Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dear Readers,

This post is an especially important one. It'll be to the point.

First off, I wish to thank the two persons in my life, dearest to me, outside of my blood relatives to advise me in these matters: my Kallah and Rabbi Louis. Both advised me, independently of the other, to dispose of the remains of Ben's motorscooter he had been driving on November 22, 2000 when he was struck and killed, run over by a truck. Before I do that, I have taken some photos of the remains of the motorscooter that I show above. Remember the adage about a picture speaking a thousand words? Well, These photos really do speak for themselves.

There was a time-not too long ago-when I very must resisted the idea of getting rid of the scooter, but I see its merit now.

Thank you Kallah!

Thank you Rabbi Louis!

Alan D. Busch


p.s. Please find below the first chapter of my book In Memory of Ben that will be published in the September High Holidays edition of the news magazine of the Jewish Federation of Chicago that tells the story of that dark day.
The Last Time

“Got firt da velt,”[1] a profoundly simple adage, asserts the

primal emes[2] that God has never nor will He ever abandon

His Creation and, in fact, creates the intricate and seemingly

bizarre circumstances in which we often find ourselves.

“Happenstance”- some might call it-but it was for me an act of

divine kindness that became the last time I’d ever spend with

my son Benjamin, Wednesday morning, November 22, 2000.

Forgetting to set his alarm the night before, Ben woke up

late for work, got dressed hurriedly and ran to catch the

Chicago/Metra bus that would ferry him to the Skokie Swift

train line. As fortune would have it, he spotted my car parked

at the dry cleaners opposite his house on the other side of the

alley and caught up with 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, his rather robust figure

well insulated from the cold winter winds. Ben was never one

to be fancily attired, but as a downtown bicycle courier working the Chicago winter shift, he always dressed himself,

as counseled by mothers, in layers.

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

“Hey! Good Morning, Ben. Sure. No problem.”

His mom and I had divorced in January of 2000. Since

moving out of the house in August of 1999, there were times

when I did not see him as often as I would have liked. As a

matter of fact, I missed all three of my children, but Ben …

well, Ben was special-not that Kimmy and Zac, his younger

siblings, aren’t special too, but for Ben’s sake especially I

lived in constant dread. You see, Ben had been a diabetic

since 1988 prone to hypoglycemic insulin shock in the early

morning hours. I had always tended to Ben in moments of

diabetic crisis, but now that I was no longer at home, the

worriment shadowed me. Always regretful whenever I had not

seen him for several days, any opportunity to be with him

delighted me even if only for a few minutes.

“Door’s unlocked son.” I said over the top of my truck while

fiddling with my keys. It was a five- minute drive to the train.

"How are you, Ben?" I asked, as I made a left turn from the lot.

"Fine, Dad. You?" he responded almost perfunctorily.

"Okay. How are you?"


"You feeling good?"


I turned into the parking lot of Chaim’s Kosher Bakery and

Deli across from the train station.

Ben was checking the latch on his messenger bag.

“Ya got it?” I asked.

“Yea,” he quipped.

‘"Do you have money on you?" I badgered him.

"Yes, Dad,” he humored me with patient intonation. “Seeya


He got out. Traffic was heavy. I watched him cross the street

as I had always done, as if he were still a little boy.

"Be safe!" and off he went my little boy turned twenty-two, all

six feet, two inches, two hundred twenty five pounds of him.

Later at the office that same morning, business was brisk!

The phones were ringing off the hook, just another busy day at

work like any other. If only it had been!

It was just before noon when I answered the next call. I

heard the voice of a stranger.

“Mr. Busch,” he queried.

“Speaking.” I reluctantly admitted for I knew he was not the

bearer of good news. Parents just know these things.

“Mr. Busch. My name is Dr. Ibrahim Yosef, chief of emergency

surgery at Cook County Hospital.”

“Yes, doctor,” I said quiveringly.

“Are you the father of Benjamin Busch?” he asked.

“Yes, I am,” girding myself for the worst.

“Your son has just arrived here in the emergency department,

the victim of a nearly fatal traffic accident. He has

sustained massive and critical injuries that require immediate

surgical intervention.”

I tried to speak but could not.

“Mr. Busch,” his voice slightly louder but noticeably more

strident, “I suggest you come to the hospital right away!” he

underscored, his tone now emphatically urgent.

“Suggest!” I mumbled to myself, having gleaned the ominous

meaning of his choice of words. I foresaw how this day would

end. Call it intuition, whatever you like.

“Doctor, yes … ah, ah, ah alright. I’m leaving now.” I hung up

the phone.

A myriad of frightful thoughts filled my head in my state of

controlled desperation as I sped away to the hospital. The

grave tone of the doctor’s voice convinced me the dreaded day

I anticipated for years had arrived. Fortunate enough

though to find parking two blocks away, I raced to the

emergency department.

“I’m, I’m … Mr. Busch, my son Ben, doctor called me …” I

sputtered out to a nurse with whom I almost collided.

“Follow me!” she commanded, grabbing me by my shirtsleeve

and running.

“Dr. Joseph, Dr. Joseph,” she shouted down the corridor upon

spotting him.

“Mr. Busch, Ben must have immediate intervention. Do you

authorize …” he hurriedly asked.

“Yes! Yes! Anything. Do everything! Please!” I responded curtly.

The doctor turned and scurried away.

“Mr. Busch, do you wish to witness the procedures?” the

nurse calmly asked me. I remember that about her. I guess

such people have to be cool under fire.

“Yes, please!” I responded.

She escorted me to an observation area with nothing more

than a glass panel separating me from my son.

Standing by my father, together we witnessed a fiercely

desperate scene unfolding no more than ten feet from us.

I turned my head momentarily to check on my dad and beheld

a “stranger” praying fervently for the life of my son. While

holding his arms overhead with the palms of his hands

flattened against the glass partition, his body slightly angled

outward and feet spread apart, appearing as if he were about

to be searched by the police, he pled with The Almighty for His

immediate intervention.

“Hold on Ben! Fight back! Please fight back!” my father,

a sensitive though doggedly determined man, called out once,

twice, thrice during Ben’s waning seconds, while there was

yet aglow a spark of life.

Open heart massage ... failed! Oxygen mask … failed!

Encircling Ben around the operating table, the trauma team’s

pace quickened-their options and time running out.

“CLEAR! AGAIN! CLEAR!!” the surgeon commanded. Ben

convulsed. Electric shock ... failed!

A dark cloud smothered the din. The frenzied pace

quieted. The equipment was switched off. The surgeon turned

to face me. His wearied face bespoke what I already knew. He

shook his head. The embers of life had died within Ben. He

had come into this world only a short while before. I was there

then and here now.

Certain moments, seconds in time, seem to vanish.

Perhaps when the harshness of life numbs us, we “freeze” in

time for a brief while, You’ve seen this before when someone

blankly stares off into space-as it were-but invariably snaps

himself back to the present. Perhaps you have experienced

this yourself.

“Mr. Busch … do you wish to remain with Ben?” a nurse

quietly “awakened” me.

“Yes, of course, Miss” I muttered, surely dazed as if there

could possibly be any other response.

“Grandpa,” she addressed my father, gently taking hold of his

arm. “Only the dad may stay with Ben,” she motioned him

away and drew the curtain around the circumference of the


We were alone. I placed a kippah[3] on his head.

“Thank you for being such a good son Ben, ” I spoke, barely

audibly, kissing his handsome nose.

With precious few minutes left before the attendants arrived,

Ben slept while I … I hovered over him:

“ … lo ira ra ki Ata imudi …”[4] I repeatedly sang the

23rd Psalm whisperingly. We spent about fifteen minutes


“Mr. Busch,” the nurse announced her presence, drawing the

curtain open.

“The gentlemen are here, ” she informed me with no

uncertainty about whom she meant. I stepped aside

and away. I know they covered Ben’s face, but I couldn’t watch


I don’t think it was more than a minute after when Rabbi

Louis flew in by taxi and took charge. Frankly relieved, his

timely arrival assured me Ben would be interred in accordance

with Jewish tradition.

A nurse approached us. Seems that a group of Ben’s

friends had arrived moments before and was waiting at the

front desk. What I did not know was that they had picked up

Zac-Ben’s younger brother-on their way to the hospital.

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 gurneys, doctors,

nurses, visitors, paramedics, police officers and sheriff’s

deputies jam its hallways. Upon reaching the front desk, we

were informed of hospital policy that forbad non-family

members from visitation. I thanked them, but we had to leave

Ben’s buddies behind.

Trudging through the corridors with Rabbi Louis and Zac

on our way back to the emergency department felt as if we

were changing classes in high school. Almost predictably, we

were stopped-not by the assistant principal-but by a burly

security guard.

“Gentlemen, may I see your passes?” he requested, holding out

his rather considerable hand.

“Officer, we haven’t any. We were just returning from …”

“You’ll have to return to the front desk and get them,” the

officer-I think a sergeant in rank-interrupted Rabbi Louis.

“My friend’s son has just died!” pleadingly insisted Rabbi

Louis, who sought but could not find the guard’s better angels.

“Sir, you will need to return to the front desk!” the officer

repeated unequivocally. Despite Rabbi Louis’s vociferous

objections, his protestations, he wisely concluded, had fallen

on deaf ears. The guard refused to budge. Back we trod to

fetch the passes.

Meanwhile, Ben’s mom had arrived from a much farther

distance than I. This time, passes in hand, we did make it

back when came the time moments later to convey the

awful news. Rabbi Louis, in his goodness, generously offered

to stand in for me, but this was my duty. Accompanying me

together with my dad on either side, our arms linked, we

reluctantly crossed the hall to a small lounge wherein sat

Ben’s mom. Letting go of their arms, I approached her

haltingly. Lifting her eyes to mine, somehow knowingly, hope

yet unforsaken … well, just maybe here sat a mother

whose extremity merited a nes.

"Ben is gone!" … I cried out, placing my forehead atop her

head. Within a shadow of a moment came forth an utterance

of primal pain from Ben’s mom so horrifically terrifying I

suspect only a bereaved mother is capable of making it-a

sound that seemed to wed the frighteningly excruciating moan

of Ben’s hypoglycemic plunge to his mother’s pleadingly

gutteral groan that she could no longer push her soon to be

firstborn Ben into the world. I shall never forget the

sound of near matricide.

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 to tend an urgent matter. I found the

attending surgeon standing in the hallway just several steps


“Doctor, thank you for all you did trying to save my son. There

is something I have to tell you.”

“Yes?” he responded, seeming like he had more to say but


“My son is a Jew. I expressly forbid any autopsy,” I said softly

but firmly.

“Yes, of course, I understand,” he seemed to acknowledge


While we spoke, I discerned in him a genuinely heartfelt

sympathy for my family. Some time later, in a preliminary

deposition to a lawsuit my family had filed against the

company whose driver struck Ben, the surgeon testified that

he had been worried about my dad while the latter bore

witness to the desperate futility of those several minutes.

After six hours, there remained nothing more we could do.

Zac and his mom had left already with my father. With Rabbi

Louis whose companionship insulated me from the icy winds, I

walked back to my truck. How thankful I was to not have to go

home alone! While the engine warmed, Rabbi Louis contacted

a mutual friend, Reb Moshe, a chaplain in the Chicago Police

Department, to inquire whether he could expedite Ben’s

transfer to the mortuary. After several minutes had passed, I

drove Rabbi Louis home.

That Wednesday, the eve of Thanksgiving 2000, ended

quietly together with my world as I had known it just hours


A drink or two later, I fell asleep that night in my
apartment. Tomorrow would be a busy day.
[1]Yiddish: God runs the world.
[2] Hebrew: truth
[3] Skullcap signifying God overhead
[4]I fear no evil because You are with me.
[5] Jewish tradition forbids this practice.


Dag said...

The pictures are just O.K.

I think it would have been good to also have one of it leaning up against the house.. and then take a picture from the side view.. I think the pictures above are views from above, also the stuff you wrote after it was nice. :)

Dag said...

This essay is powerful.

I would say that the first few sentences are wordy, but once past that it read very well.

I understand only emotions that I can feel reading this, obviously nothing compaired to what you must feel, but I understand.

Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Dag,

Ty for your remarks Re: the photos I agree stellar photographer that I am, but i am indeed looking forward to the magazine coming out



Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Dag,

I know that you do ...really I do. That chapter underwent so many revisions !!! but if it to serve as the begining of the book it has to "grab ya" right away. I think it accomplishes that.

I've had only one other day like it in terms of its emotional devastation.