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Alan D Busch

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Is It Still Okay If Your Father Cries? TO BE PUBLISHED BY THE JEWISH PRESS
By Alan D Busch
Monday, September 14, 2009

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Recent stories by Alan D Busch
· Cruising Route 66 With Dad, Revision #2
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This is the version of "Is It Still Okay If Your Father Cries? that will appear in the November 13, 2009 edition of The Jewish Press, America's largest Independent Jewish Weekly Newspaper.

Is it Still Okay If Your Father Cries?

The phone rang. It’s a call I’d been dreading. “Well? Pick it up

already,” my wife exhorted. Bobbie, my dad’s wife, was calling

as we had agreed she would in the event of a life-threatening

emergency. My father was dying of stage four colon cancer.

“Alan, I’m taking your father to the emergency room. Oh my

God! The paramedics have arrived.” I ran out the door.

As I soon learned, he had been rushed back to the hospital for

several oncological reasons-the most urgent being severe

chemotherapy-induced incontinence.

“Dad’s inside,” Bobbie said, nodding toward the treatment

room. “My God, what am I walking into here?” Bobbie

followed me in. The air was fetid. Dad lay atop a gurney

wearing a loosely-tied hospital gown. He had lost so much

weight that his skin fit him like an over-sized suit.

His skin tone was yellowish like that of the mesim I had seen as

a Chevra Kadisha volunteer. I trembled in fear of my father’s


“Alan?” Dad whispered. He grasped my hand with his

still powerful clench.

“Yes, Dad, I’m right here.” We both managed a little smile.

Sarah, the lead nurse, suggested that Bobbie and I leave but

nodded approvingly when I stayed by my father’s side.

Bobbie stepped out. The door reopened moments later.

“Dr. Busch?” inquired a young resident whose black suede

kippah was affixed atop his head in the manner of yeshivah

bochers.“Shalom Aleichem. I’m Alan Busch, Dr. Busch’s son,”

I responded. “Benjamin Finerman. Aleichem shalom,” he

returned the greeting. “Dr. Busch, we’re just waiting for the

paperwork to admit you. May your father have a refuah

shleyma,” he whispered to me, just as he turned to leave.

Dad’s first two days were exhausting. The incontinence

emergencies were turning my father’s life into a nightmare.

We battled them incessantly for two weeks. The doctors’

treatments were ineffective. “There is nothing more we can do

for him here,” my father’s oncologist concluded. Dad was not

ready to go home, but the hospital was ready to release him the

next day. Time was running out.

So, in an act of desperation, I called my dad’s gastroenterologist

at 5:00 a.m. and left a message with his service. He called me

back within minutes.

“Doctor,” I explained. “The tincture of opium you prescribed

for my father hasn’t worked. The incontinence is destroying him

faster than his cancer.”

“I’ve tried everything I know to do,” he admitted, “but if the

tincture is not working, I do not know how to stop it.” My

 heart sank.  We requested another consultation with the

oncologist. “The prognosis varies with each person,” he

explained later that morning. “This could go on,” he continued

“for three to six months or even a year,” shrugging his shoulders

and turning up the palms of his hands.

Dad was getting sleepy. We needed a break. Ron, my older

brother, went for a coffee while I wandered over to a

lounge overlooking Lake Michigan. It was one of those

moments, you know, when you just stare out of the

window lost in thought …

“Davening is like dialing long distance to ‘De Aibishter’,

voice of my rebbe, Reb Isser, ZT’L reminded me.

“Call His number every day, and remember to pray with your heart. You may get a busy signal, lots of folks trying to reach Him, so be patient or leave a message. He returns every call.”

 My brother’s voice “awoke” me. We sat down together.

"It's so sad," Ron commented. “Dad and I made it to the

bathroom in time this morning.”

“You did? I welcomed the good news. “That’s great to


“Wait. There’s more,” he cautioned. “Dad told me he needed to

sit for a while and I should lie back down to sleep. He’d let me

know when finished. Shortly thereafter is when I heard him

quietly crying,” Ron said barely above a whisper. “It got worse

from that point on.” That evening, Ron went back to Dad’s

apartment to sleep while I stayed the night.

Is it still okay if your father cries?” I mused while watching Dad

sleep at 3:00 a.m.

“Everything good in here?” whispered Barb, our night nurse,

poking her head in.

 “Good morning, Barb. I’m going to step out for a bit, okay?”

“No problem,” she answered, “I’ll look in after him. You go


I returned to the same lounge. No other souls were around-only

me and the whisper of Reb Isser’s voice. “Be patient,” he

counseled. “De Aibishter will pick up. You’ll see.”

“Ribono shel Olam” I began my silent prayer …

“I do not presume any merit of my own. My father, Avrum ben Rose, calmly awaits his end of days. He has taught me this lesson of faith and trust in You by his personal example. Please heal his bowel so that he may live out his last days in dignity and peace.”

And so, I waited to hear from Him “who heals all flesh and

performs wonders.”  My cell phone rang the next day.

“Good morning Alan!”

“Dad? You’re still home, right?” I nearly panicked.

“It’s worked!” He shouted excitedly. “The tincture, Son, has

finally kicked in,” blaring so loudly I had to remove the phone

from my ear. “So Dad, tell me how you feel?” I asked, sharing

his excitement. “Sonny Boy, I feel … I feel,” his voice

cracking ever so slightly. “I feel … like I’ve so much to be

thankful for.”

My father chose life while he was dying. Cancer was killing

him, an unalterable fact he accepted with majesty and grace. The

incontinence had been vanquished by a combination of my

father’s unyielding determination to emerge the victor and,  

b’esrat HaShem, the power of tefilah.

When Dad died on Shabbos morning, October 18, 2008, I held

his hand and watched as he gently departed this world, a man at

peace whose dignity had been restored.

Alan D. Busch





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Reviewed by Connie Faust 2/3/2012
Alan, this is a beautiful story. In my mind, I sit with you at the bedside, pray with you, and rejoice when your dad calls with his good news, the answered prayer. I don't know if you are still an active member of AD. I had bookmarked your story, "A Memorable Teacher Revisited" some time ago, and came back to your den to refresh my memory.
I send you my deepest condolences and a heartfelt "Shalom."


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