Thursday, May 1, 2008

Burn baby, burn

“We don’t do that! It’s a sin!”

If there is ever a sure fire way to piss off your mother, just bring up the topic of religion, or rather one’s own lack of it. (As in mine.) Of course, if you really want to get her knickers in a twist, (Is it even proper to say that about one’s mother?) try telling her that you are going to do something upon your death that goes completely against your religious upbringing, and hers for that matter.

My mother is not the most religious individual in the world either, but she does have a belief in God, and I do respect it. When it comes to the concept of cultural Judaism, well, that runs very deep in her. So, some time ago we stumbled on to the subject of burial customs, as in what to do with our bodies when the mortal coil has shuffled off to Buffalo. I think the only reason we were discussing it in the first place was because I had been hounding her about making some badly needed, long delayed changes in her will. Aside from the fact that if anything happened to her I would be doomed to living with an Aunt I am less than fond of, there are no provisions in it for what she wants to have gifted to her granddaughter. (my niece.) Besides, at my age I think going to live with my Aunt is not something she (meaning my Aunt) would want either.

As an offshoot of this conversation on probate, the subject of funerals came up, and I stupidly informed her that I did not plan to be buried in the ground, as is mandated by Jewish law, but that I plan on being cremated. It is a personal choice on my part, and one that reflects my own personal belief that I do not want anyone coming to my grave, year after year, (also a Jewish custom) and feeling depressed. I would rather that people have a big party, scatter my ashes over a yet to be determined place, and then remember me without the need to come to a depressing place.

Needless to say this did not sit well with her.

She knows full well that I am, in the strictest definition of the word, an atheist, though I do have a spiritual side. I just don’t believe in a personal God in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word. I would take it a step further; I do not believe in the idea that one is born Jewish, or born into any religion, for that matter. One might be raised in the tradition of one’s parent’s religious beliefs, but to me, the idea that parentage determines a child’s religious nature is ridiculous. In Jewish tradition, if the mother is Jewish, so is the child, no matter what religion (or lack thereof) the father is.

This has been a sore point of discussion over the last year or so, and it is something we generally avoid talking about. It got brought up again today, as she finally made these long overdue changes to the will, and she needed to tell me what was done, and whose responsibilities are whose, with regards to my brother and me. During the course of the conversation, funerals and burials came up again, and this time the cremation conversation really heated up a notch. I finally had to make it clear that as this was my body, I will decide what will, and will not be done to it upon my death. She finally realized that this was a fruitless discussion, and fell back on her safety net of “Well, I’ll probably be dead long before you anyway.”

I don’t expect her to understand, and I hope that it never comes to the point that she would need to actually see it happen, but my wife knows full well what my wishes are. At the end of the day, I know she will fulfill them, and I take comfort in that.

My only hope is that the urn doesn’t get spilled, and I avoid being Hoovered…………


battlemaiden said...

Thanks for your IS tough dealing with end-of-life issues. There are times when I think my parents will live could they not, you know?

I definitely agree with you on cremation vs. burial, in spite of religious custom. From dust we came, to dust we shall return. Why prolong by letting our bodies rot in a box? :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Interesting how Judaism and Islam are so very similar.

Mr. Nighttime said...

GG - Indeed. They are more similar than most people realize. The Islamic laws regarding Halal, or the preparation of certain foods, is practically identical to the Jewish laws regarding kosher foods.

Then again, Islam grew out of both Judaism and Christianity, and the Koran recognizes biblical figures from both the Old and New Testaments, but puts some of them in slightly different contexts. Jesus, for example, is regarded as a prophet, but not as the son of God. That is not a concept that Islam goes for.