We had the privilege of taking part in a graveside funeral last week. Mordechai was asked in his role as a rav to “officiate” at the funeral.
The lady who passed away had never married. She died at the much-too-early age of 65 from an illness. Unfortunately, since her teens she was faced with many health-related issues. For much of her life she lived in Brooklyn, alone, generally happy and content with her life. She spent her time occupied by working, doing needlepoint, puzzles, cooking, sharing recipes and being a good friend to many.
Frequently, when we hear people speak of a funeral that they attended, the popularity of the deceased is described in the number of people who attended the ceremony. “It was sold out.” “There was not an empty seat in the funeral parlor.” “He had a funeral fitting a statesman.” In many cases, the people attending the funeral hardly knew the deceased but were attending for various reasons. Similarly, l’havdil, we hear of weddings, and we have attended them, where there was a need to have five to six hundred people in attendance. Ask the bride and groom who these people are and in just about every case they will have no idea. Certainly their nearest and dearest they are not.
What was extremely moving about this funeral was that there were fifteen people in attendance at the graveside service. It was rainy and bleak that day until about two minutes before the actual ceremony began when the sun peeked through the clouds. As was mentioned, this lady had only a surviving brother, no other immediate family. Those in attendance were primarily her cousin’s children. They were bereft at their loss. Driving in from Virginia, Boston and other destinations they just had to be there. They never lived in close proximity to Brooklyn where she lived her entire life. Nevertheless, she stayed in touch with them and they with her. They spoke of their love for her and how she had impacted their lives. Family was of the utmost to her and although some could say that they were not close genealogically, they were closer than many siblings living within the confines of the same city. Each younger member of the family recalled what she had meant to them. They spoke of the framed needlepoint art which she had made to hang above their beds with their names on them. They related stories of her and felt that, had she not had the confines of her many illnesses, she was the type of woman who in today’s day and age could have headed a large corporation. She listened carefully to what others had to say and valued relationships from her growing-up years to the present. As she became more and more ill, even her caretakers became enthralled with her charismatic personality.
It is rare that you see a family that is so loving to a distant relative. Their reward in return was her good nature and camaraderie. Maybe we could call her a sort of Auntie Mame type. We were indeed honored to be a part of this special salute to a woman who had lived a seemingly nondescript, uneventful life. We were moved by the homage and love of younger members of her family who came from near and far to show tribute to her. Obviously she was a very unique person and they are a special family. We were indeed honored to have been a part of this outstanding tribute and to befriend a family with warm traditional and loving values. They are a lesson for all of us to learn from.
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick