I have been rather quiet this week due a busy and difficult end of year. Busy because it was the end of the final exams (the baccaulauréat) so I was away on a commission on Monday which officialized who had passed, who had failed and who needed a last oral before graduating. On Tuesday the results were proclaimed throughout France. The students go to their respective high schools where they are given their results and advised on their choice of subjects if they need to take the final oral.
It was also quite hard as the colleague I had recently blogged about died on Sunday morning and was buried today, as is the custom with non-Jews in France.
It is never easy to come to terms with the death of people you see practically every day. It is also a little odd to be the only Jew at a Christian funeral which means that I don’t go the funeral parlor before the service, I keep silent when people say prayers, I don’t bless the coffin and I wash my hands before leaving the cemetery.
What is more I find that life doesn’t prepare us for showing people that we care for their loss, especially if they are not Jewish and colleagues (as opposed to friends). Yet I have been in the same school for 16 years now and have obviously established good relationships with a number of people.
Since my colleague’s husband is also a teacher in my school, I had sent him an email on a couple of occasions to tell him how sorry I was when I learned his wife was very ill. On Sunday evening, I dropped a note in his (real) mailbox to express my sorrow and support since he had specifically asked that I be told she had died. However I still wonder whether my gestures were adequate in those circumstances.