Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Non-Funeral

[First, thanks for all the condolences and comments, both public and private. I'll reply one of these days, I promise.]

So, the funeral. Well, here's the thing. There isn't going to be one.

I think I mentioned, back on my old blog when Dad was first diagnosed, that he was talking about being cremated. I think I also mentioned that I found that somewhat of an, um, interesting choice from a man who escaped Nazi Germany in the late 1930's. ("So, what?" I asked him soon after his diagnosis, when he had made his choice clear. "This is your way of saying, 'Haha, Hitler, you couldn't burn me, so I'll do it myself'?")

For background: My grandfather, so what little family history I know goes, had been in a work camp and been released before the death camps really got going. Still, the work camp had given him enough of a glimpse into the future, and he grabbed what family members were willing to take him seriously--my grandmother, my aunt, and my then-six-month-old father--and headed for The Netherlands. Some time later, and I wish I knew the timeline better, they managed to find their way to the U.S., coming in through Ellis Island, where my grandparents decided to change my father's name--originally Chaim, meaning life in Hebrew--to Jack, as in Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy. Ellis Island officials added a middle name--Israel--which my father jettisoned as soon as he possibly could. It was his contention--and I know I've said this many times in the past--that religion was merely one man's reason to hate another man, and he wanted nothing to do with it. That said, he did have a bar mitzvah, and has asked for his tallis to be given to N, so he must have had some religious upbrining...just not one that he told me about.

OK. So my dad wants to be cremated (a process that is apparently already underway), wants his ashes spread in the yard of the house where he lived with his girlfriend these past few months and where they had spent a lot of time these past several years. Does not want a rabbi, does not want a religious ceremony (see above). We are to have a 'casual' get-together at the house, where we're going to...I'm not sure what, actually. Eat. Talk about him. Hang out together.

So, yeah. That's what's ahead for me this week. No comforting traditions, no ritual to hide behind. Not the way I would personally choose to close out my father's life...but, now that I think about it, it's sort of fitting, since most of the way he lived his life was not how I would personally have chosen to do it, either.

[A completely detached aside: Wow, that post came out a lot more bitter than I had initially intended it to come out. You who are bloggers and do your entries by the seat of your pants, the way I almost always do, may have experienced the same. I was thinking I'd just post a little bit about how so many people seem to think that at least there will be peace and closure at the funeral, but that, in this case, there will be no funeral, and I doubt there will be closure. Instead, it turned into a kind of rambling family history that then morphed into a slam at my dad. How dull. How predictable. Feh.]


Ambre said...

Regular funerals hold no closure either. Memories live forever, can't close the book on them, nor forget that there won't be new ones.

Wasn't there some sort of movie about being able to erase unpleasant memories? In fact, I think I haven't... haven't ever seen it though (don't ask).

Tamar said...

Ambre, I think you're talking about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Which was a terrific movie, IMO.

Lori, I have both a lot and very little to say about what you're going through, because in some ways it parallels what I am and will (probably soon) be going through. Closure is thorny when the relationship itself is so fucked. But maybe we can talk about it in a more intimate setting.

(And will you have any time while you're here? Let me know; we'll be here some, though possibly not over the weekend, not sure yet. I am, ironically, going to my father's loft Tuesday to get some old boxes of college stuff; the loft will be turned over to the buyers at the end of the week.)

jeanie said...

OH, I know how it is when you sit down to write something light and next thing something takes over and what is REALLY on your mind comes forth.

Good to get it out there - you only have to be there as long as YOU feel comfortable.

Hannah said...

So sorry to hear about your Dad. It must be difficult. When I lost my grandfater I thought that it was OK because I had really loved hime and he had really loved me, so it was ok that he was gone. I don't know if that make sense to anyone else - but it still gives me comfort.