Wednesday, December 03, 2008
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Who Bestows Good Things …
Do you have one of those special photos? You know … the one of you and your five-year old daughter doing the dishes together, from long ago when her mom braided her hair and Strawberry Shortcake was her favorite doll. I do.
As parents, we recognize that when our children leave the nest, we rely on our faith in Ha Melech Malchei Ham'lachim Hakadosh Baruch Hu to sustain us through the trials of this world. We acknowledge that He alone governs it.
I was at work when the call came in.
“Mr. Busch?” a stranger’s voice inquired in a tone that made me tremble.
“Please God. No! This can’t be happening,” I silently pled, recalling a similar call from several years before, when my son Ben died in a traffic accident.
“Yes, this is Mr. Busch,” I acknowledged reluctantly.
“My name is Ann and I have just left your daughter Kimberly,” she said calmly.
“Kimberly! Is she alright, is she hurt, tell me where she is,” I nearly panicked.
“Mr. Busch, she is fine. Really! We’re about an hour south of Chicago at mile marker “80”. Kimberly was involved in an accident, but she is unhurt, not a scratch."
“Kimmy, in an accident! 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.”
Only two hours earlier Ann pulled off the interstate to help out after she had witnessed a collision on her way to Chicago. That is how she ran across my daughter Kimberly whom, we later learned, had lost control of her steering wheel while trying to pass a truck when its driver unexpectedly shifted into the passing lane. She was forced onto the shoulder and across the grassy median into oncoming traffic whereupon she struck a van.
“Listen Ann, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You can’t imagine how much your news means to me.”
I hung up the telephone so hurriedly that I forgot to get her phone number. I called Kimberly’s mother. With as much calm as I could feign, I cut to the end of the story.
“Jan, hi. It’s Alan. Sorry to call at work but it’s urgent,” I stressed.
“What is it?” she asked haltingly.
“Jan, Kimmy’s been 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 Hon,” I interrupted, addressing her with an old term of endearment. “Kimberly is safe and unhurt. She’ll tell you 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 clock. Already after 3:00 and with barely the time and breath to inform my co-workers about what had happened, I sped away. Although I knew Kimmy had not been injured, I couldn’t help but call the Illinois state trooper’s cell phone Ann had given me. I guess I could not be reassured enough.
I found Kimberly waiting for me in front of the service station that had towed her car. She was anxious to leave immediately, but I needed a few minutes to wrap my head around this. I walked over to Kimmy’s car. Would you believe me if I told you that the entire front end looked like an accordion? The collision crushed the front end of the car within several inches of the dashboard. I grasped hold of the driver’s side door. To my amazement, it opened cleanly. I sat in the driver’s seat and put both hands on the steering wheel. I slumped down, nearly in tears, gapping incredulously at what could well have been the place where my daughter might have died that day. “Dad, are you ready?” Kimmy asked with the slightest bit of impatience. The moment was for her one from which she wanted to flee. For me it was the scene of the reenactment of my son Ben’s fatal injuries in a traffic mishap several years before.
I “saw” Ben’s unresponsive body lying atop the surgical table.
“Yes Sweety,” I replied, struggling as best I could to avoid an emotional breakdown in front of my daughter. I was quite simply overwhelmed. We drove home mostly in silence. Understandably, Kimmy was skittish. She gasped every time I braked or switched lanes. Who knows how many times she must have rerun the whole thing in her mind on our way home?
“Kimushkele?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, Dad, just beat,” she exhaustively uttered.I dropped her off at her mom’s house. Our time together was over for theday. I wanted to have more time with her, but I knew her mom anxiously awaited her arrival. My heart sank but here she was … safe and sound.
Why was Kimberly saved? I can’t answer that question any better now than I could before when I wondered why Ben had not been. The following Friday, I invited Kimmy over for dinner on Erev Shabbat. My younger son Zac was there too as was my fiancé. A beautifully set table awaited us, its candles aglow for each of my three children. We gathered around the table.
“Kimushkele,” I turned to my daughter, my voice cracking as I tried to articulate the words of a short speech. “Yes Dad,” she responded laughingly while drying a few tears.
“This Shabbat is extra special. We say ‘Hodu la HaShem ki tov, ki le’olam chasdo’-Praise Hashem because He is good, His kindness is eternal.On this night especially, I am thankful to have you by my side.” I lifted the kiddush cup. A slight tremble animated my right hand. I let a moment pass during which not a peep was uttered. Ben’s candles seemed to flicker more brightly at that instant, illuminating the serpentine path of a single drop of wine running down my hand.
“Vayahe erev, vayahe voker …” I sanctified the wine.
Next morning in shul for parashat Vayigash, Rabbi Louis spoke admiringly of Yaakov Avinu who recited Shema upon being reunited with his long lost, beloved son Joseph. At that very moment, I felt a special bond to Yaakov Avinu as a fellow Jewish father thankful for the life of his child.
Alan D. Busch