I found myself at an unexpected funeral one sunny day. One of my fellow library Board members died suddenly just a few days earlier, and I received an email one afternoon asking that I attend her service the following day. I later learned that she was Jewish and that they do not believe in embalming, so funerals happen a little more quickly than I am used to.
Fortunately, my boss let me take time off, though wrapping up details at work made me late for the service. That, and the fact that I thought it was at the cemetery overlooking the ocean when it was actually the one in town. Its entrance is not well marked or marked at all, as far as I could tell. When I arrived, I could see things were already in process. I parked Wednesday under a tall tree and made my way toward the group as quickly as I could.
The rabbi was speaking about Jennifer, and it was funny and delightful. I think she would have approved. Others spoke, and there were tears and laughter both. I couldn’t understand the Hebrew prayers, but they sounded beautiful and I could feel the centuries-old tradition as I did at that long-ago bar mitzvah. A lone raven wheeled slowly overhead, the sun glistening on his dark feathers as he surfed the air currents. I felt the sun warming my back and smelled freshly cut grass as I tried not to stare at the simple, pale wooden box poised over the grave.
I don’t think I have been to an actual burial since my grandparents’, 42 years ago. It was a little shocking. The rabbi said that it is considered a final gift to the deceased if you help to fill in his or her grave, since they cannot cover themselves. So I got in line with the other mourners and when the time came, I took the shovel and as gently as possible put the dirt in her grave, where it made that terrible, hollow sound as it hit the coffin. That’s a sound you never forget. Some people used their hands instead of the shovel, perhspa feelinga little closer or more personal that way.
At the end, the rabbi asked us to stand in two lines along the path leading to the grave, and as the family passed by, they clasped our hands and we each said, “May you be comforted.” It was really beautiful. I was glad I could be there.
A YEAR AGO: Silly Suzy! Could it be spring fever? Or only having two brain cells?
FIVE YEARS AGO: The naughtiness of Clyde. I am pleased to say that he seems to have reformed.