Jul 29 2014
When a Kveller reader recently sought advice on finding a Jewish ritual for mourning the passing of her cat, I wrote off the request as being outside of the boundaries of normative Jewish practice. Judaism’s elaborate and meaningful mourning rituals and practices are for people, not pets. I felt that saying kaddish or observing the yahrzeit of a pet, no matter how beloved, would somehow take away from the meaning and power of these customs and laws.
And then our beloved guinea pig Caramel died.
Caramel was no ordinary guinea pig. In addition to her rather impressive size and multiple chins, she was a fairly accommodating rodent who often kept my eldest son company during homework time and who enjoyed a good (supervised) romp on the front lawn (The smells! The tasty grass!). Caramel occupied a special place in our hearts (no offense to her cage mate, Cinnamon), and I knew that mourning her was going to be difficult.
We chose a sturdy shoe box for her coffin and my husband went outside to dig the requisite hole in the yard while the kids mourned over her furry, lifeless body. Not wanting me to close the lid, I explained to them that the coffin is closed during most Jewish funerals so that we can remember the person as they were when they were alive. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 28 2014
One of the things I love and admire about Judaism is its focus on life. Judaism, unlike many other religions, is concerned more with this life than what comes in the hereafter. Judaism does provide rituals for mourners to cling to in those dark days after a loved one dies, but beyond the first weeks or year of mourning, life resumes, and any mention of the departed one brings sympathy and comfort from those around.
My dad killed himself 10 years ago.
The ritual afterwards was completely different. He couldn’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery and asked to be cremated with no funeral, no shiva, nothing. Not only did we have to lose our dad and find some way to reconcile his taking of his own life, but we had to do it without the rituals, which are there for a reason. We had to carve our way, largely on our own and without a community. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 22 2013
This past week, my 85–year-old grandmother passed away rather suddenly. She was the only grandparent I ever met, and for a couple of years when I lived with her, she was more like a parent figure. My “Grams,” as we called her, was tough as nails. She raised four kids after her husband died at 45 years old, and she was left with nothing. She didn’t even have a driver’s license.
Grams worked 40 hours a week at a six pack store up until about two months before she passed. She always said she wanted to die by “getting hit in the a** by a mac truck.” Well, cancer was her mac truck and it happened rather quickly. Grams was checked into the hospital on a Wednesday, diagnosed on Friday with stage IV cancer, and died Saturday afternoon after the whole family got to say goodbye. Read the rest of this entry →