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Monday, March 3, 2008

A Tribute to Grandpa

Death is usually thought of as something sad and terrible. Something that is so final has a way to make us put our mortality into a new perspective. When one dies who is 94 years old, it's also amazing to think about the gift of life and longevity. Grandpa was gifted with longevity as is the Jewish people. What cultures or religions have survived as long as Judaism? The passing of a grandparent makes me think with pride about my heritage, eventhough Grandpa was secular. He did marry within Judaism, but I never heard him talk about going to Temple or celebrating Jewish Holidays. We are not sure he celebrated becoming a Bar Mitzvah. It's interesting some of the questions that come up after one dies.

Judaism has a very methodical way of mourning the loss of family. Like other Jewish life cycle events, I find very little space or appreciation for most life cycle rituals from the outside. With grieving, modern culture demands you be back at work in 24 hours. It's viewed as a sign of strength to be back and functioning. Judaism has a strict week-long mourning process. Even in my own house it is hard to create any space to reflect. No wonder people have so much trouble with grief--there is hardly time to process the death, our own mortality and spirituality before going on to handle the public on their terms.

Grandpa lived a strong and independent life. He was not formally educated, but very smart. He would have loved to be a college graduate and not just dress in my robe for the camera. My younger cousins are physicians, but my Grandpa says he was the first MD in the family...get it...Meyer Deutsch...he was full of humor and corny jokes. He hates that I homeschool. Shamed that he never got a degree and worked to support himself at a very early age, he doesn't understand how much I admire self-education.... which is what he was, self-educated. No one in my family seems to recall who his parents were. Was he left orphaned? It would account for us not knowing much about his early days or his parents names and lack of history we have on him. He read the New York Times Daily for a million years. He missed reading my published book, by just a few days. He was a purse maker... or better called a craftsman. He was handy and meticulous around the house and loved showing off all his gadgets. He could play the harmonica. He was proud to have Greatgrandchildren.

Grandpa will not have a Jewish burial and funeral service (its just the way the situation is and far too complicated for me to fully understand). That makes me sad. My own mourning space will bring him Jewish honors. I am grateful for the black ribbon the Rabbi placed on me and my mother to bring us some space. His ashes (oh, so not Jewish), will be buried in a national military ceremony.... when the military gets to it (not with Jewish urgency). Grandpa is a veteran of World War II. I do think he would like being buried there. He was not one to ever utter a preference or discuss the world to come.

I am sure he would be happy, even if he could never express it in words, that I can take my own initiative to bring spirituality to his passing. I lit a Shiva candle for him last night and read the Mourner's Kaddish. Reading it in Hebrew, like we do at the Temple brings me a sense of community and continuity, but I found it difficult to read the Mourner's Kaddish at home with my Mother and Boys in English without tears. The meaning is penetrating. It is a reminder that the spirit is stronger than death and Grandpa's influence on me shall live.


Wife to the Rockstar said...

What a BEAUTIFUL post.

Catalina said...

He seems like he had such a fulfilled life. He understood love in life, it sure seems like & will be honored as a veteran! What a great recognition. Even though not much is known about his family, it's great because you'll make sure what is known is passed down to your family and so on.

Thank you for sharing that very heartfelt message. I feel so sorry for you as you go through this time or mourning. I don't know if this will be encouraging in any way ... but I think you'll see some sentiment to it seeing you love babies. On the same day, February 29th, a friend of mine gave birth to a baby. That day, out of all days. It's quite intersting how both extremes occured that day. I just can't stop thinking of that.

gentledoula said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gentledoula said...

We are each placed here on earth to fulfill a purpose for our Creator. Many times we don't know how G_d is using us in our lives to affect others. You have shared something Grandpa might never have realized prior to his passing: the effect he had spiritually in your life, and now the lives of your children. It's a sobering thought that how we live our lives has eternal consequences.

Birth and death ... passages in our eternal lives meant to be experienced, with all of their emotions, not rushed or masked by artificial means. Hugs.

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