Monday, May 31, 2010
Where authors and readers come together!
Dear Readers, this piece is an edit of a chapter from my book Betweeen Fathers and Sons
The word count is slightly under 400 words which is significant because the full-length chapter is around 2000 words. The object of the reduction was to relay basically the same story but having to make the point quickly and economically.
Kissing Dad’s Nose
by Alan D. Busch
Dad loved ice cream, especially spumoni, even more than a bunch of hot and hungry kids on
an August afternoon. But in the two weeks prior to October 18, 2008, my dad lay dying in his hospice bed. He no longer spoke nor cared to eat or drink. The end seemed tangibly near as if it
should have already happened the moment before. Although his cheery smile was gone, his once
handsome face, now gaunt and frozen, he managed to eke out a tiny smile when I kissed him on
I responded to Adela, Dad’s wife, with cold stone silence when she told me the staff
doctor had recommended to her that we discontinue feeding Dad gradually. Truthfully, I wanted to ram that recommendation down his throat. It was fortunate for him he had spoken to Adela an hour before I arrived.
I insisted Dad eat more of the foods he had always liked but which required no chewing: ice
cream, crushed popsicles, pudding and mashed potatoes. Dad ate because he knew I would
never do as the doctor had recommended. At the end of the day, even though I was certain I had done the right thing, there remained something profoundly sad about feeding my father with a
G-d does the right thing at the right time. He alone governs in this as in all matters, but
the notion had crept into many heads long before that the end of life was no longer sacred. Shabbos morning. I was “on call” at home when, while getting ready for shul, the phone rang.
“Come down,” Adela urged.
Only a few seconds remained. Dad lay perfectly still with but a whisper of breath left.
Enwrapped snugly from feet to chin, Dad appeared as serene as the quietude of a country
pond at sundown. Leaning over his chest, I inhaled his scent and kissed his nose for the last
time. And though I grasped his hand in mine, he slipped through my fingertips effortlessly.
The deceased Rabbi Nachman appeared in the dream of his student Rava who worried that
his rebbe had suffered terribly while he died. “As little as when you remove a hair from a cup of
milk,” Rabbi Nachman responded, reassuring me that Dad suffered equally as little.
Alan D. Busch