Friday, August 10, 2007

Dear Readers,
What you are seeing are two adjacent wall panels from Ben's room where his mother and I marked his growth in height. The first one is not so clear: it says, well ... frankly I cannot see it very clearly myself but the year is 1988, but the second is clear enough, Ben was 5'11" on February 28, 1993.
Measurement … Memory (excerpted from my book In Memory of Ben)

Three feet equal one yard. This equivalency eludes many

people. I suspect they were asleep during that lesson. We

measure length, area and volume differently by using diverse

measuring devices and units of measure-all of which

metaphorically mirror the reality of our personal choices,

varying attitudes and alternate approaches to life.

I mention a height chart someone scrawled on the exit

doorway of a local business. My son Zac remarked that it

reminded him of the lines his mom and I had drawn years

before with which to record Ben’s growth in height on the wall

in his room.

I marveled at how our minds store many memories

requiring little more than a tiny stimulus to reawaken them.

The very phenomenon of memory seems utterly inexplicable-

its chemistry, its mechanics baffling. As mysterious as the

phenomenon of human memory is, it is equally awe-inspiring

allowing us to replay moments in our lives of our own

choosing. Imagine how regrettably one-dimensional life would

be without “recollection”. Like the “instant replay” to sports

television, “recollection” provides us with a chance to

experience a moment anew, to be able to relive our past

geometrically, revolving the sphere of life around in one’s

mind’s eye so that we can examine all of its angles.

When barely a toddler, dressed in a diaper and one of those

‘snap on’ button undershirts, Ben absconded with his

grandpa’s empty, unlit pipe and scurried away to the front

room. Some minutes later, having noticed his pipe missing,

my dad and I found Ben, pipe in mouth, comfortably situated

within the mouth of our fake fireplace! I still clearly see the

utter joy on my dad’s face when we discovered the

whereabouts of our little pipe thief. You see what I mean, but

what of unpleasant, “un-healable” memories? How do we

continue living with them?

We have all heard other people say: “Time heals all wounds.”

However, for parents who have lost a child, the great majority,

perhaps even all, would disagree. They would assert the

contrary, that the wound of losing a child is not healable. And

perhaps that is the way it should be! What if the reality of

parental bereavement could simply be forgotten? If

we could just put it behind us? You know … like the old

expression: ‘Out of site, out of mind.” Would we be better off

were the wound healable? The following story may provide

some answers.

I dreamt of Ben one morning. He was wearing his knit cap

in a style I had shown him, rolled up so that it looked like a

kippah with a donut serving as a life preserver. The cap was

part of the uniform employees of the Turtle Wax car wash wore

where Ben worked. Frankly, I could not fathom the reason for

which he enjoyed working at the carwash, but I was thankful

nonetheless for his diligent work ethic. Kind and

unpretentious to a fault, Ben enjoyed the company of friends

whose lives he enriched. His death caused many irreparable
tears in people’s hearts!

One such a person was Stuart whom I had met in

synagogue but who knew Ben from the carwash. He returned

to minyan after a lengthy hiatus. Following Shacharis, we

were busily putting away our tefillin away.
“So, how is Ben doing?” he asked me, obviously unaware of

our loss. My friend David gasped and who was, as it

happened, standing alongside Stuart. The resultant hush

seemed to persist for ten minutes rather than its actual ten

seconds! I glanced furtively at Rabbi Louis who broke the

hapless silence. “Ben passed away two weeks ago!” he said,

appearing shaken and angry. Stuart, an emotionally

unpredictable man, broke down in such tears that I sought to

console him. He wept so.

I had anticipated Stuart’s inquiry but regrettably failed to

inform him before minyan began about what had befallen us.

Had I done that, this regrettable incident would have been
Alam D. Busch

1 comment:

Dag said...

The first one says:

----4 11"

At least that's what I see.