These Lights We Kindle
By Alan D. Busch
It was the season of miracles old and new, a time
for spinning the dreidel, eating potato latkes and
showering chocolate coins upon the heads of children,
when the lights of the menorah could be seen displayed
in the front window of every Jewish home.
It was Chanukah, The Festival of Lights.
But at work, it was just another busy day. The phones were busy.
I picked up one of the lines.
“Mr. Busch?” a stranger’s voice inquired.
I began trembling for I knew, with a
parent’s intuition, that something bad
had befallen one of my children.
“Please God. No!” I silently pled. ‘Not again.”
Several years earlier, another frighteningly
similar call ended up changing my life.
The chief of emergency surgery at Cook
County Hospital in Chicago called to inform me
that my son Ben suffered massive internal injuries
when a twenty-four foot long moving truck struck
"Mr. Busch," the doctor advised. "I suggest you
come down immediately." I’ll never forget those words.
My father and I witnessed our twenty-two year old son and
grandson die on the operating table two hours later.
“Yes, this is Mr. Busch,” I acknowledged reluctantly.
“Mr. Busch, my name is Ann,” she began calmly. “I have
just left your daughter Kimberly.”
“Kimberly!” I shot back. “Is she alright? Is she hurt?
Tell me where she is!”
"Mr. Busch,” she continued as calmly as she had begun.
“Your daughter is fine. Really! We’re about an hour south
of Chicago at mile marker 80. Kimberly was involved in an accident,
but she isn't hurt, not a scratch."
“Kimmy. An accident! Not hurt! Thank God!”
“Yes, yes. She’s fine,” she reassured me.
“I’ve already left the scene,” Ann explained, “but when I saw the accident,
I pulled overto offer whatever assistance I could. That’s how I met
Kimmy. I promised her I’d call you as soon as the police arrived.”
“Listen Ann,” I interrupted her as politely as I could. “Thank you from
the bottom of my heart. You can’t imagine how much you mean to me.”
I realized later I had hung up on Ann without getting her last name and
phone number. “Jan, sorry to call at work but it’s urgent,” I said to
Kimmy’s mom with as much calm as I could feign.
“What is it?” she asked haltingly.
“Kimmy’s been in an accident, but she’s fine,” I hastened to emphasize.
“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.
I’m leaving to get her right now. Talk later.”
I gathered my things and ran out.
I found Kimberly anxiously waiting for me in front of the service station
that had towed her car.She wanted to leave immediately, but I needed a
few minutes to wrap my head around this. I walked over to her car. The
entire front end looked like an accordion. The collision crushed the
front end within several inches of the dashboard. The driver’s side door,
to my amazement, opened cleanly. I slumped down in the driver’s seat
where my daughter had almost died hours before.
“Dad, are you ready?” Kimmy asked with understandable impatience.
“Not yet. I need a few more moments.”
My mind’s eye saw Ben’s unresponsive body, but “I’ve still Kimmy right
reminded myself. I had had enough. “Let’s go home, Sweety.”
We didn’t talk much. Kimmy, understandably skittish, gasped every time
I braked or switched lanes.
“Kimmy?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, Dad. Just beat.” My heart sank as I pulled into my old driveway.
Her mom awaited her. I’d have more time later.
Kimmy joined me and Zac, her younger brother, that Friday night for
Shabbat dinner. The table was set, its candles aglow. We gathered
“Sweetheart,” I turned to my daughter. My voice cracked a tiny bit as I
began a short speech.
“Yes Dad,” she responded laughingly while drying a few tears.
“This Shabbat is extra special.” I lifted the Kiddush cup. "I am so
thankful to have you by my side.”
My right hand trembled slightly. I let a moment pass. The candles
flickered more brightly at that instant, illuminating the serpentine path of
a single drop of wine running down my hand. I chanted the blessing
over the wine and thanked The One Above for her life. It was a
wonderfully simple moment.
“A great miracle had happened here”, the best Chanukah gift I could
ever hope to receive.