A father muses as the eighth anniversary of his son's death nears ...
For Ben’s sake whose life I love, may I merit the strength to live life free from bitterness, anger and cynicism. May you Son dwell on high, enough to look down from above the clouds and see us searching the heavens for your shadow.
I became misty in synagogue today while attending morning services. Rabbi had taken hold of the Torah scroll and chanted the “Kel Mole Rachamim”, a prayer that pleads for divine watchfulness over the souls of our loved ones in the “olam haba”, the world to come. While listening, I remembered that the twenty-fourth day of Heshvan, the Hebrew date of Ben’s death, is only two weeks away, and this year will mark the eighth anniversary of his passing.
When a Jew dies, his soul ascends. It makes “aliyah”, we say, to the higher plane of the world to come, floating like a feather caught up in the draft of God’s exhalation. A Jew of faith quietly utters “Baruch Dayan Ha Emes”-Blessed is the True Judge-upon learning of a death. It reflects his acceptance that God “runs
the world”. For him it is an unalterable reality.
The “living” remain behind, struggling with our faith which, if heretofore untested, is likely not to be as strong as we think. Untested faith is like a first layer of clothing which, by itself, is inadequate to shield one against the cold wind of loss. We add layers of “protective insulation” to faith by prayer, the reading of psalms and the recitation of Kaddish. It’s not a panacea, however. The struggle to cope, to “make sense out of it all”, continues. The pain remains. By reinforcing our faith, we hope to manage the pain of grief more effectively.
The approach along the winding path to Ben’s grave fills me with dread. I stand before his parcel of earth numbed by the irreversible reality of his death. It is a curiosity of human behavior that the bereaved speak to their departed ones while standing before their graves. I do it too although Ben remains silent. Even if the comfort we experience lasts but a moment, our nature compels us to reconnect through imagination.
“Ben, it’s been a while. I apologize, Son.”
“Oh, that’s okay, Dad. No problem,” he said, generously letting me off the hook.
“You know Ben … while standing here, I think back to some of my favorite moments and picture you as you were, as we used to be.”
“Like what? Oh, wait! I bet you’re thinking of the Radio Flyer red wagon when it was me and Kimmy, right? Remember how she sat
in front and I held on to her from behind?" he asked.
“Yea, I do. ‘Member’ how I used to fix her hair like Pebbles on The Flintstones?” I reminisced.
“Yea, that was funny. You really liked dragging us around a lot, especially to the library, didn’t you?”
“I sure did. I would seek out clumps of people on the way there who would tell me how beautiful my kids were. Then we’d read stories for an hour or so.”
“Listen Ben, I ‘gotta’ go. Talk again?”
Sometimes you come away feeling better …
Leaving the cemetery, especially the first time, is a difficult step. After all, we brought so much but leave with so little, nothing more than memories. Although we may “feel” the presence of our loved one, it is somehow never enough.
A Poem in Memory of Benjamin Eight Years Ago
Since we bid thee farewell eight years ago,
that bleak morning many tears did shed.
Into cavernous depths we lowered thee …
to souls long before art thou wed.
I want you to know I’ve lived as well …
as best I could … I have tried.
Nary a morn, noon or night has passed
couldn’t ever help myself but cried.
I've felt so bad all these years,
when your days of youth deprived
with sickness that stole so much of your strength
from our well that might otherwise have thrived.
Much like you, what could we do
when alone we left you to lie ...
Living our lives lest we stray
from our faith well worn and tried.
It is hard to explain these feelings I have
without you eight years I live.
As each day passes, I can’t but think
My life for yours I wouldst give.
Alan D. Busch
24th of Heshvan