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Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Days After Parting

This is heavy stuff...

If there was anything about Judaism that ever left the most impression on me was Jewish Death Rituals. Obviously, the death rituals are for the family(survivors) to follow through on. But I do feel like, how we respect the deceased spirits and remains are are of significant spiritual value for survivors and respectful to the parted on getting them to World After.

First all,  Grandma bought her plot near her brothers about 20 years ago. Back then I thought what a morbid kind of thing to do. But now:
1. I am glad she made her wishes known (whether by accident or peer pressure or she got a good deal). And now we the survivors didn't have to decide or fight about it.
2. Her plot was $1800 back than rather than $18,000 it would have cost now (or was it 180 and now 1800?).
3. She is in a Jewish cemetery. Her good deal ( I am pretty sure it was a good deal, or a 2 for  1 deal, or she wouldn't have done it.)   worked out in her favor so she had a respectful Jewish burial. She is also near her brothers.
4. She was buried quickly, within 40 hours, as it should be. No embalming (don't speed or slow down the process of dust to dust). No make-up and fixings. No public viewing. I agree with Jewish explanation that that a viewing does not help the mourning process in anyway. Not for me anyway. But we all do have different needs.
5. My boys and I arrived to the cemetery right on time. The cemetery brought her all pine, all wood, casket out. Before you could blink, they were lowering it into the 6 foot hole. In Observant Judaism the family is responsible for the actual burial. Never in my life had I given it much thought, but my boys all took the shovels and put the dirt back on over Grandma's casket. Talk about reality check. Acceptance. Physically doing  the work ourselves until we were tired. When we couldn't do it any more, we read, Lord is my Sheppard, Mourner's Kaddish, my sisters Eulogy, and a few other short blurbs from the The Comfort Book provided to us. We read what worked for us  and had meaning for us. Each of my boys read something. We watched until the last piece of sod was in place like there was no hole just an hour before by the team of workers. I recall being at graveside once for this (but don't ask me who, don't remember, I was a kid along for the ride). I also recall being graveside for a non-Jewish burial and after the memorial, the mourners go elsewhere, to eat and console, and the "dirty" work is done the the burial team. I am glad my Grandmother left this last opportunity to my boys.

I am so glad it worked out that I could be there to represent the family especially because it was important to me. Sometimes you do something that feels right and you don't know why it's right, it just is and you get the blessings later and insight later on. Family is far and spread out. Each one of us had our own roles in the arrangements, prayers, Grandma's life or some how getting her to her resting place, or helping getting each other through this.

Modern culture forces us to go on with life. Before the burial is the time of preparation, after the burial is a Shiva period for a week. Shiva is more strict for household immediate family. I feel like Grandma is immediate family, although, some Rabbi's might tell me I am not obligated. It's her health (lack of mobility and poor hearing) that separated us in later years. Although I am not Observant, I do think it's appropriate to follow my heart. And if I don't want to go to a party or parade this week, I don't belong there. It's not like I am crying, "Grandma, why'd you leave, I don't understand, Come back." I totally accept that she lived a peaceful life til 95. Like the hospice nurse said, her last breath was between her and her creator. But there is a lot for me to process for myself, for my boys, for my family who I am not immediate with and listening to them. Giving them some space to process. Mourning does not mean just begging the dead to come back and crying. It is so much more complicated than that. It is so appropriate to reflect on your memories. Reflect on your life and your own goals. I am totally enjoying hearing what other people have to say about her. I want this Shiva time.

A Shiva candle is symbolic of this time I want to allow myself. (Catholics use a similar candle.) Ideally I wouldn't work, go out to party, show vanity. And heck, I don't really want to. Right now. (I do have to work a little.) I totally get where Jewish mourning rituals come from because it feels right to me. It doesn't end after a week, but that's all I want to deal with right now.

Two "angels" came to visit her in the hospital. I had no idea she had friends at skilled nursing. Two ladies who visited their Dad truly missed my Grandma and left the hospital in tears seeing my Grandma.  They told me since their Dad couldn't talk my Grandma would give them updates. And she made them laugh. This is so nice to know.

My family wants to have a memorial at a later date for all the out of town relatives. Without asking for it or us knowing anything about it, her skilled nursing facility is planning a memorial for her on Tuesday. I am so impressed they would do this. I am moved that she is being honored this way. I know she was taken good care of.

So Grandma, You can rest peacefully knowing your "deal" way back did not burden us and your immediate memorial was "included." I know that would make you happy. Many people may not understand why the ritual details are important to me, you may not even understand. We all have different needs, and for different reasons, we both have peace with the final arrangements.


Wife to the Rockstar said...

This is so beautiful Denise. The image of your boys with their shovels brought tears to my eyes.

Orlando Realtor said...

All I can say is WOW. I don't know how I have also missed this post until now, more then a month later. I guess I have been in my own head as necessary. Could this really be the words of my little girl?

Well done!!

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