Monday, September 01, 2008
Where authors and readers come together!
Letter to Ben and Related Thoughts (resent express mail) this first day of Chodesh Elul in anticipation of the New Year 5769.
(with an addition to the original "Letter to Ben" written Thursday night and early Friday morning just a few days before Erev Rosh Ha Shana 5766) ...
There are many greetings for the Yomin Noraim, the Jewish high holidays: A Gut Yontif, A Gut Yor, Chag Sameach, Shana Tova, among several others, but regardless of whichever one we choose, their common feature is they can be effectively answered by responding "Amen!"
Such a wonderful word this "amen"! It's short, clean and efficient and, in effect, says: "Yes! I subscribe to everything you have said!"Beyond this, we pray that each of us will be inscribed in the "Sefer Ha Chaim"-the Book of Life-for the coming year-that we may be worthy enough to enjoy the mazel, brocho and hatzlacha, luck, blessing and success that the New Year affords!
As a boy, I remember hearing that without good health, all the riches in the world ... well, you know the rest ...We are all "basar v' dam"-flesh and blood-mortal beings for whom death-however untimely and premature as it so often seems-is as integral to life as birth itself; dialectical opposites each requiring the other lest what we euphemistically call "nature" gives way to chaos.
None of this however soothes the bereaved parent! That much I know very well. As a matter of fact, I have often found myself examining my own deeds-both present and past-in an attempt to uncover what may be a possible linkage between the absolute calamity of losing Ben and my own considerable failings and flaws. Then I "awaken" because I know in my heart that He does not rule over the universe in such a fashion that a child is sacrificed for the misdeeds of a parent! For as immeasureably much as I miss Ben, I blame no one and certainly not God Himself or ... for that matter the driver of the truck whose failure to signal a right turn led to ...
I even know his name and where he lives, but for the sake of Ben whose life I love(d), may I merit the strength to live life free from bitterness, anger and cynicism, and may you Ben dwell on high, high enough to look down through the clouds and see us. On this the first day of Chodesh Elul, on the "almost eve" of the New Year, 5769 I send you these few reflections:
It's now approaching eight years ago that you left us son. That Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, November 22, 2000, our last morning together, those few minutes we spent chatting while I drove you to the train ... how grateful I am the vivid memory of that brief moment is mine. Life without you has been and continues to be difficult. There isn't a day when I don't think of you while pondering the many "what might have beens". I smile recalling how close you and I were! Sure we had our many differences and struggles, but what father and son don't?
We've all had to get on with our lives. We grow older while you remain forever as young as the day you were taken from us. Believe it or not ... today, September 1, 2008 is Zac's 21st birthday. He was only thirteen when you left. Over these several years, I have spoken to many parents who have lost a child, and learned each copes in his own way. I don't know how your mom has managed, but I imagine she has in her own way-not unlike your sister and brother and all who love you. While I search for the right words, Ben, my hope is they'll not only have particular meaning for you but for others who grieve as we do.
Please know that I love(d) you and will always unconditionally. As the older of my two sons and the eldest of my three children-though I take much pleasure in watching your sister and brother take their places in the world, I feel great anguish when I see the grownup sons of other men. We were all deprived of you Ben. It is just somehow so unfair! I recall one night when you, your sister, brother and I were together; it might even have been a Shabbat or yom tov-maybe one of our Passover seders. When the three of you were about to leave on your way back to Mom's house, I kissed you on your cheek and felt the stubble of your whiskers on my lips. Funny what each of us remembers.