A Little Respect, Please!

It was one of those rare weeks I was inundated with bereavements; four to be precise. My heart goes out to all the mourners. But if there is one thing I find all the funerals shared in common it is the yentes and the yachnes who find funerals the ideal catch up time with friends and family.

At one funeral I couldn’t help but overhear football results being discussed. At another it was just a benign conversation about the weather. Yet a third involved someone picking up on my North American accent and asking me I was then proceeding to tell me all about his trip to New York last summer.

Come on people – it’s a funeral for heaven’s sake. Someone just passed this world. The family are mourning the loss of a loved one. You are there to pay your last respects – ‘respect’ being the operative word here.

Overall the United Synagogue Burial Society has come a long way to ensuring a funeral is carried out sensitively and is meaningful for everyone. Granted, health and safety necessitates that the coffin has to be carted by trolley rather than carried by hand. But there is an ear loop system in place, busses to accommodate those who find difficulty in walking and even a routine announcement (always ignored by someone) about turning off all mobile phones. In recent years earth is made available for female mourners so that they too can participate in the burial of a loved one and the superintendents have all polished up their acts.

Kovod HaMet – respect for the deceased is an extremely important principle. Jewish law is replete with details on how we are to conduct ourselves in the presence of the dearly departed. Hence there is specialised training for the Chevra Kaddisha (sacred brother/sisterhood) who are entrusted with the task of looking after the body prior to burial. Until such point as the body is laid to rest it is incumbent upon all of us to appreciate the somberness and conduct ourselves with utmost dignity.

May you never have the need to, but should you be in attendance at a funeral anytime in the future, remember that regardless of Arsenal is in the premier league, no matter how strong the sun is shining, or how many stairs you had to climb during your recent visit to the Empire State Building, you are there to say goodbye to someone and the moment should be only about them. We talk of them resting in peace. Their final journey to that resting place should be just as peaceful.

“On simchos,” as they say.