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.

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