

I reasoned.

“Good Shabbos. Mr. Busch, I have a problem,” he confided in

me. “Rabbi Twersky has a problem and he’s coming to me,’” I

thought to myself, more than slightly bewildered.

“Uh … how can I help you, Rabbi?” I offered.

“Some sechach has fallen from the roof of my sukkah, but I

am forbidden to touch it on Shabbos,” he said, tilting his streimel

back from his forehead.

“Some what?” I asked.

“Sechach, an evergreen branch,” he clarified.

“Oh no problem, Rabbi. I’ll pick it up,” I said.

“No, he exclaimed. “You are a Jew. You may not touch it


“Oh wow! Okay,” slightly taken aback by his vehemence,

though flattered he had acknowledged me as a Jew.

“I’ll take care of the problem, Rabbi,” I assured him. Turning

away, I ran up the steps, paused on the first landing and saw his

countenance had brightened noticeably. He left through the same

gate secure, it seemed, in my promise. Unbeknownst to Rabbi

Twersky was that Tom, a gentile workman, was reglazing the

bathtub in my apartment.

“Uh, Tom, d’ya have a minute?”

“Sure. What’s up?” wiping away an errant bead of perspiration.

Without the halachic knowledge to fashion a suitable

explanation, I asked Tom if he wouldn’t mind lending a hand.

“No problem,” he said. “I’m glad to help out.”

Worried Rabbi Twersky would disapprove should he learn I was

employing Tom on Shabbos, I felt a sense of dread when standing

outside the entranceway to his sukkah. I took a deep breath and


The scent of an esrog permeated the tabernacle. Gourds and

dried fruit dangled overhead. Portraits of aged rabbinic sages

aside childish depictions of the Kotel enhanced the otherwise

drab blue plastic interior. The “ushpizin” bid us feel at home. Bent

over a Talmudic folio sat Rabbi Twersky whose glasses had

slipped to the tip of his nose.

“Rabbi, this is my friend Tom.”

“Boruch Ha Shem,” he exclaimed with a broad smile.

“Bruchim habayim. Uh … welcome!” shot out the translation.

“That’s the one there,” I said to Tom who, using a folding chair,

replaced the errant branch atop the latticework.

“Okay, got it,” Tom announced proudly.

“Boruch Ha Shem,” rejoiced Rabbi Twersky who at that precise

moment reminded me of his five-year old son Sholem to whom,

along with other neighborhood kids, I used to read stories on

Shabbos afternoons.

The following morning, my neighbors hastened to celebrate

Hoshana Rabba. Watching them clutch their “arba minim” on their

way to shul, I recalled: “No! You are a Jew. You may not touch it

either” and realized then I had already found my own “pri etz


Alan D. Busch
Revised 9/18/07

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dear Readers,

I post this chapter from In Memory of Ben a few hours before erev yontiff, 5768. I wish all of my family and friends a sweet, happy and healthy New Year.


Alan, Kallah, Benjamin Z'L, Kimberly and Zac Busch

“Ha gomel l’hayavim tovos …”

My mood swings pendulously as we approach the season of

the Yomim Noraim. Starting with the renewal of hope that

Rosh Ha Shanah connotes and ending with the trepidation of

Yom Kippur, I cannot but probe this time of year, the special

nature of which we devote to personal reflection, fasting and


While true we do not know the names of those who will be

inscribed and sealed in the Sefer Chaim when Yom

Kippur is over, the din of these existential matters belongs

exclusively to the Dayan Emes, whose province lies beyond

that which Rabbi Louis calls “the inquisitive grasp of man.”

However, we pray our tefilos, tzedaka and tshuva are of

sufficient merit to avert the evil decree and spare us the pain

of personal tragedy.

How should we explain “near misses” with death, when it

could have very conceivably gone the other way? Can we

explain them rationally or should we define them as miracles

and be done with it? If as miracles, they are different than

the miraculous inversions of nature found in the

Torah or the innumerable miracles we encounter daily:

sunrise, the birth of a child, night from day-all of which we

like to call the wonders of “nature”. What about blind luck, the

roll of the dice or random chaos?

Should everyone believe that The One Above governs the

world? Would it not be better were every knee to bend and

every tongue give homage? Perhaps but with this essential

caveat: faith does not guarantee against tragedy, but what it

does do is strengthen us when we are most in need of

assistance, comfort, and protection from apostasy. As

frustrating a reality as it is, bad things befall all kinds of

people. The nature of human powerlessness only begins to

make sense when we acknowledge that He alone governs the

world in ways we neither understand nor like at times.

The day at work was much like the one before: a busy

morning, phones ringing steadily, a brisk pace. I took the next


“Mr. Busch?” a woman’s voice asked. A stranger spoke. I

listened. Something about her tone, her almost official,

business-like approach, all too familiar-I began to tremble.

“No! This can’t be happening, Please God …,” I prayed. “Yes,

this is Mr. Busch,” I replied, wishing I were not.

“My name is Ann and I have just left your daughter Kimberly,”

she said calmly.

“Is she alright, is she hurt, tell me where she is,” I


“Mr. Busch, she is fine. Really! We’re about eighty miles south

of Chicago by Pontiac. Kimberly was involved in an accident,

but she is unhurt, not a scratch.”

“Kimmy, in an accident. Oy Got! Unhurt! Thank God!”

“Yes, that’s right. She’s fine. I’ve already left the scene, but I

promised her I’d call you as soon as the police arrived and felt

confident she was okay.”

“Well, wha … what happened?”

While on her way to Chicago, Ann witnessed a collision on

the interstate. Pulling over to help out however she could, she

came across my daughter Kimberly who-we later learned- had

lost control of her steering wheel when an eighteen-wheeler

she was attempting to pass forced her onto the shoulder of

the passing lane. Crossing the grassy median, Kimberly struck

a van headed in the opposite direction.

By this point in Anne’s narration, my heart was racing so

Much, my head pounding so violently, I could barely contain

myself. Even though Anne emphatically stressed and

reiterated that Kimmy was unhurt, I couldn’t prevent

flashbacks of Ben’s last day rushing into my head.

“Listen Ann, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You can’t

imagine what your good news means to me. Really and truly.”

“Oh, you’re welcome Mr. Busch. I’m just glad she’s okay.”

I hung up the telephone hurriedly and only then realized I had

forgotten to write down her name and number.

I called Kimberly’s mother. With as much calm as I was

able to feign, I cut to the end of the story.

“Jan, hi. It’s Alan. Sorry to call at work but it’s urgent,” I


“What is it?” she asked with trepidation.

Whenever I think about my kids in dire and dangerous

situations, my voice begins to falter.

“Jan, Kimmy was in an accident, but she’s fine, completely

unhurt,” I hastened to emphasize.

“Kimmy, what? An accident!? No, not Kimmy … she cried out,

her voice choked with emotion.

Listen to me, hon, “I reassured her,” calling her by an old term

of endearment.

“Kimberly is safe and unhurt,” I reassured her. “She’ll tell

ya everything later. Listen I’m leaving to get her right now.

Talk later,” I said, gathering my things, ready to run out. I

looked at the digital clock atop my old desk radio. It was

already after 3:00. With barely the time and breath to inform

my co-workers about what had happened, I raced away.

Although Anne had assured me Kimmy was okay, I called

the cell number she had given me of the state trooper who was

at the scene. Exceedingly kind and understanding of a father’s

worriment, she patiently humored me while I asked after

Kimmy’s status unabatedly.

Within an hour, having exceeded the speed limit for which,

if stopped, I had prepared an explanation, I found Kimberly

waiting for me in front of the service station that had towed

her car. Kimmy was anxious to leave immediately, but I

needed a few minutes. So before heading home, I tried the

driver’s side door. Amazingly it opened cleanly. I sat down.

Never having seen an airbag deployed, I slumped there

dumbfounded, gapping incredulously at what just hours

before had been a sporty red convertible Toyota. The front end

of the car was “accordioned” within several inches of the


“Dad, are you ready?” Kimmy asked impatiently.

“Yes Babe,” I replied, struggling to not break down in front of

my daughter. “Let’s go Sweetypie.” I had so many syrupy

names for her. We drove home mostly in silence.

Understandably, Kimmy was skittish, jumpy, every time I

applied the brake or switched lanes. Who knows how many

times she must have rerun the whole thing in her mind on our

way home together.

“Kimmy Babe?” I asked, calling her by one of my favorites. “Ya


“Yes, Dad, just beat,” she exhaustively uttered.

“Yea, I know,” I added with just the right amount “Daddy”

sympathy. I dropped her off at her mom’s house, my heart

sinking, but here she was … safe and sound.

Why was Kimberly saved? I don’t have an answer anymore

now than I did before when I asked why Ben was not

saved. It was unanswerable then as it remains now.

The following Friday, I invited Kimmy along with her boyfriend

for dinner Erev Shabbat. Zac was there too as was my

fiancé. The table, beautifully set, awaited us: its candles

aglow. It is my custom to light a ner nechuma for my son Ben

every Friday night before Shabbes begins … sort of bridging

the distance between us. We sat.

“Kimuschkele,” my voice cracking as I try to get the words out

of a short speech.

“Yes BBDO,” she responded half grinningly, half tearfully.
(BBDO=Big Bad Daddyo)

“This Shabbat is extra special,” I said, addressing everyone but looking at my daughter.

“We say ‘Hodu la Adoshem ki tov, ki le’olam chasdo’ because

of all nights, I am especially thankful tonight to have you by

my side.” Lifting the kiddush cup, a slight tremble animated

my right hand. I let a moment pass, not a peep was uttered.

Ben’s lamp seemed to flicker more brightly, illuminating the

serpentine path of a single drop of wine running down my


“Vayahe erev, vayahe voker,” I sanctified the wine.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Dear Readers,

The Chicago Jewish Federation in its news magazine published this version of the opening chapter of my manuscript In Memory of Ben. Unfortunately, the editors used the wrong revision, but this is not too terribly different though the final draft is somewhat longer containing more dialogue. In any event, I am pleased that the editors saw fit to publish this tiny bit of Ben's story.

May all who come to this blog by design or chance enjoy a sweet, healthy and happy NEW YEAR!

Before I forget, the November 1, 2007 edition of Bereavement Publications Living With Loss will feature another chapter of In Memory of Ben, entitled "Every Day is Thanksgiving"

JUF News
Arts & Entertainment

In Memory of Ben

By Alan Busch

EDITOR'S NOTE: On Yom Kippur it is customary for Jews to recite Yizkor, (memorial prayers, but literally meaning "May He remember") for loved ones who have died. It is in that spirit that we offer the following piece, written by Alan Busch, a congregant of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Kesser Maariv Anshe Luknik, who continues to mourn the loss of his son, Ben. JUF News thanks Rabbi Louis Lazovsky for bringing this story to our attention.

An act of divine kindness made it possible for me to spend several minutes with my son Benjamin in what became our last time together.

Forgetting the night before to set his alarm, Ben woke up late for work, hurriedly got dressed and ran to catch the bus. As fortune would have it, he spotted my car parked at the dry cleaners and caught me just in time. Had I not dropped my laundry off that morning, I might not have seen him again. As I turned to leave, there he was, waiting behind me with a broad smile of anticipation.

“Dad, can you give me a lift to the train?”

Always regretful whenever I had not seen Ben for several days, any opportunity to be with him delighted me. After I moved out of my home in July of 1999, there were times when I did not see him as often as I would have liked. Together we drove to the train. As I recall, our last conversation went something like this:

“How are you, Ben?”

“Fine, Dad. You?”

“Okay. How are you?”


“You feeling good?”


I turned into a parking lot across the street from the station. Checking to see that the latch on his messenger bag was securely fastened, he opened the passenger door.

As always, I asked him: “Do you have money on you?”

“Yes, Dad. Seeya’ later!”

“Be safe!”

The day at work would be, I thought, like any other. If only it had been! The phones rang all morning. Business was brisk! It was just before noon when I answered the next call. I heard the voice of a stranger. Identifying himself as a trauma surgeon in the emergency department of Cook County Hospital, he told me Ben had survived a nearly fatal traffic accident, but with critical injuries which required immediate surgical intervention. He “suggested” I come to the hospital as soon as possible.

“Suggested? I knew what he meant! Suffice to say, I knew how this day would end.” A myriad of frightful thoughts filled my head in a state of controlled desperation as I sped away to the hospital. The grave tone of the doctor’s voice convinced me the dreaded day which I had anticipated for years arrived this day.

After being fortunate enough to find parking two blocks away, I ran to the emergency department, whereupon I identified myself to the first nurse I encountered. She escorted me hurriedly to the surgeon, to whom I gave parental authorization, when asked, to employ all measures to save Ben. I expressed my wish to witness the efforts of the trauma team while it did everything in its power to save him.

Standing alongside my father, who arrived within minutes after I called, we stood witness to a desperate, ultimately futile effort almost within our grasp.

During these agonizing moments, I discovered a previously unknown facet of my father. Next to me stood a desperate man who was praying for the life of my son. Holding his hands overhead with palms flattened against the glass partition while holding back a torrent of tears, he pled with The Almighty for immediate intervention. In Ben’s declining seconds, while yet flickered a spark of life, my father—sensitive, but doggedly determined man that he is—called out a desperate plea to his grandson once … twice … thrice …

“Hang on Ben! Fight back! Please fight back!”

Open heart massage … failed! Oxygen mask … failed! Electric shock … failed! A dark cloud smothered the din. The frenzied pace quieted. The equipment was turned off. The surgeon turned around to face me. His wearied face bespoke what I already knew. He shook his head. The embers of life died within Ben.

It seemed as if Ben had come into this world only a short while before. I was there then as I was now. A nurse asked me if I wished to be with my son. I told her I did. Only I could be with Ben. Taking hold of my father by his arm, she motioned him away and drew the curtain so that Ben and I not be disturbed.

Standing by Ben’s side, I placed a kippah upon his head and kissed his handsome nose.

“Thank you for being such a good son, Ben.”

With but precious few minutes left to be together before the attendants arrived, Ben “slept” while I … I hovered over him and whisperingly sang the 23rd Psalm.

“ … lo ira ra ki Ata imudi …” (I have no fear, for Thou art with me.)

Rabbi Louis arrived by taxi.

Frankly relieved that he took charge, his timely arrival assured me that Ben would be interred in accordance with Jewish tradition.

A noteworthy interlude took place before I had to tell his mom, who, unknown to me at the time, hadn’t yet arrived.

A nurse came to inform me that a group of Ben’s friends had arrived moments before and was waiting at the front desk. What I did not know then was that Ben’s friends had picked up Zac, Ben’s younger brother, and brought him along. Rabbi Louis and I went to receive them.

Cook County Hospital is frenetic. All manner of people: ambulatory patients attached to mobile drips, trauma patients being rushed to surgery strapped atop gurnies, doctors, nurses, visitors, paramedics, police officers and sheriff’s deputies jam its hallways. Hospital policy forbade nonfamily members from visitation. We had to leave Ben’s buddies behind.

Trudging through the corridors with Rabbi Louis and Zac while returning back to the emergency department, it felt as if we were passing between classes in high school. Almost predictably, we were stopped—not by the assistant principal, but by a burly hospital security guard who asked us for our passes. Having none, he pointed us to the reception area where we had met Zachary minutes before.

Rabbi Louis, frustrated at the hapless absurdity of the moment, appealed beseechingly in hope of touching the guard’s better angels. “My friend’s son has just died!”

The guard refused to budge. Despite Rabbi Louis’s vociferous objections, it became apparent that his protestations had fallen on deaf ears. So back we trod to fetch the passes.

Meanwhile, Ben’s mom had arrived from a much longer distance than I. Passes in hand, we did make it back minutes later when came time to confront her with the awful news. Rabbi Louis, in his goodness, generously offered to stand in for me, but I felt this was my duty. Accompanying me together with my dad, our arms linked, we reluctantly crossed the hall to a small lounge wherein sat Ben’s mom awaiting news.

I approached her haltingly. “Ben is gone!” I cried out, placing my forehead atop her head. Within the shadow of a moment came forth an utterance of primal pain from Ben’s mom so horrifically terrifying that I suspect only a bereaved mother is capable of making it. I shall never forget its sound!

What more can one do in a moment like this? Though Zac, my dad and Rabbi Louis were present in the room with me, I recall nothing of their reactions to my grave announcement to Ben’s mom. It was as if she and I were alone in this sanitized lounge, the small sofa, chairs and lighting of which were unremarkably sterile. I left the room.

Tending to an important matter for which I had to speak to the surgeon, I found him standing in the hallway close by, appearing as though something was on his mind. I thanked him for all his efforts to save Ben’s life. While we spoke, I discerned a genuinely heartfelt sympathy for my family; furthermore, he seemed to intuitively understand me when I forbade an autopsy.

Weeks later, in a sworn deposition, part of a wrongful death suit brought by my family against the owner of the truck whose driver struck Ben, the surgeon testified to having been worried about my dad’s well-being when, during those several minutes, he bore witness to futility.

There remained nothing more we could do. Ben’s mom had left with Zac and my dad. Accompanied by Rabbi Louis, I walked to my truck. His companionship warmed me against the icy winds. How thankful I was that I would not have to go home alone!

While the engine warmed, Rabbi Louis contacted a mutual friend, a Chicago police chaplain, to see if he could expedite moving Ben’s remains from the hospital morgue to the funeral home. After several minutes had passed, I drove Rabbi Louis home.

That Wednesday, the eve of Thanksgiving 2000, ended together with my “world” as I had known it. I think I fell asleep that night in my apartment.

Posted: 9/5/2007 9:27:17 AM

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dear Readers,

The following article is a revision of a chapter excerpted from In Memory of Ben and will be published in the November 1, 2007 edition of Living With Loss, Bereavement Publications

"Every Day is Thanksgiving"

While our nation celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth

Thursday in November, as a Jew, I give thanks every

morning upon awakening by saying: “Modei ani lefanecha,

melech chai vekayam, shehechezarta bi nishmati b’chemla-

raba emunasecha – I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal

King, for You have returned my soul within me with

compassion … abundant is Your faithfulness.”

How does this observance of “Jewish Thanksgiving” differ

from that of our national holiday? The primary difference

is one that goes to the very core of Jewish religious belief: we

thank Him “yom yom- every day” by praising His name in good

times and bad.

Let’s be clear: I am not suggesting that Jews welcome

bad tidings. However, when they do happen, our faith in His

“rachomim and din-mercy and justice” encourages us to

remember that, though current circumstances appear dark

and foreboding, bad tidings do turn out for the best. We do

not, however, make any attempt to minimize the pain of


Almost two years ago on November 22, 2005, I received an email from my dear

friend Jan, who wrote:

Dear are in my thoughts and prayers today. I know what you are thinking about, and that you are missing Ben. I remembered that it was five years eternity, but as if only yesterday, for you. He was a beautiful boy, who wanted so much to be his own man...and he was. How else could he have endured so much, and yet still, was willing to give so much of himself? The true measure of a man is to be able to love unconditionally...and he did...and you did, even though you may feel, in retrospect, that it took awhile for you to finally reach that stage. I said "may feel", and "finally", Alan, because I know that you ALWAYS loved Ben unconditionally. The times that you were embarrassed by some of the ways that Ben chose to express himself, were only embarrassment...not a failure on Ben's part, or yours. You only wanted what was best for Ben...what you thought was best. That kind of love is the greatest gift that anyone can ever give or receive...and you and Ben gave that gift to each other.

I did not find anything Jan had said disagreeable. Her note revealed a keen

insight into the life of my late son Ben, alav ha shalom, and my efforts to

chronicle it. There was something troubling me though about the date of

the note, Tuesday, November 22, 2005, and Jan’s reference to

“today” in her opening sentence.

Later that evening, my fiancé and I were sharing a coffee.

“So how was your day?” she asked.

“Oh, okay I suppose,” I said, but before the conversation went

any further, it hit me. It finally made sense.

I realized that although the calendar date, Tuesday,

November 22, 2005, marked the fifth anniversary of my son’s

passing, it had been the week DAY, Wednesday, the day before

Thanksgiving that forever underscored the tragedy imprinted

on my heart.

In keeping with my belief about the presence of balance

and order in our world-though we may not perceive them

readily at times-our lives are not at the mercy of random

collisions of chance. You may even wonder about any

demonstrable proof I may have for this assertion. Well, I

haven’t any, but unlike the strict standards of scientific proof,

I submit the gift my daughter Kimberly shared with me that

same day.

I will never forget the excitement and glee in her voice. It

not only struck a welcome chord to complete this day, to

make the circle whole but reaffirmed my belief in how we give

thanks to the Master of The Universe who reawakens us every

morning to experience both good times and bad in our lives.

“Daddy, I got a job as a lawyer in a downtown firm! I’ll have an

office with a view from the 39th floor overlooking downtown. It’s

just what I wanted!”

“Kimmy Babe, that’s wonderful sweetheart. Mazel Tov.

I’m proud of you.” I rejoiced.

“Thanks Dad! Talk later, okay?” she ended.

That sums up, rather succinctly what happened on

November 22, 2005, when divine balance manifested itself

dramatically, affording me the opportunity to experience the

joy and love of both my children on what was the worst day

imaginable just five years before.

“Modei ani lefanecha …”

Alan Busch
Revised, 9/5/07

Monday, September 03, 2007

And You Think You Have Problems ...

(A continuation of my kvetching about living with early onset Parkinson's Disease ...)

Maybe your mom said this to you too when as a kid you complained too much, too often about not feeling well.. I remember my Mom saying it very clearly and in no uncertain terms:

"Ma, I don't feel vey good."

"What's wrong? Tell me where it hurts," she implored.

"Oghhhh, my stomach hurts really bad," which it did on occasion, but in the great kid tradition of soliciting as much sympathy from Mom as possible, I just might have hiked it up a bit,and it typically worked. Mom would respond with her usual formulae of medications and motherly loving-kindness.

But like every other good thing and-this is the way it should be too-there was a ceiling to what Mom would provide in terms of her smiling nursing bedside manner. When we reached that point she would routinely turn the guilt tables:

"Listen my Dear, you think you've got troubles, you're feeling sick. Sick? I'll show you sick. Let's take a ride to the children's ward at the hospital. You want sick? I'll show you sick!" she said not meanly but in a manner clearly intended to instruct.

And that would pretty much do the trick. Its object ... in the short term: to quiet my kvetching. In the grander scheme of things: to teach me the lesson of context
relativity. In other words, there is always someone sicker than you, whose "dreykop" requires more Excedrin Migraine than yours does. Or maybe you have heard it this way ... "Oh you think you're so tough, that you're the best wrestler on the team and maybe in the conference. Well, I've got news for you. There is always somebody better!

And you know what? It is an unimpeachable truth. There is unfortunately always someone sicker and another who is the better wrestler.

I had to be reminded of this boyhood lesson the other night when Kallah and I were having a spirited exchange. Okay, an argument. We settled the matter but not before I uttered classical expressions of "feel sorry for me" and "will you please come to my pity party."

So what has any of this have to do with Parkinson's Disease? Just this ... you may not know that Parkinsonian symptoms are highly individualized and the severity of its symptomology and resultant disability vary from person to person. One of my severest symptoms is that my spoken speech has been seriously disrupted, so characterized by an annoying and embarrassing stutter, a raspy, low voice and shortage of breath that, when I do speak, often runs out before I have finished my sentence.

As a boy I suffered from a stutter from about age five on, but I managed to control it over the years to the point that it would erupt only on rare occasions, and, as it often seemed, at the most embarrassing of moments ... when I'd be teaching, for example. However, by the time of my adulthood, I had pretty well mastered it. Guess what? The Parkinson's brought it back and in an especially nasty form.

So when Kallah and I were having our "spirited exchange" i was having the darndest time getting my words out.

"And as a matter of fact, I thththththink ththththis, ththththat and the other ththththing about that," after which I pounded the pillows with angry fist frustrated at my inability to stop my tongue from stuttering the "th" dipthong.

"You know what?" I asked of Kallah.

"What?" she shot back.

"There are times when I just wanna slit my throat and be done with it," I blathered out while wallowing in the sludge of self-pity.

"I can't believe you just said what you did," Kallah rebuked me.

The followng day we went to shul on Shabbat morning, and I felt compelled to sit alongside my friend Alan S. who suffers from a far more advanced Parkinson's than I, and as I watched him try to fold his tallis after services, I noticed some familiar difficulties.

It's quite difficult to fold anything if your fingertips can not retain their grip. I saw how tenuously Alan's fingertips were barely hanging on. Now consider this ... when we typically hold things, we grip them by the soft pads of our fingers. Think about it or look at your fingers the next time you are holding on to something and you'll see what I mean. I suffer this symptom too. In place of the pads of our fingers, we hold on by our fingertips very close to the fingernails. There is not a lot of retentive room there. Grasping things becomes problemtic.

So there I stood watching him struggle with this task ordinarily so simple. I went over to greet him.

"Alan, Shabbat shalom."

"Shabbat shalom to you," he replied, but rather than being focused on his words, I was drawn to staring at his right hand that shakes violently.

We sat down together minutes later and chatted together with his wife and Kallah. Again I watched Alan as he struggled to spread a dolip of tuna fish on a cracker, and it came back to me.

"You want sick? I'll show you sick. Come with me to the children's ward at the hospital," I suddenly heard my mom's words again, followed and reinforced by "I can't believe you said what you did," a replay of Kallah's rebuke from the evening before.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dear Readers,

I type this post no more than fifty feet from where I dropped Ben off to catch the train the morning of November 22, 2000. The old train station is now a bustling Starbucks where Kallah and I hang out, and the entrance way to the train has moved immediately southwest about one hundred yards up.

I'm presently working on two projects: 1) a compilation of essays about the mere handful of folks who have left a deep and indelible impression on me. 2) the other is a collection of ramblings of a man stricken with early onset Parkinson's Disease which-as the kids these days say: "SUX!"

As the Days of Awe approach, I invariably find myself making cheshbonos in the hopes that after fifty three years, my most nagging preoccupaton is whether or not I merit to be called a "decent human being."

Toward that hope, I submit the following Chapter from In Memory of Ben, revised.

“ … in the draft of God’s exhalation …”

It’s almost invariable that melancholia overtakes

me whenever I am there. I don’t think it debilitating, short-

lived as each instance is, but it remains a constant in the

equation of my grief.

Yet, I know this is where a grieving Jew should be

because it is a "makom kodesh," a holy place, wherein I feel the

presence of my son Ben in its most intense manifestation.

I’ll even venture a remark that may seem odd to some. As

strong a pull as it is to stand before Ben’s grave, I struggle to

sense his presence. Oh yes. I know his body is beneath my

feet, but that’s just it. Ben’s body remains, but his neshuma,

his soul, is elsewhere Where it is, well … that’s anyone’s

guess; it’s in the Olam Haba, floating-as it were-like a feather

caught up in the draft of God’s exhalation-or somewhere in

shamayim waiting for another aliyah that’ll bring him closer to


But such is the paltriness of our conception, as if it were

possible to approach Him, The Infinite Holy One. For that

would imply physicality, finiteness of which He has none. Even

the “He of Him” implies a ring of closure around our

conception of what God is and where. You know what? Never

mind the theological gymnastics. I’m satisfied with that

explanation however much it might make me an apikoros[1],

just as long as Ben “returns” on a regular basis. I’ve few if

any other choices.

And return he does, a sort of tshuva[2] in reverse in that he

returns to us from God whereas we seek, in doing tshuva, to

near Him, to approach Him. We may even cross each other’s

paths on occasion. A heavenly intersection, a cosmic

crossroads-if you will-where the souls and prayers of those

who love(d) him may barely escape collision.

I believe Ben’s soul hovers in synagogue when I am there. He spends time

with me in that way, I suppose. It is his way of making up for the time when I sit in our row by


I felt it (him) recently on Purim-a feeling unlike that of any other

experience, anywhere else, including the time I spend writing

in Ben’s room. Though I fully expect this grief, I am thankful

to take my seat in the row behind my dear friend, Rabbi Louis

and his two sons. It affords me the opportunity to look over

the mechitza[3] to the yahrzeit[4] panels on the south wall and

see Ben’s name, the eleventh one in the first column on the

first panel. We have a tradition in shul life that one’s seat

becomes his makom kavua.[5] His seat is next to mine though I

should tell you Ben was not a regular shul-goer. Nobody else

sits there however, except my father on Erev Yontif Rosh


Whether it happens to be the thanksgiving of Purim, the

revelry of Simchas Torah[6] or the trepidation of Yom Kippur,[7]

my son remains by my side. Other fathers have their sons

sitting next to them. I miss that but I possess something they

do not-the certainty my son lived a life abundant in loving-


Time moves forward inexorably. It pauses for no one. That

Purim morning I lamented how much time has passed without

Ben. I am reminded daily his absence is forever. No matter

how many years have gone by or however many are yet to

come, Ben’s death for me will always remain in the present

tense. I will never say: “Once upon a time I had a son named

Ben.” I won't tell you I'm not glad to be alive because I know I

am a better person for having known and loved him. He taught

me so much.

Still ... know there are moments when I am filled with guilt it was he and not I.

[1] One who challenges tenets of religious belief.
[2] Repentance; atonement
[3] Partition in an orthodox synagogue separating women’s from men’s section.
[4] The anniversary of a death
[5] set place where one sits
[6] holiday celebrating the “joy of Torah”.
[7] Day of Atonement