Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dear Readers,

Here is my 100th post in Ben's memory. They are two newly revised chapters taken from my

book In Memory of Ben, entitled: The Invitation and Shomer.


The Invitation

Bereaved parents find personalized ways to incorporate

the past lives of their children into their own lives. No one

forgets about his child; the difference is in how they

remember. Remember that sappy bumper sticker “Have you

hugged your child today? Well, have you?"

Coping with the permanent absence of death is

prerequisite in order for parents to be able to continue living

their lives. That does not prevent us, however, from wanting our children

to be there with us even though we know they cannot.

I found a way that Ben could be with us on the occasion of

my second marriage. The answer was right there on the

synagogue wall and was as simple as turning on a light bulb.

Dear Ben,

Are you free April 2nd?

If you haven't already heard, we are planning a simcha[1] on

Sunday, April 2 of this year! And I have been spending quite a

lot of time thinking about how I'd forward an invitation to you.

Although tedious, it is easy to draw up the guest list, have the

invitations designed and printed, address them and off they

go. Just wait around for the responses. It’s that simple. What isn’t

so simple is to figure out an appropriate way you

can be with us too. Just last week, I consulted with Rabbi

Louis on this question, and he made quite a few good

suggestions, but I am still looking for a way to materialize

your essence in a way that reflects who you are.

Ar first, it seemed a daunting problem. Then

it struck me. Its simplicity had eluded me. Perhaps you will

remember how I taught you that the lines of life are mostly

colored in with a gray crayon. Most of what exists as truly

black and white is in that crayon box. Darkness is nothing

more than the absence of light and, if therefore we illumine

the darkness, so much of its burdensomeness is lifted

from our shoulders.

No simcha is absolutely free of tearful remembrance.

We Jews always blend our joy into a tincture, an admixture of

joy sobered by sorrowful memories. Our rejoicing is never

whole lest we recall the destruction of the Batei Ha Mikdash

which we do by breaking the glass though it is, as you know,

always followed by a hearty Mazel Tov!
[3] Jews are people of

historical memory. Always remembering our darker days, we

look to the next sunrise!



p.s. Oh right! My idea? I’ll leave your yahrzeit light on.


The date was 11/23/00.

Kindness is not necessarily selfless. When performed

without expectation of payment or recognition, it signifies: “I

am doing this because it is the only decent and helpful thing I

know to do.” Best characterized as a Kiddush Ha Shem,
[5] it

contains the ultimate component of friendship of both God

and man … selflessness. I have such a friend, selfless and


It happened on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2000

when Ben's mom and I-together with several of our closest

friends-met with the funeral director to finalize the awful

arrangements to lay our son in his final resting place. That

morning was indeed awful, but the worst part was the

purchase of the casket.

It is unlike anything else you have ever had to purchase.

We chose the one we thought was characterized by the

dignity of its simplicity. Made from what I think was pine,

lacquered and adorned with a Magen David,
[6] it reflected who

Ben himself had been, neither plain nor ostentatious. When I

saw the same casket at a friend’s recent funeral, it brought me

back to the day when the staff at the funeral home walked us

though its casket showroom as delicately as possible. I

wondered then as I still do now how emotionally staggering it

must be to sell a child's casket to bereaved parents. One of the

several caskets on display was nothing more than a

plain box neither stained nor lacquered. One grade lower than

the one we chose, it reminded me of the caskets the town

undertaker crafted in the old westerns we watched as

children. Ben’s mom and I looked at each. Not quite enough

we agreed for our beloved Benjamin!

Thanksgiving 2000 did not happen for my family as it had

in previous years when on Wednesday, the day before the eve

of Thanksgiving, our world, as we had known it, suddenly

ended catastrophically. In its place, a debilitating day, laden

with urgent tasks that I feared we’d not finish in time before

Friday morning. Our many friends lent their helping hands in

the time of our greatest need. Sandy, a lady from my

synagogue, prepared meals lasting several days. Kathy, a close

friend from Toronto, flew in the morning of Thanksgiving

Day. How fortunate was I to have Kathy’s emotional support

for the first ten days following Ben's death!

We were frenzied. My feelings of surreal suspension lasted

until the moment I heard the first shovelful of earth hit the

casket. Thanksgiving was a day during which the community

of our friends experienced an ingathering of souls; when

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-a time when the angelic reflections

of our souls shone brilliantly.

A shomer had sat next to Ben through the night reading

from the Sefer Tehilim
[7]. This shomer had been a friend to

Ben, who knew where he had lived, having conversed with

him, seen him at my side, in whom one discerned a fierce

loyalty to family and friends. In sum, simply this: my son was

the kind of person for whom one prays his soul has an

aliyah.[8] I found comfort knowing that the utterances of the

shomer reached the divine ear as he sat with Ben the entire

night. I have such a friend.

Thank you, Harv!

Alan D. Busch

[1] a joyous occasion
[2] the two ancient temples of historical Judaism
[3] congratulations; literally ‘good luck’
[4] Watchman, guard
[5] Sanctification of The Name (of God)
[6] Star of David; literally “Shield” of David
[7] The Book of Psalms
[8] literally, an ascent to a higher level.

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