7 Tammuz 5781
My aunt Francine died four months from the day she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was a very smart, determined, progressive woman who was involved in politics. Her husband had passed away a few years prior, and she had no children. We were close growing up, and during her illness, my husband and I helped her with whatever she needed.
One day, shortly after her devastating diagnosis, she turned to me and said, “Here are the arrangements from the chapel. After I die, just call them and have them pick me up. The rest is taken care of.”
This really threw me for a loop. I had never even heard of Jews cremating before. I was very uncomfortable with it, but the plans had been made, and when Francine passed away shortly after, I felt like I had to do what she wanted.
So her body was cremated just as she had planned. I had her ashes in my house for a year while my husband and I tried to figure out what to do with them. Eventually, we made a small ceremony and scattered them in Central Park West. And that was it.
But I wish we would’ve spoken about it prior. It bothers me that there’s no real place where Francine is. I would have liked a concrete place to connect with her. My parents were buried and I can visit them anytime. But Francine doesn’t exist anymore.
An organization like Last Kindness may have been able to prevent Francine’s cremation by giving me the information I needed to open a conversation and help her explore her options and address any hesitations she had.
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.