With death comes honesty

I have a neighbor in my building who is quite a kooky character but a lovely man. He always looks upbeat and happy, but seems sometimes kind of lonely. Anyhow, he is Jewish but is very firm in not believing in the Jewish traditions. However, he has respect for the way we live our life and is very careful not to denigrate any of our practices.

He recently told me that when he dies he wants to be cremated, by the funeral home, with no service. He said he didn’t want people standing up at a funeral ceremony and spouting bull*&^% about what a wonderful man he was. He doesn’t want the hypocrisy and the shallow pomp and circumstance. He wants his son to scatter his ashes and just move on with his life.

He has a point. I am sure we have all been to funerals of people who were just regular people, but in death they seemed to have attained sainthood. But that doesn’t explain cremation, just not wanting a service. Although knowing my neighbor he probably doesn’t want a shrine to his memory, hence the scattering of his ashes.

What do you think?

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  1. lil_lupie01 says:

    Growing up I was always taught to give back to the earth. So to me the only function of being buried would be to give your body to the earth. But, nothing but the occasional flowers and ivy grow in cemeteries and it is illegal to bury someone on private property (can in some areas with the right permits) so how can your body give to the earth in death? This is the reason that I want to be cremated, if the earth that my body is fertilizing isn’t used properly why take up the space? If my family is insistent on having a “memorial” in place I think they should plant a tree and have a bench under it with a plaque saying “in loving memory”. And I will leave it to my children to spread my ashes when and where they feel is the best time and place.

    As far as a funeral is concerned; I want my loved ones to have a big blow out party. No tears, no formal eulogies just everyone I love together truly celebrating my life. I think I want this because I have spent so much of my life being sick that when my time comes I want them to celebrate the fact that I am finally free of the body that imprisoned me with pain for so long. I want them to celebrate my freedom from pain.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    well, cremation is not exactly in accordance with the jewish tradition & i think that at a funeral you are allowed to embellish on the truth for the purpose of kavod hameis/honoring the dead. i guess your neighbor is entitled to his preference though. personally, i think it is nice to have a grave stone where family members can come & visit so that they can continue to feel a close connection with the deceased. quite frankly, i’m not ready to think too seriously about my funeral arrangements just yet! L-rd knows, i hope to have a good long time to think about it (@ 80 years or so!), but to quote a question posed to me by a lawyer who wrote up our wills, “Do you know when you’re going to die?” & of course, nobody does know. anyhow, i’m starting to get a bit freaked out by all this morbid talk but hopefully we will all live long happy lives :).

  3. Lady Lock and Load says:

    One of the things that gave me comfort when my father passed away was that he merited a proper Jewish burial…something that his grandparents, parents and two brothers did not have because the Nazi’s (may their name be obliterated) murdered. We never had a grave to visit, a monument, not even a day. I think this was hard for my father and for us too! The idea of cremation makes me sick because the Nazi’s cremated Jews. I wouldn’t even have my kitty cats cremated!
    Jewish people believe in Techiyas Hamaisim, that deceased people will once again live in the time of the Messiah. This is why cremation is very against the Jewish religion.
    Batya, it is supposed to be a merit for a long life to make burial arrangements, did you know that?

  4. batya from NJ says:

    LLL, good to know b/c i’m all set with adath israel of NY. i’ve been paying my yearly dues since i got married nearly 20 years ago. hopefully, i will continue paying for many years to come :)!

  5. my ideal funeral would be me cremated, friends gathering around to tell funny/crazy stories about me, and some stuffy academic telling everyone what a contribution i made to the world of sociology. Then they would scatter the ashes somewhere nice and plant a tree or two in my memory.

  6. Chanief says:

    I don’t want to take up space in the ground forever, I see that as a waste. I would like to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in my two favorite places on earth, so I can become a part of them forever (wherever I blow in the wind.) I would also like a celebratory party in my honor rather than a somber funeral.

    However, someone made a valid point that forced me not to reconsider what I want, but to prevent me from taking steps to try to enforce it.

    When I am dead, I will be dead. Personally I do not believe in any afterlife (or Moshiach, techiyas hameisim, etc.) What happens to my body should be decided on by my children because they will choose what will bring them the most comfort. Of course I will discuss my wishes with them way before I die, but ultimately I am going to leave the choice to them because they will be the ones left behind.

  7. tesyaa says:

    I guess what I find interesting is the different perspectives. Years ago my friend was a regular visitor to an elderly Jewish, non-religious lady. When the lady passed away, her children wanted her cremated; my friend went to considerable effort to make sure that she was buried in accordance with Jewish law; she got a rabbi to speak to the kids, or something, and finally convinced them to go along with it. So just to rationally discuss these questions is novel to me. Nothing wrong with that!

  8. tychy says:

    i want my ashes to be smoked in a joint.

  9. The Law says:

    this is the classic “Metzorah, Acharey Mos, Kedoshim Emor” …..

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