Almost Gone

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I’ve always been a very secular Jew. I’ve gone to temple on the High
Holidays but cannot say with deep conviction what I believe in. I am
dying of cancer (probably a month or two to go). I’ve always assumed
I would be cremated but my wife is asking me to allow her to bury me.
I think of my body as a suit that used to fit me but is now ready for
the rag bin. But I don’t know what to do.

Almost Gone

Dear Almost Gone:

Some people have deeply held views about death and dying. Many
others are ambivalent or confused. You’re asking about an issue we’re
all going to face. If we don’t address it directly, we leave the decision
in the hands of others.

If you’re truly not tied to the idea of cremation, then you should
accede to your wife. Why? Because she’ll have to face the mourning
and grieving without you there. Knowing someone will die is not the
same as having them gone. Having a place to go to, and a place to put
a stone on the marker, is comforting. It gives a physical resonance to
the passage of a loved one. The same can be true of a yartzeit
plaque/light at your temple. Grief is never easy. You cannot predict
what rituals will best serve her. If she has a grave to go to and tend,
and a place to go and to talk to you, to tell you about the feelings and
process of her life, she may weather the difficult passage that’s
looming more easily. My vote is to say Yes, and, if you are physically
able, to help her choose the plot where your old suit will spend its last