life in and around NYC is insane

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's never good news

When the phone rings in the wee hours of the morning, it's never good news.  We think, "Who on earth is calling me at this hour?  It better be important!"
We think, somewhat facetiously, "who died?"
And then comes the realization that someone did, in actuality, pass away.
Drew's father died Monday night.
It was not unexpected.  Emil was 90 years old and in very poor health.  Monday evening Drew told me: "The nursing home says my father has a bad fever.  I think this time it may be the end. They wanted to know whether I want a DNR. . . "
So when my phone rang in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, it wasn't really a surprise. 
Drew sounded shaken nonetheless. 
He felt lost.  Should he go to work or stay home?
I told him, "Stay home.  You have to tell your sister, you have to tell your uncles, you have to make final arrangements."
What I was thinking:  "You need to process this loss, you have to deal with your feelings, you will be totally worthless at school because your mind will be elsewhere."
Yes, I went for the practical, not the emotional. 
I don't know what arrangements Drew will make.  Emil was culturally Jewish, not religious.  He professed to be an athiest, and planned to be cremated. 
I'm flashing back to 1994.  Drew's parents were living in Florida when his mother Grace passed away.  Drew flew down to Ft. Myers that day, and I followed him down after making arrangements for my family to take care of the girls -- Jen was 3 1/2 and Becca was almost 2 -- and our pets.  Drew's sister came down a day or so after I did.
I know everyone deals with grief in their own way.  But what happened when Grace died . . .
There was no funeral.  No ritual leavetaking.  neither Emil nor his children wanted that. The body was transferred from the hospital to the crenatory, and then we waited for a phone call to come pick up the urn and the ashes.  The only outward sign of mourning was the American flag on Emil's lawn, lowered to half staff.
I felt adrift.  The rituals of mourning,  they're not for the deceased.  The rituals are for those who are left behind.  I take comfort in the rituals of my faith -- the funeral, sitting shiva, reciting Kaddish.    I find beauty in the rituals of other faiths as well. 
Drew has no connection to faith and felt he had no need for ritual.  Yet he needed comfort.  When we returned to Long Island, I told all our friends and family that we'd be "at home" on a Sunday afternoon.  And everyone came.  Yes, it was that important.
So I know, this time around, that Drew will not want any religious ritual.  But I hope we can plan something, a secular gathering to memorialize Emil's life and to offer comfort to the bereaved.  Emil deserves as much.


Suzanne said...

First, I am sorry. I know we've talked about the inevitable elsewhere, but still-it is hard when it happens.

We didn't have anything when Ed's mom and sister passed, except a small graveside at Pinelawn for mom and lunch out with a cousin.

It felt wrong.

I hope you have the 'at home'. Recite the Kaddish, for your healing process.

songbird's crazy world said...

Looks like they will be doing a small, secular ceremony at Pinelawn to inter the ashes. Drew's father was very proud of his military service in WW II.

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