Thursday, March 14, 2013

the ritual

The three brothers and their uncle met at the funeral home on Monday afternoon and arranged everything.  Their dad was buried in the family plot in the orthodox synagogue cemetery Tuesday late afternoon.  Marc's paternal great grandparents and grandparents and his sister are buried there and now his father.  A great uncle and a great aunt are buried there as well.

There are burial practices enforced in the orthodox cemetery. No in ground concrete vault allowed (something that is required in all other cemeteries down here so close to the water table), only a simple pine box that looked like a crate more than anything else, no embalming but buried within 24 hours or as soon thereafter as possible, and naked wrapped in a shroud.  At the funeral home, a special person comes in and prepares the body, washing it with warm water and wrapping it in the shroud., sons, daughter, nieces, nephews, cousins, kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and assorted spouses...gathered at a nearby restaurant for a late lunch a couple of hours before the funeral and when the time neared, we walked to the cemetery which was just two blocks away.  It was short.  The rabbi spoke about him giving the outlines of his life.  

Marc's older sister, who actually had a different father but was raised by Marc's father until their mom abandoned them when Marc was 9 and was sent to live with her birth father when she was about 13, got up and spoke about how she always considered him her real father and her brothers and deceased younger sister as her family.  

Marc's younger brother got up and read what he had written and listening to them, their experience of that man was so different from ours. Though they all well knew Danny's dark side, he also showed them love and concern and stayed interested and involved in their lives, something we never received, not even before he officially stopped knowing us.

The youngest son who had taken care of him was the most affected by his father's death. But then, Danny doted on both those boys.  There are 7 years between Marc and his younger brother, 9 between Marc and his youngest brother.  I always thought he considered Marc tainted by his mother and that was why, or at least one reason why, he turned his back on his oldest son. The other two were only a baby and two when their mother left and they had no memories of her.

Danny lived with his youngest son for a year and a half before he died and it was only the last 6 months when his ability to communicate had deteriorated that he indicated that he 'wanted to write Marc a letter', something he was incapable of doing by then. Marc went to see him. I know I wrote in my previous post that Danny regretted his actions but, really, I don't think he ever did. I have no idea what motivated him to ask to see Marc but it wasn't regret.

After the siblings remembered their father, the rabbi led the prayer for the dead which is always spoken in Hebrew as the coffin was being lowered with heavy canvas straps and then we surviving family members shoveled dirt on the coffin.

I've always liked this part of Jewish burial rituals. The last mitzvah we do for someone.

My shovel was extra full to lay it all to rest.


  1. sounds like a much more 'natural' burial without all the embalming, concrete box, etc. glad it is over with for the 2 of you...

  2. I like the idea of that kind of burial - it makes more sense than those elaborate coffins. But I'm still going with cremation.

    I'm glad there was some closure (although there never really is complete closure). I like that your shovel was full :)

  3. I'm with Gail on this one. Certainly the book can close now.
    I know many will not understand but it was such a relief when my Dad died. I always said he was the meanest man ever let to walk the planet. It was like I could breathe for the very first time. I felt liberated.
    And the following fathers day was peaceful for me.

  4. Weighed him down with that shovel full, what. Good personal statement.

  5. Rituals have that 'magic' power to start and begin things. It sounds like the rite went as well as these things go. I'm glad for you and yours.

    Oh, and I totally get the bit about you and the Rabi knowing 'the man' in different ways. I felt like that quite a bit while people talked about my brother...

  6. Interesting about the rituals involved. Like The Bug, I can appreciate the simplicity of it -- but I'm going for cremation too. As for the full shovel, well, why not? As they say, funerals are for the living, not the dead.

  7. Cremation for me any day!

  8. I loved your statement that your shovel was extra full!!!! That speaks volumes to me!
    Hugging you

  9. What a beautiful post.

    I love all the Jewish rites of grieving and burial. So to the point, I think.

    I like imagining you with a big ole shovel full of dirt.

    So sorry for Marc's loss.

  10. I got the exact same scenario with my father.
    I thought I was the only one.
    I can't wait until he dies, he is truly that awful.
    Your last two posts really resonate with me.

  11. It sounds like it was a difficult day in different ways for those left behind.


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