No Weddings and Too Many Funerals

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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.

Some of you may remeber that another colleague and friend had died in December and a student in September.

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.

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6 thoughts on “No Weddings and Too Many Funerals

  1. I am so sorry to read this.

    One appreciates being part of a community with rituals of shiva at a time like this – there is nothing one can say to relieve the pain other than a few words or offering to help in some small way. It’s going to be painful for the grieving family, anyway, but a gesture like yours is the best one can do.

    You need to grieve as well – it’s a loss for you, too.

  2. I am so sorry I missed this, Ilana Davita.

    Dealing with loss and bereavement – I don’t think that there is a right way. It strikes me that here in England, we are very understated about expressing our sorrow and this can be both good and bad. I don’t think your gestures were inadequate – after all there is nothing you can actually ‘do’ to ease the pain. The people concerned know you that you were thinking about them. For me, that is often enough, when I have been on the receiving end of such gestures.

  3. I am sorry for your losses..I think any heart-felt words are appreciated at times like this no matter what the religious services are…Grief and loss are universal…..Michelle

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