I went to a shiva call the other night (shiva: In Judaism, the first period of structured mourning. Throughout the shiva period, mourners come together in the mourner’s home to offer their condolences and support.) Although it might sound odd to those who are not familiar with the custom, this shiva was truly what one should hope for.
Yes, everyone offered their condolences and concern for the bereaved, but then the house was filled with smiles, chuckles, and remembered stories to share. The table and counters were laden with trays of cookies, cakes, fruits and hot foods — all brought by visitors or sent by friends to help “take care” of the grieving family.
The house was full, so much so that there was barely a place to sit, with friends who knew the deceased (some from early childhood), knew the mourning family, and distant relatives. The woman had been a teacher and former students and her fellow teachers came, neighbors stopped in, members of her social club. There were a lot of people filled with love.
Seeing how this woman touched so many lives and how many people loved her makes someone wonder at their own mortality and how she will be remembered when her time comes. Of course I know my immediate family will be there and most probably some cousins and even a neighbor or two… but will the funeral chapel be filled and will my loved ones’ home be filled with people who remember me and who will help to ease the grief?
I’ve been haunted by a funeral I once attended. She was, in my heart, a wonderful person, but she had survived all of her blood family and many long-time friends. There was a storm the day of the funeral and while she had been active in her local community, she had pre-made her arrangements in a funeral home that necessitated public transportation for her neighbors to attend. Between those that weren’t left to mourn her passing, the horrible weather, and the distance from her small circle of friends, there were only five of us (plus the officiant) in the chapel. Six people to send her on her way. Six.
When it is my time, will there be a houseful of people to remember me, or only a mere handful to send me off? Which one will I be? I hope that people will laugh and smile, I hope that I will be remembered fondly, and I hope there will be warm hearts to surround my loved ones and help them to move on.
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it;
Who has looked for the best in others and given the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory is a benediction.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson