Wednesday, April 25, 2007

First Funeral

Daniel's father, Leo, died on Monday night, erev Yom Ha'atzmaut. He died after a grueling illness. Essentially 12 years lost to a combination of Alzheimer's and a Parkinson's like combination. He was a survivor of the Holocaust, who fortunately was able to get out of Czechoslovakia and escape through Europe and eventually reach the US with his mother and sister. They were eventually reunited with his father. He spoke eight languages but spoke virtually nothing for the last two years. He was an academician, a Zionist and a liberal and believer in Israel, peace and the Jewish people. He raised four nice children but was denied a decent retirement (let alone a pleasant aging) with his wife of 55 years, Rita.

Rita, by the way, is one of Akiva's favorite people. They've bonded over Curious George, The Little Red Lighthouse and Shabbat dinners at Jessica and Daniel's. He went right over to her (he knows a Grandma when he sees one), sat on her lap and they became friends.

This was our first funeral in Israel. A few surprises. It's informal, of course. No suits, no black dresses, not alot of ceremony. It was held in the Sephardic hall as the family was told that they would be more comfortable with men and women standing (no seats except for a few around the side) together and with women speaking or even worse, gasp, helping to carry the body at the end.

Ah, the body. Wrapped in a tallit, lying on a stretcher of sorts. NO CASKET. Sort of drives home the fact that it is a body that is being buried. He looked so small and indeed he was never a big person while living (I only interacted with Leo Laufer when Jess and Daniel got married but he wasn't able to respond) but in death, he seemed even smaller.

People spoke. We stood. More people spoke. We stood some more. It was good even though it was sad. Daniel and his brother, Michael, spoke of a man that I don't know, even his grandchildren barely know (except for the oldest two who are 23 and 21 respectively) and most assembled knew through his family - through stories and memories. I was reminded of the children's book, written by Mem Fox with wonderful illstrations by Julie Vivas called, Wilfred Gordon Mcdonald Partridge which is a great book that tells of the friendship between the aforementioned WGMP and his neighbors at the Old Folks Home next to his house. He's friends with a few of the residents and in particular likes Miss Nancy because she has four names, just like him (I can't remember the names though). Miss Nancy is spoken about sadly because she has "lost her memories." WGMP collects some of his favorite things and brings them to Miss Nancy and she looks at them and remembers things from her childhood and is happy because WGMP helped her "find her memories."

Burial was down the hill. Won't discuss all the particulars except that there was a 21 gun salute of a sorts as nearby there were people doing some target practice for "mishmar ezrachi/civilian patrol."

It was a good funeral.

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