I remember when my dad's first cousin died. This was way back in 1981 when I was 17. Other than my grandparents dying within 6 months of each other when I was 4, this was my first family death and funeral.
One thing that caught my eye during this time is when his wife and daughters were sitting Shiva. For those who aren't aware, Shiva is Hebrew for seven and that is the amount of days we Jews are supposed to mourn. People come over the house, food is served, according to how observant you certain customs are followed. But, there are a lot of friends and family around, not to mention copious amounts of food.
So here I am 17 years old and taking this all in for the first time. I forget which day of Shiva it was but I recall seeing my cousin, I guess my 2nd or 3rd cousin, whatever you wish to call it with a bunch of friends, laughing. I couldn't believe it. How could she laugh on such a solemn occasion? Her father just died and there she is laughing, smiling. How was this possible?
I got my answer a year later when my mother died. You want to laugh, you need to laugh. You need to be around family and friends and hear all these stories about the person you lost. You need to laugh and smile between the periods of crying and sadness. You want to feel warmth when all there is around you is nothing but a chill.
I always thought Jews had it right as compared to wakes. In no way am I besmirching the Christian way of mourning. But, I have always had a tough time with with the somewhat more refrained wakes. Yes, I know, I am stereotyping. But I just don't like the open casket, the formality that I see, what with the chairs in rows, the family sitting down at one spot.
But we all have our differences, and these differences need to be celebrated and enjoyed.
But one difference I do not understand in light of my colleague Stu Schmelz's death. Why, when his family is at its lowest point are the teachers and staff of IS 162 being discouraged from on high to not attend his wake? What is there to gain from not having the people he works with not pay their respects to his grieving family? Is there something that whomever issued this edict is afraid of getting out, some type of information that might not bode well for the person who commanded, or at least suggested, not to show up for his wake?
This was not a time for petty, personal business to come in to play. If the person who made this edict did have issues with Stu Schmelz then the best thing to do was for this person not to show up at the wake or the funeral. Send a condolence card. Send flowers. Make a donation. Have a tree in Israel donated in Stu's name. These might have been phony, empty gestures, but gestures nonetheless. It would at least have given solace to Stu's family in the time of the grief. But to at the least suggest to others not to attend his wake or funeral only exasperates their feelings of loss.
The person who did this must either an extremely guilty conscious, or just is a person so devoid of human emotion and empathy that it boggles the mind.