Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My Dad passed away today, just shy of his 93rd birthday. At that age, I can&'t
claim to be shocked, but he&'s the one I&'d normally discuss this kind of issue with. Now he&'s gone and I have to make a decision. I don&'t know whether to have a funeral or not. We aren&'t very religious. The ceremony isn&'t that important to me at least. The reason I&'m unsure is that all his friends and siblings have passed away already, my siblings as well are gone, and none of the next generation live locally. It’s just me and two cousins in the area. I doubt we could form a minyan
without including strangers. The funeral is paid for. My Dad had made
arrangements back in the 70s when my parents purchased the cemetery plots. It
just seems pointless and an empty gesture to have a Rabbi and Cantor do the
Yiskor for maybe five people.
Dear Larry Jr.:
Condolences first. When I lost my father I so deeply appreciated that
he and his friends had a burial society, phone tree, even the post-
service oneg all planned out, so my sibs and I could be on autopilot.
So the first question is Is there truly no one who would attend? I’m not
asking about a minyan (unless the Rabbi would require one.). I&'m
asking, Is there someone who would mourn him or miss saying good-
bye to something more than a newspaper obit? Have you combed his
papers for lists of friends, or his address book for phone numbers,
asked his neighbors, talked to the folks at whatever community center
he might have played cards or schmoozed.
If the answer is truly no, then do what works for your close relations. I
think it&'s nice to have someone say some prayers. Simply meeting
with him for an hour to tell him about your father will make this
process easier for you. And when you hear him described back through
the filter of the rabbi&'s farewell, and when you hear the kaddish
chanted, I think you will be moved in ways you did not expect.
Even though it is not unexpected, don&'t be surprised if this hits you.
My answer to people was always: There are good days and bad days. Today&'s a ____ day. It really helps to take naps and walks. Let your
time be emptier and not too filled with people or work. See what
memories float up. Crying is good. So is chocolate. Or wine. whatever
it takes. Let yourself remember what you loved best, be able to
acknowledge his flaws or small hurts, and get very clear that all is now
forgiven, that you remember him with love. Do what you think your
father would have wanted., which sounds like a funeral. And don’t be
surprised if he shows up in a dream sometime and say Thanks, Larry.
You were a good son.