Funerals: More than Just a Burial
The flight felt longer than just an hour and half. I couldn’t believe we were flying from Atlanta to Chicago. I couldn’t believe I was flying to my bubby’s funeral. Funerals have been a part of my life. Recently, they have been routine. My grandparents all died three years apart, making me despise the word “funeral.” It wasn’t until recently when I realized the power of a funeral.
At the funeral, we were paid an unexpected visit from some old family friends. We had not seen them for nearly two years because of a dreadful argument. Then we were visited by my estranged great-uncle who has always had a sour relationship with our family. All pettiness was dropped, not a dirty look cast. Only hugs and hellos from old friends.
Funerals are strong events. No one thing can connect so many people, end petty fights, or stop virile insults as effectively as a funeral. Nor can anything heal someone as much as a funeral can. In Judaism, mourners sit Shiva (grieve) at the home of the loved one’s relatives for four days. During this time, friends and family visit the house of Shiva to share their condolences. When Shiva starts, the mourners are blanketed with grief. They unload their sorrows through tears. But soon the healing process begins. Mourners recount stories of the loved one’s life. Sometimes there is even laughter by the time Shiva ends. My bubby’s Shiva worked out the same way. We were almost having too much fun recounting her life. My cousins talked about bubby’s dislike of cherries. Dad remembered how I used to eat the cherry off of a sundae during our Sunday dinners in Atlanta. “How can you eat that” she would always ask. We laughed, hysterically. My aunt recalled how much of a clean freak bubby used to be when my aunt and Dad were kids. “Mom would always clean the house before the maids came.” Again we laughed, hysterically. But we were still grieving. This was just our way of doing so.
For all of the sorrows clumped together at a funeral, there is healing. The healing is what keeps us from giving up during our time of sorrow. Whether that healing is laughter, crying, sobbing, talking or silent meditation, funerals heal us. For this, I believe in funerals. I believe in their power to reconcile family friendships and to halt petty arguments. I believe in how they connect one person to another. I believe in their power to bring people from places like Atlanta, Georgia to a cemetery in Wilmette, Illinois. And I believe in their power to revive our spirits.
Before now I could not stand the thought of going to a funeral. I still have trouble thinking about the ceremony. Yet whenever we make that first phone call, fly to Chicago, attend that memorial service, and bury our loved ones again, I will be ready. I will move on. No matter who we may bury next, I will heal.
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