Dare to Ask: Two Faiths, Four Issues Over Funeral
Sunday, June 20, 2010
I converted to Judaism 12 years back. My mother has decided to start practicing Catholicism again and announced to me, her only child, that she wants a Catholic burial. I have issues with embalming, waiting past three days to bury, an open casket and a ceremony in a church. Please help! I want to honor my mother without dishonoring my faith. -- It's Me, Jewish female, Dallas
-- Thousands of Jewish converts deal with life-cycle events of non-Jewish family. A rabbi can guide you. --Naomi, 54, Jewish female, Jacksonville, Fla.
-- Your mother's funeral is ... about respecting her last wishes. Did it ever dawn on you that she may have had problems with your conversion to Judaism? Stop using your faith as an excuse to dishonor your mother, which is against one of the Ten Commandments, located in the Old Testament. -- S.D., 38, Episcopalian female, Tampa, Fla.
-- To S.D.: This is a fire that doesn't need stoking. The Torah gives us commandments like: The name of the gods of others you shall not mention, nor shall your mouth cause it to be heard. One is forbidden to speak of idols or be the cause of others mentioning them. It seems there is much for you to learn about other faiths. -- It's Me, Dallas
-- She should have a Catholic funeral. A funeral is ... a final assertion of what we believe. Nobody is telling you to worship Jesus; just be gracious. As for dishonoring your faith, making a stink is not honoring your faith. -- Jerry, 61, Jewish, Connecticut
Heed mom's wishes -- though there may be some ways to feel better about it.
So says Sue Bailey, who with Carmen Flowers authored "Grave Expectations: Planning the End Like There's No Tomorrow" about funeral and burial etiquette.
Everyone has sensitive feelings, she said. People who convert tend to be more strict -- and the mother also has gotten strong feelings about her own religion. Bailey advised the daughter talk to her rabbi, but also offered these thoughts:
-- Have a Catholic ceremony, but quickly, perhaps with the body on dry ice so the casket can be open just a short time, and no embalming is needed before burial.
-- Allow family to sit shiva -- a Jewish practice in which people stop by the house over a week's time with food and condolences. The body need not be present.
-- Find a nice location outside a church for the Catholic service, if that's agreeable.
In the end, though, it's about honoring the person, and the mom is not Jewish, so you kind of have to go along with what she wants. Think if the roles were switched and the mom said she couldn't carry out the daughter's wishes; she'd freak out. Some things may have to just be tolerated, such as cremation, which does go against Jewish practice.
Perhaps at least her organs can be donated and the ashes buried, so we can say you're saving another's life -- and God would always support that.
Continue the cross-cultural dialogue at www.yforum.com, or mail questions and replies to Phillip Milano, The Florida Times-Union, P.O.B.1949, Jacksonville, FL 32231

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