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Alan D Busch

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Category: 

Memoir



please read my most recent post under My News. Follow the instructions.:)



Kissing Dad’s Nose, His Last Two Weeks


Kissing Dad’s nose turned up the corners of his mouth the

tiniest bit. It was all he could manage. Gone his once cheery

disposition, his healthy, handsome face now gaunt, frozen and

expressionless.


This is how he’ll look when he dies, I suppose.
I try to block such

thoughts, but they intrude upon my privacy nonetheless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Caring Caring for Dad in the hospice entailed an enormous emotional

burden. His body was busily shutting itself down. Our every

effort to make Dad as comfortable as possible only accentuated

the reality that he would not be going home again.


Bobbie and I met with the hospice social worker. Despite the

awkwardness of making final arrangements in advance, we

agreed it was the wise choice to make. Several hours later,

a funeral home representative I had contacted arrived to help us

 make the awful final arrangements for Dad.


I measured my father’s physical decline by the waning strength

of his handshake which remained powerful until the time         

he entered the skilled nursing facility. He stopped smiling. No

longer able or inclined to speak, I think Dad’s silence was his

way of saying there was nothing more to say. It was a time of

waiting.


Dad’s appetite declined precipitously. His refusal to open his

mouth, even for ice cream his life-long favorite, did not

discourage me from feeding him. Even to wet his lips was

often enough. He expressed his feelings through his eyes.

There was still a tiny sparkle. He was glad I was there.


It became clear to me as we approached the High Holidays how

difficult it is to honor one’s terminally-ill parent.  I was unsure

whether I should be in shul or at Dad’s bedside.
 
“I’ll be staying here with Dad for Rosh Ha Shana,” I told Ron

who had postponed his flight back home several times, but

could no longer do so.  “If you can’t take care of your father

at a time like this, religion isn’t worth much, is it?” he observed

pithily. His face brightened. “You’ve made the right decision

little brother.”

“I couldn’t agree more Ron,” I replied. My brother wept. I guess

there is a first time for everything. I turned aside. “Hey,” he said,

gently draping his forearm on the back of my neck and

shoulders. “Thank you.”


The eve of Yom Ha Din approached. Who would live? Who

would die? Who would be sealed in the Sefer Ha Chaim[1]? I

found myself wrestling with a more intense moral dilemma

than the one I had faced several days earlier. The awesome

uncertainty of Yom Kippur filled me with dread. How would

I live with myself tomorrow if I were not at my father’s bedside

today?

Or should I plead for my father’s life before the Aron

Kodesh?[2] I needed guidance. I called Rabbi Louis. We chatted

for an hour. I learned how he had cared for his dying father

years before but could not bring myself to ask him what he

 would have done had his father been dying on the eve of Yom

Kippur. Time was running out just hours before Kol Nidre.

“Hello Reb Ephraim?” I called my friend in Atlanta, an

orthodox Jew whom I had met in an online yeshiva. “This is

Alan.”

“I apologize,” Ephraim began, “but I’ve been so busy with my

mother. She’s eighty-six and is dying from stage four cancer.

I’ll be with her at home on Yom Kippur.”

I was thunderstruck. I knew what I had to do.

Alan, how can I help you? You had a question?”

“I did but you’ve already answered it.”


“The Aibishter
[3] sends messengers to help us make the right

decision,” Rabbi Louis remarked when we spoke in the evening

after Yom Kippur had ended. I was certain I had made the right

choice at this time of extremity in my father’s life. Together, Dad

and I had reached closer to The One Above than either of us could

have done separately.


I was called to his bedside in the late morning. My wife and I left

immediately. A nurse informed Bobbie that she had thought

Dad’s end was imminent. Dad, wrapped tightly in clean white

blankets, was asleep as he had been for the better part of two

weeks. I stood at his bedside. His breathing was unlabored.

A final calm overcame him. We were ready, I suppose. This time

had arrived. The nurse confirmed my suspicion. I looked down into

his green eyes to see them close. He appeared as if he were almost

smiling. Dad’s face, to which I had always looked up, no longer

bore the grimace of pain, no more the discomfort of having eaten

too many green apples

He suffered no apparent distress that Shabbos morning,

October 18, 2008. Though I held his hand, he slipped through my

grasp anyway.



[1] Hebrew; The Book of Life

[2] The Holy Ark

[3]





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