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Alan D Busch

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Category: 

Memoir



see this section under the first version of this.


‘Kissing Dad’s Nose (alternate version)


“It feels sore,” Dad explained. “You know how I felt as a kid when

I had eaten too many green apples.” I didn’t believe a word. The

pain I saw on his face was not that of a child who had eaten too

many green apples but of a man whose cancer had worsened

dramatically over the last several days.  Dad was doing what a

dad should do, he thought, for my sake.


Kissing Dad on his nose turned up the corners of his mouth the

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

his handsome face now gaunt, frozen and expressionless. He no

longer smiled.


This is how he’ll look when he dies, I suppose.
I’ve tried

unsuccessfully to block this thought.  It is as persistent as it

is painful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dad’s Dad's body was busy shutting itself down. Our every effort to

make him more comfortable served as a bitter reminder he would

not be going home again. Shouldering this emotional burden is

familiar to anyone who has cared for a dying  parent in a

hospice.


I monitored Dad’s decline by the waning strength of his handshake. 

He had had such powerful hands. No longer able to speak, his

silence spoke to me. There was nothing more to say.  Dad expressed

himself … through his eyes.  I saw their tiny twinkle. He was glad I

was there.


It was a time of our waiting.


Dad’s appetite declined precipitously, even for ice cream his life-

long favorite. His refusal to open his mouth didn’t discourage

me from feeding him. There is something profoundly sad about

 

feeding your father with a spoon. Oftentimes it was enough to wet

his lips.


The High Holidays approached.
I struggled to make the right

choice. 

Should I be in shul or at Dad’s bedside? What if while in shul,

he …

I feared the guilt of a poor decision.

“I’ll be staying here with Dad for Rosh Ha Shana,” I told Ron, my

older brother, 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, whose eyes had become

misty. I had never seen my brother weep. 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 drew near. Who would live? Who

would die? Who would be sealed in the Sefer Ha Chaim?

The awesome uncertainty filled me with dread.


I belong by Dad’s side
, I told myself repeatedly, yet felt pulled away

as if I could do more for him by pleading for his life before the Aron

Kodesh.  I needed guidance.


I called Rabbi Louis. We spoke for an hour.

“When my father was dying, I recited Tehilim for him at his bedside

every hour of the day, every day,” he recounted lovingly.


I listened.


Overwhelmed by it all, I just could not bring myself to ask him if he

would have done anything differently had his father been dying on

the eve of Yom Kippur.


I returned to be with Dad still undecided.

“Hello Reb Ephraim?” I called a friend from Dad’s room several

hours before Kol Nidre.

“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 staying home with her 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,” I exclaimed.


“The Aibishter sends messengers to help us make the right

decision,” Rabbi Louis remarked when we spoke after yontif.


I made the right choice at this time of extremity in my father’s life.

Together, we reached more closely to The One Above than either of

us could have done individually.


We made a good team, Dad and I.


In the early morning hours, I received the following email:

B"H

Dear Alan,

May you and your father be blessed. There is nothing more that 

I can say. You know that.  Other than to say that your being there

beside your Father at this time is the greatest, most precious, truly

G-d-like act you could ever do. 

May your Father always be blessed to have nachat (nachas) from

you.

I pray for you,

Gita


I was called to his bedside in the late morning of October 18, 2008.

My wife and I left immediately.


Dad’s end was imminent. Wrapped tightly in clean white

blankets, he had awoken and fallen back asleep several

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

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


I looked down into his green eyes to see them close. He appeared

to be smiling, no longer having to bear the pain of having eaten

“too .many green apples”.

He suffered no apparent distress that Shabbos morning. Though I

held his hand, he slipped through my grasp anyway.

 

 

 





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