Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dear Readers,

I am currently in process of revising all of the chapters of In Memory of
Ben. My goal as always is to say things better with fewer words but more cleverly so that at the end you'll be nodding your head in agreement and muttering how right I am ... or, at least I hope that is what is going to happen.

There are those who say they are in a "Better Place …”

It is not easy to console a mourner. Consolers mean well. It’s

just this figure of speech-you know the one about being in a better place-is trite

and hackneyed however sincerely it may be uttered. If ever consolers have any doubt

about what to say or how to say it, I recommend they hug more and speak less. Never

fails. We could provide genuine comfort if only we remembered silence is

a better communicator of our sympathy than are poorly chosen words.

Though he had not suffered the loss of a child, I tried to comfort

my friend who had just lost his father.

“I knew your dad as a fine gentleman," I said softly, trying to

to sit comfortably on the floor.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“We shared many meals together over the course of ten years at the

Rabbi’s Shabbos tish,” I added, “but he used to say one thing that

distinguished him from everyone else in the congregation,” I related,

hoping to elicit a tiny smile.

“Oh … what was it?”

“Your father was the only one to call me by my Hebrew name Avrum

ben Avrum.” His son smiled appreciatively.

Time does not heal all wounds as many consolers claim. It is for

this reason Jewish law wisely restricts time spent in mourning.

Unlike its public nature, grief is a private matter and quite capable

of overwhelming parents who fail to fashion a cheshbon between

themselves and God.

Author and bereaved father John Gunther in his chronicle

Death Be Not Proud documents the heroic but futile struggle of his son against brain

cancer. In a provocative postscript, Frances, the author’s

estranged wife, expresses doubt about whether she loved her

son Johnny as much as she could have. Naturally, this led me

to wonder if I could have loved Ben more. The trust she had

placed in God strengthened her to resist the temptation to cast

blame for her son’s death at anyone’s doorstep. Instead,

Francis ponders two alternative approaches that might have saved

her son. She argues Johnny should not have been sent to boarding school

but kept at home where he would have been more comfortable.

Secondly, he might not have died from brain cancer had she and

her husband saved their marriage.

While it is understandable bereaved parents may feel guilty

about mistakes they may have made, is Johnny’s brain tumor

attributable to his parents’ failure to save their marriage? Is he his

parents’ victim? While we can sympathize with her mea culpa we

cannot truthfully attribute Johnny’s death to the poor choices she

and her husband may have made.

Although the Ribon shel Olam governs the occurrence of

human tragedy, we would commit spiritual suicide if we

believe that He denies life to children.

Whether our affliction is sickness, misfortune in business

or the premature death of a loved one, we can avoid the abyss of apostasy by

trusting in God’s attribute of rachomim . There is a limit to what we can do to

avoid bad tidings. Notwithstanding the precautions we take, tragedy may befall us.

Should I believe God chose Ben? Had that happened, how could I

believe in a vengeful and capricious god? Sure it's reasonable to look back and

say "I should have done this differently. If only I had been less concerned with 'a'

as opposed to ‘b’, things might have turned out more to my liking.”

However truthful this supposition, it does not follow that had

conditions been different, their outcomes would have been

better. I acknowledge Ben might have suffered a fatal injury

that day had he never suffered any chronic illness.

The heart of this matter is life will always be precious,

exceedingly delicate and precarious by its very nature! That when

we proclaim: “L'Chaim” we are not making a banal toast as some

may think. Rather do we remain obligated to be always

mindful of the sanctity of our lives and to live them b'simcha.

Alan D. Busch

Revised 10/14/07

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