7 Tammuz 5781
My brother, Rebel, was one-of-a-kind. His name said it all. He was a free-spirit and a self-proclaimed hippie. Though Rebel was not a practicing Jew, he was very proud of his heritage. When Rebel was diagnosed with a curable cancer, he refused treatment. He didn’t believe in modern medicine.
Rebel’s dying wish was to be buried in the most natural way possible and under a mango tree. We had a mango tree in our childhood backyard, which Rebel loved, and he did not want a casket for environmental reasons.
I had no idea who would let him be buried that way. First, we searched for mushroom shroud options, made of fungi. While researching, I came across the South Florida Jewish Cemetery, an eco-friendly green cemetery not far from where Rebel lived in Lake Worth. I got in touch with Rabbi Lyons and spoke with him about Rebel’s after-life wishes. When he told me that Rebel could be buried without a casket, I was very relieved. Though the mango tree couldn’t work in a cemetery, Rabbi Lyons helped us secure a plot under a beautiful rainbow eucalyptus tree. My brother would get his dying wish, and would be buried just six miles from where he lived!
When Rebel passed away, none of us family members were able to be with him because of COVID. The men of the burial society stayed with him from when he passed until his burial, which was really comforting for us. We are not Orthodox Jews, but we loved the idea that he was in company. The undertaker from South Florida Jewish Cemetery was amazing; we were completely taken care of. Once the whole family was able to come together, we had a beautiful unveiling ceremony where we put heart-shaped stones (his favorite!) on his grave.
Our family is comforted knowing that Rebel’s final resting place is in an eco-friendly cemetery and his burial was in accordance with Jewish laws.
Jewish tradition is filled with psychologically healthy ways to respectfully take care of the body and the soul.
You don’t have to be observant, or even Jewish, to appreciate the deep wisdom it offers.