August 4, 2001

More For Me


As I mentioned in the last entry, yesterday we (Hubby and I) had to go order the tombstone for my father's grave.

Hubby is involved for two reasons:
That's not the kind of thing I'd like to do alone if I can help it;
and it's his friend and golfing buddy who runs the monument business. There are only two or three companies in Montreal that make headstones for the Jewish cemeteries, so the choice was simple.

Those who have been reading for awhile, or those who know me in person, probably are aware that I'm not into flashy, expensive stuff - especially when the extra frills serve no practical purpose. I rejected all the latest styles, shiny, polished, red, and black, and went with the basic light gray. It has some columnar engraving down the sides and will have a star that I chose. I think it's elegant.

The reason for the simplicity is not the money - the money for this comes out of Dad's assets. People probably think I'm too cheap to put up a modern stone. But that's not it at all. I just don't see the point. Is it to prove how much I loved him? Prove to whom? He already knows and that's all that matters.

I did request that the word "uncle" be added along with the usual husband, father, grandfather - my cousins loved all their aunts and uncles and that's a significant tribute. So Joy and Gail, if and when you read this, please let the others know. (What, you expect ME to contact them???)

So the visit was fairly painless; even more so because of the discussion we had concerning the unveiling ceremony. This is, as I understand, a North American Jewish custom. According to Hubby's friend (whose family has been in this business for almost 100 years, and who is active in the Jewish community) it began as a way to pull the immigrant community together. The cemeteries were far-flung from the cities in those days and the event would be a day-trip with basic refreshments and an opportunity for what we now call networking. Then the custom grew and became what it is today - another party-type affair in which each generation has to outdo the previous one.

I found some more information on it here, which seems to agree with the above assessment.

There's little or no religious significance to the event. There are some prayers but a rabbi isn't required to recite them.

Hubby's friend suggested that if I wanted to be a minimalist, I gather my immediate family, go to the grave after the stone is put up, and say the prayers personally.

I like that.

I wouldn't want to shut anyone out but neither would I want to make anyone feel they have to travel into town on the appointed day; my cousins can see the grave when they're here for other reasons. As for Stepmom, the feeling I'm getting from my sisters is that they're reluctant to move her from her present environment and bring back all the devastating memories from only a few months ago. I'll discuss it further with them but this plan of action is bringing me some comfort.

This type of departure from normal custom isn't unprecedented for me; my sons had the world's smallest bar mitzvahs. Rob's was the bigger of the two.. I think we had 25 people.

No Saturday morning extravaganza for us.. these were done on weekday mornings, which is usually done as well, but quietly, because it is the REAL Bar Mitzvah as opposed to the ceremonial one on Saturdays.

If there is any significance to these rites (and I'm not so sure there is) it certainly isn't in the opulence of the celebration.
I'm not saying all big parties are bad. I've been to some where the families are large and the extended community is there and it IS a celebration. But that's not the case for me. My remaining family is small and scattered all over the world. I'm not much of a party animal (especially when I have to make the party) and prefer small, quiet, MEANINGFUL rituals, if there must be a ritual at all.

The more I think about it and the older I get, the more I'm embracing some form of spiritual feeling and the less I'm drawn to organized religion, including (and sometimes especially) Judaism.
It may be politically incorrect to admit that publicly but this is where I can say what I please.

Linque Du Jour:   Virtual Memorials

I wasn't going to have a linque today but then I found this. It's really not as tacky as it sounds - in fact I'm a bit tempted. But only a bit.

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