A Funeral, A Spring Festival and New Beginnings


The sky is suitably overcast as we meet at the graveyard.  My great uncle has died, and here we all are for the funeral.  People are gathered in clumps, as if being part of a group will protect them from death.  I’m no different – I stick with my mother and brother.  I never really know what to say on these occasions.  What is there to say when the person lost is much loved, and has been there forever.  Words can’t be enough.  My presence will have to suffice.  Though we children didn’t spend as much time as we should have with him, to me my great uncle was one of those people who was just a given.  You know, someone who holds up part of the edge of your world just by being there.  It’s strange that he is dead.  It feels weird.  One more of the old guard is gone and the rest of us move one step closer to becoming the old guard ourselves.

It feels disrespectful to walk amongst the gravestones, so I stand with some others a little back as the coffin is lowered and the prayers are said. I stand there remembering how not that many years ago despite his frailty he was part of the party that accompanied my granny, his sister to her final resting place, even though he didn’t have his coat and it was freezing.   As we all watch the young lad with the digger fill in the grave, my eye roves over the nearby gravestones, and I read so many peoples’ final words to each other.  I allow the words on the nearest gravestone to dissolve and envision my name there, and I ponder what I’d want my gravestone to say.  Don’t you find these things make you value your life?  If there’s one thing each of us can be sure of it’s that we will eventually die.  I’m grateful to still be in the game.

After the funeral it’s back to the craziness of Passover preparations.  Passover is really an all consuming festival.  It celebrates the survival and rescue of the Jewish people from generations of slavery in ancient Egypt.  The celebration involves a lot of symbolism, to help the participants feel like they too have been rescued from that same slavery.  As part of the preparation involves removing even the tiniest amount of leavened grain product (bread, cake, pasta, biscuits etc) from your home, i.e. a massive and intense spring cleaning operation, by the time you get to the festival you really do feel like you’ve emerged from slavery!  I’m a busy woman, being a wife and mother of three, and serving my clients too.  There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done, so you have to prioritise.  What usually falls off the list is the domestic stuff, so when Passover comes, there’s a lot to do. My kids bless them are like three little tornados of chaos leaving a tumult of disorder in their wake.  So it’s pointless trying to remove said grain products more than a week before the event. And the clean up process when it does happen has to be a deep one – you find bits of pasta in the strangest places!  All of which explains why you didn’t get your blog last week.  Usually if I don’t manage to sit here and write about life it’s because I’m too busy living it!

As with a lot of religious practices, Passover is all about ‘as without, so within’.  I found an interesting reference to this regarding spring cleaning.  Written by David Ault, one of my personal development heroes,  it’s a piece suggesting that you do some internal spring cleaning whilst you spring clean your house   and really that’s part of what Passover is about – removing the leavened ‘puffed up’ ego, so that you can get to the real stuff underneath. It’s about leaving behind the past so that you can embrace the present and ever renewing life.

Which brings me to my final point. Has this been happening to anyone else, or is it just me?  Things that you wouldn’t usually expect to have been springing to life around me.  It all started with the chow chow.  If you’ve never encountered one, a chow chow is a bright green hand sized vegetable, with paler green flesh inside, and a soft white seed in the middle.  As I understand it, it’s native to places like the Philippines. It’s mild and slightly sweet in flavour and great as a steamed vegetable side dish.  Well I had one of these chow chows sitting on my kitchen window ledge for a while and due to the other clutter there, if I’m honest I completely forgot about it.  When I did eventually remember it and decide to cook it, an astonishing thing had happened.  It had sprouted a shoot and was growing a plant straight out of the vegetable itself.  Little roots were patiently waiting under the shoot for such a time when they would encounter some soil.  Now I’m a sucker for a sprouting plant.  If it has a root, I’ll plant it. Over the years I have loved many avocado plants, cobnut trees, and bulls eye seedlings.  I currently have a 4 year old jackfruit sapling growing in my office.  Don’t ask me why.  Being a tropical plant it will never bear fruit in this country. If it asks for soil I provide.  So I planted the chow chow.  It has subsequently shot up, like Jack’s beanstalk, and I have it on good authority that if I take care of it, it will provide us with chow chows all summer.

Then the dead stick on the orchid started flowering again – never seen that before.  Then I found sprouting ginger in the fridge – which I have since planted.  And you know what I found this morning?  We have a weekend treat in this house, for those who wake up early enough.  We have a ‘fruit party’, which consists of a variety of the usual and some more exotic fruit. So I was about to crack this coconut, and I took off part of the hair at the top, and the coconut had sprouted!  Now this was not something that had been sitting around in my kitchen, I’d only just bought it.  Of course I’m going to plant it … so it looks like we’ll be hosting a baby coconut palm too 🙂 Now all we need is sunshine!

So, what with bidding a sad and grateful farewell to a stalwart of the past, cleaning out our house and hearts of the old us to make way for the new us, and new life emerging in all directions, it seems spring is really taking hold at this end of the world.

How is spring manifesting in your life?

I’d love to hear about it!



Posted on April 11, 2012, in Inspiration and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Dear Rivka, these are wise words from a young soul. I am very touched that you took the time to think and write about dad’s funeral last week, and in fact, many of your thoughts echo my own. Particularly the feeling that the world has somehow morphed physically. When someone close to you dies the world changes shape in strange ways, as if a little of the gravity has gone out of things making you feel as though you tread will never again be as sure.
    When I think back to last week I think of the sunny day, and the lovely people who gathered, and the warmth and well-being the emanated from them, like the goodness that comes of rising bread. I feel comforted by the predictability of the cycle of life. i know that absence, like presence, deepens and grows and I don’t suppose the coming months will be easy. But I do take a good deal of strength from having helped to give my father a good death.
    much love to you

    • Dear Marina,
      Thank you for replying to my blog, during what I know isn’t an easy time. My thoughts are with you all.
      I’m so glad that we have these community rituals of birth, life and death – I think the support helps us follow the passage through more easily.
      As to your comment re giving your father a good death, I remember learning that in Judaism that is considered to be “Hesed Shel Emet” – a true kindness done with no expectation of reciprocation.
      Your dad was blessed to have you there.
      Sending lots of love to all,

  2. My condolences to you on the loss of your great-uncle. It’s always sad when those pillars pass away. Being conditioned by Greek epic though I know I want my death, whenever it may be, to be a celebration of life. But the sadness of death is so natural and I see great wisdom in the ancient cultures that give over time and space for grief. Those that don’t, that try and merely fit it in to the schedule like everything else are missing something very big.
    As for Spring, well, being in the southern hemisphere we have a different story unfolding as life hunkers down for the cold. On my bike this morning it was a very chilly 4 degrees C. But in this nature is good at reminding us that a lot is going on beneath the surface, even deep growth, despite the appearance of death. Peace be with you and yours.

    • Dear Dr J,

      Thank u for your kind wishes. I’m right with you re the cultural rituals of death. In Judaism the closest relatives of the deceased observe 7 days of mourning, during which they leave their everyday life, and sit at home on a low chair, to be visited and comforted by friends and family. I’ve always felt a little sorry for those that don’t have this custom as I think it really gives a person the chance to do their mourning, and find some closure, so that after that 7 day period is up they can get on with life again.

      Re spring, of course for you it’s autumn! There are things about autumn and winter that I do enjoy – I love the leaves changing colour, I love the abundance of local fresh picked produce and I do love the snow – particularly when school is cancelled … but as for riding around on a bike in 4 degrees C, rather you than me!!!!
      If you ever feel that winter is getting a little long in the tooth, just look for the winter buds – they promise that spring is not too long in coming …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: