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Oct 23 2014

As a Mormon, How Can I Comfort My Jewish Mother-in-Law?

By at 3:48 pm

We Don't Agree on the Afterlife but We're Family

My family always asks me what Jews believe about the afterlife. My family is Mormon but my husband’s family is Jewish—they belong to a Reform synagogue—and my father-in-law is slowly dying. So whenever my family members ask me how my mother-in-law is doing and I give them the update—that she’s coping but still sad—they always shake their heads and say, “How does she do it without a belief in the afterlife?”

This is incredible to them. Mormons spend a lot of time thinking about the afterlife. For example, even though my uncle died tragically, before I was born, he was still very much a presence in my extended family. So much so, that when I was little and I would say my nightly prayer, sometimes I would ask God to put him on the line. Then I would say, “Hello, Uncle Rich. How are you?” and I would tell him things that I thought he might want to know about my grandma, my cousins, etc… (I kept it upbeat, so he wouldn’t feel bad about cutting out early). At my grandparents’ funerals we sang “God Be With You ‘Till We Meet Again,” and I meant it. To Mormons, the idea of an afterlife is the only antidote to the sting of death. Read the rest of this entry →

After His Death, Remembering the Good Times My Daughter & Father Shared

By at 10:55 am

Remembering the Good Times My Daughter and My Father Shared
A little over three months ago, my father died. It was sudden and devastating, but not totally unexpected. I held his hand, and with my mother, our rabbi, and sister on the phone, we said the shema and told him how much we loved him as he left us. We should all be so lucky.

My dad passed away just before Shabbat, which I think he did on purpose, to be sure that we’ll remember him at least every week. Not that he needed to worry about that, since I’ll miss him every day. He loved our Shabbat dinners around the table and singing a few zmirot before we lit candles. Shabbat became extra joyous after the first granddaughter—my gal Charlotte—was born. My dad added lyrics to one of his favorite Yiddish songs, “Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, yidn zol zayn Shabbos,” to include “Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, yidn zol zayn Charlotte.” Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 22 2011

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

By at 1:33 pm

“Everybody wants to go to heaven,
But nobody wants to die.”

— Loretta Lynn

I was tripped up by a country song — it’s an occupational hazard for those of us with blood or marital ties to Tennessee. As such things go, the occasional humming of a Loretta Lynn song is not such a terrible price to pay for your beloved. This time, though, Loretta landed me in trouble.

The best country songs are infectious bluesy numbers with wry insight into the human condition. And, for some unknown reason, I was a line into singing “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” while setting out dinner for my girls. Realizing what the next words out of my mouth would be, I let the song trail off, hoping they wouldn’t notice, only to hear my older girl ask:

“Wouldn’t that mean everybody has to die?”

So, I carried on singing, as if I hadn’t missed a beat: “But nobody wants to die.” Which answered the question, at least in the context of the song. But, as both girls launched into loudly sung and gleeful repetitions of the two clauses, I realized that it was a potentially dangerous chunk of thought to be blurting out in an East Coast preschool where the students and teachers tend to be pre-Loretta-Lynn-literate.

What we didn’t need was two loudspeakers broadcasting at full strength completely unreliable insight into our family beliefs. So, to avoid embarrassment at school pickup, I tried to morph it, before bedtime, into: “Everybody wants to eat ice cream,  / But nobody wants to put on PJs.”

I sang it over and again. The girls liked it. They joined in. They bought into the sentiment and put on their PJs. I sealed the bribe with some ice cream which they sat down to eat. And then while sitting, they carried on singing:

“Everybody wants to eat ice cream,

But nobody wants to die.”

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