It is not death we fear, but dying. It is not passing we fear, but pain. It is not leaving we fear, but being left behind. It is not separation we fear, but saying goodbye. May strength and courage be ours.
LIFE GOES ON Joyce Grenfell
If I should go before the rest of you, Break not a flower, nor inscribe a stone, Nor, when I am gone, speak in a Sunday voice, But be the usual selves that I have known. Weep if you must, parting is hell, But life goes on So...sing as well!
There can be no greater deed or mitzvah than caring for the dying, assisting them to achieve a dignified death, and then celebrating their life with a meaningful ceremony of tribute. Some deaths, of course, are sudden and tragic. That is when we especially need to come together as a community to give comfort and strength to our friends and family in their time of grief.
This is also a time when the "ethics of words" is particularly precious to us. As secular and cultural Jews, we choose language to use at our funeral and memorial services that avoids euphemisms, platitudes, and messages of false comfort. Instead, we speak honestly of the circumstances and of our loss and pain. We talk of the goodness and good deeds of our deceased loved one. We also don't shy away from acknowledging blemishes and rough edges that paint an honest portrait of the one who has died. In addition to the rabbi, family members or close friends often share reflections at a funeral or memorial service.
For more information, contact Rabbi Peter Schweitzer, New York City's only Humanistic rabbi. Call 212-213-1002 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.