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
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
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.
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