Being brought up as an Irish Catholic I know a lot about Christian funerals, and just the sight of a hearse makes me think about tables of food and china teapots and cups and the smell of incense. But I don't know very much about Jewish funerals services. In fact, although I've worked for a jewish organization in town, I've never been to a synagogue.
Why does it matter? Well, when you grow up Catholic like I did, you learn that there some unwritten rules of behaviour that must be followed. Like---God would strike me dead if I ever showed up for church without a skirt and pantyhose. Bare legs were a sin, and pants were practically a mark of prostitution. Logically I knew it was crap, but deep in my heart I still feel nervous about it to this day.
So the question is, what to wear? Do Jewish women go through this guilt and stress over what to wear? Did I need a hat? I hear hats are important, but I only have a baseball cap....shit. Did I have to wear black?
In the end, I wore my black jersey maternity wrap dress, no pantyhose, and black heels. Minimal makeup, no hat. Hoped the jewish god doesn't strike dead the women who show up dressed "wrong".
Turns out it was a reform synagogue and I was one of the best dressed and most formally dressed women there. No Hats! Thanks God! Total relief.....
That dealt with I paid attention to the service and learned a bit of history. It turns out that Ema, as she was known, was truly amazing. She was 94 when she died, but as a young woman she was one of the original Zionists who built a Kibbutz' in Israel. She snuck across the border of British Palestine in the 1930's, and the head of the kibbutz gave her a job right away; she was handed a gun and sent off to guard the orchards against terrorists. All five feet of her plus a gun against the British army, the Arabs, and the heat of the desert....wild. Years later her husband was arrested for being a member of Ergun, (he was actually a member of Hagganah), and held by the British until he died in prison a few years later. A widow with two kids, she moved in the fifties to Canada and worked in the Montreal fur district, sewing piecework to support her family, and put them through school. She spent years working for their benefit only.
And she did it. Her entire family is successful and happy and educated. At the age of 94 she played the mandolin, she loved music and art and food and friends and family. She never wasted a second worrying about past sadness. She lived with joy. I don't know what the Yiddish word is for this, but I would definitely have called her a Great Old Broad.
I learned today that if I have to die someday, I want to die like that, after a long amazing life like that. I don't want to worry about pantyhose and hats and stupid stuff, I just want to be known as a Great Old Broad.
I'm about to turn 40. Can you tell?