A Jewish burial is very simple. The body is covered in a white cloth and placed on straw in a raw wood coffin. There is a short graveside sermon, then you eat.
A limo drove Dad, the Caribbean ladies and myself to the cemetery on Long Island. (I can’t believe my first ride in a limo was to a funeral.) Being the end of winter meant that everything was dead and brown, and the grounds looked barren and dried up. Not somewhere one would want to return.
Once there, Dad had to lift the lid of the coffin and identify the body. Thankfully, it was Ada’s. I can’t imagine what happens when there’s a fuck up.
As per tradition, they lowered the coffin into the ground immediately, then the congregation shovel in a scoop of dirt each. This was done before any words were spoken, and there was nothing beautiful about it. It felt very weird. Dad was given the shovel first, and to my mortification got a bit carried away and shovelled in two scoops. If I hadn’t of yelled “just one” to him, he probably would have kept going.
Then the Rabi spoke for about ten minutes, Dad said some words (and shed some tears) and we left. It was cold, and for a ten minute sermon the Rabi charged $450. I’m sure Ada was turning in her grave.
Before we left, T - Ada’s night nurse, looked towards the grave said “You are in front; we are behind.” These words were a comfort to hear, not because I want to follow, but because of the inevitability of it.
I wasn’t sad at the funeral. My body turned on it’s asperges as a means of protection. Then I slowly let it sink in on the car ride back.
That night Dad and I went to three Jazz bars; we drank, we danced, we celebrated life.
Photo credit: Gottlieb, William P