These Lights We Kindle
By Alan D. Busch
“Mr. Busch?” a stranger’s voice inquired.
“Please God. No!” I silently pled, my body trembling. “Not
I girded myself for I knew, with a parent’s intuition,
that something bad had befallen one of my children.
“Yes,” I acknowledged reluctantly. “This is Mr. Busch.”
“Mr. Busch, my name is Ann,” she began calmly. “I have
just left your daughter Kimberly.”
“Kimberly!” I panicked. “Is she alright? Is she hurt?
Tell me where she is!”
"Mr. Busch,” Ann 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,” she reassured
“I’ve already left the scene,” Ann further explained, “but when
I saw it happen, I pulled over to offer whatever assistance I
could. That’s when I met Kimmy. I promised her I’d call you
as soon as the police and rescue 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 what you’ve done means to me.”
I realized later I had hung up the phone without getting Ann’s
last name and phone number.
“Jan,” I called Kimmy’s mother. “Sorry to call you at work
but, but …”
“But what,” she asked haltingly. I swallowed hard.
“Kimmy was in an accident, but she’s fine,” I hastened to
add. “Not a scratch.”
Kimmy, my baby!” she cried out. “What, what happened?”
“Listen ‘Hon’,” I interrupted, addressing her with an old term
I’m leaving to get Kimmy right now. She’ll tell you later.”
I gathered my things and ran out.
When I turned into the gravel lot about a half mile off the
interstate, I saw Kimmy standing in front of the service
station that had towed her car. She appeared impatient,
exhausted and emotionally on the edge, but the child before
my eyes was the same little girl whose red hair I used to put
up in a ponytail like that of Pebbles on The Flintstones.
“Daddy, I … I’m so sor …” she trembled as I held her, her
head on my shoulder, sobbing.
“Shhh … sha shayneh madele.”
“Dad, can we just go home?” she asked, looking battered
and worn out.
“Yes Sweety, in a few minutes. Get your bags out of the
trunk. I'll meet you over there." I walked over to the garage’s
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bill, the paunchy garage
“And I’ve seen quite a few of these in my time,” he added,
looking perplexed while scratching his
head. We settled up.
We stood there dumbfounded, staring at what had been
Kimmy’s candy apple red, white convertible
top Toyota Solara. The collision crumpled the entire front end
within several inches of the dashboard, making it look like the
bellows of an accordion, The driver’s side door, to my
amazement, opened cleanly. I got in, took hold of the
steering wheel and slumped down in the
driver’s seat. “My baby girl almost died here today,” I
muttered to myself, desperately straining to
avoid breaking down in front of my daughter.
“Kimmy,” I opened the door. “Sit here by me,” I invited her,
patting the edge of the seat. I moved
over. “I need a few minutes,” I softly pled. She nodded
Then they came back to me … the eight words I’d never
“Mr. Busch, I suggest you come down immediately."
Dr. Ibrahim Yosef, chief resident trauma surgeon, was on
call that morning in the ER of Cook County Hospital when he
called me around 10 o’clock in the morning. My first-born son
Ben had been transported in by Chicago Fire paramedics
only minutes before.
“Mr. Busch? Are you the father of Benjamin Busch?”
“Yes, Sir,” my voice quivered.
“Ben has suffered massive internal injuries from a traffic
accident,” he explained. It was then he said them. I sped
away from my office in compliance with Dr. Yosef’s
“suggestion” in a state of focused desperation, I knew, I just
knew how this day would end.
Two hours later, my father and I witnessed our twenty-two
year old son and grandson die on the emergency room
operating table. I knew in my mind’s eye I would stare forever
at Ben’s unresponsive body.
“Dad, wake up,” Kimmy urged, shaking my shoulder. “It’s
time to go home.” For my daughter, it was
a moment she wanted to leave behind and move on.
After all, who among us wants to replay the footage of his
near violent death? And there I was, trying my best to
comprehend the enormity of nearly having lost a second
child by using the only meaningful point of reference I had,
the death of Kimmy’s brother. But this was not about Ben
though I suppose my drifting away for a moment to make the
connection is understandable if not entirely justifiable. It was
all about my daughter, that once enchanting little ballerina
with the amazingly long and slender fingers. She now sat
next to me on the edge of the driver’s seat, a grown up soon
to be law school graduate whose fingers were still as lovely
as they had been when she danced upon toe shoe. I like to
believe Kimmy knew where I had gone for several moments.
Knowing the kind of loving sister she had been to Ben, it
would not surprise me at all if she had gone there too. But
today ended, and I thank The Almighty for this, differently
than had the other when I had begun the day with three
children but came home with only two. We got up out of the
car. I planted a big “Daddy” kiss on her forehead. “Okay,
Sweety. Now I’m ready to go home.”
We didn’t talk much. Kimmy, understandably skittish,
gasped every time I braked or switched lanes. “You okay?”
“Yes Dad. Just beat.” An hour and a half later, I dropped
Kimmy off at her mom’s house. My heart sank. I wanted to
spend more time with her, but I had to remain true to the
promise I had made her mother. “We’ll get together later,” I
reassured myself. As I pulled out of the driveway, I saw the
chanukiah Kimmy’s mom had placed in the front window.
The shamash and the first candle shone happily. “My God,” I
chastised myself. “Tonight’s the first night of Chanukah. At
first I felt bad, but I realized that even though the tumult of the
day had made me unmindful, it hadn’t severed me from
its eternal message, encoded on the dreidel: “nes gadol haya
sham”-a great miracle happened there.
Later that week, Kimmy joined me and Zac, her younger
brother, for Shabbat Chanukah dinner. The table was set, its
candles aglow. It was the season of miracles old and new, a
time for spinning dreidels, eating potato latkes and showering
chocolate coins upon the heads of children.
Chanukah, The Festival of Lights, was on display in the front
window of every Jewish home.
We gathered around. “Sweetheart," my voice cracked 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 flickering candles
shone 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.
Reflecting on how that day might otherwise have ended, I
rejoiced in my Chanukah miracle whose fingers I held in the
palm of my hand, the best gift any dad could ever
hope to receive.