I want to thank people who came to the blog to leave condolences. I'm not sure I'm supposed to thank you, though. I keep having this problem while we're sitting Shivah. You aren't supposed to greet people, are you supposed to thank them? The whole issue of halachah and mourning is tricky for me.
Technically grandchildren are not avelim (official mourners, including siblings, children, spouses or parents) and so we were in this weird situation. I delivered a hesped (a eulogy) based largely on the structure of my last post here, but with a lot more details of my grandmother's life. People praised what I said a lot, which I found hard to take. I didn't feel like I did justice to my grandmother, who was after all 95 years old and who did many private or secret deeds of loving-kindness. I was going to mention a few of them but my sister told me that my grandmother wouldn't have wanted that, and besides that there are still people who might be embarassed. My sister was closer with my grandma and is a little bit more on her wavelength about privacy. My sister was crying hard and steadily through everything, but I have been pretty numb. Every so often the reality of not having this major person in my life anymore breaks through.
My best high school friend came to the funeral. She lost her grandmother last year, and she had a very close relationship with her. It was really good for there to be someone at the funeral who understood that as fortunate, as lucky, as it is to have a grandmother into adulthood whom you love and respect, it still feels lousy to lose them.
Even though my sister and I aren't avelot, the people who came back to our house after the funeral sat us down and fed us with my dad and my great uncle. (My uncle is the youngest of seven children, my grandmother was his last living sibling.) My husband led the evening service when we got back, but then my dad wasn't interested in praying anymore.
My dad has lost patience with prayer as he has gotten older. He and my mom were both raised Reform by parents who had been raised Orthodox. Our house growing up was observant and Reform, in a way that most people don't experience. As they have gotten older, my mom has become increasingly observant and my dad increasingly unwilling to follow halachah. I think this is a common pattern, especially the part of it when my mom tries to pretend that we always did things this way! My mom also opposed my taking on more traditional observance of Shabbat when I first did it. It made her mad that I was establishing a separate identity as an adult. I am glad that I am anonymous on this blog so I can say that in a public place. Anyway that has made sitting shivah a very peculiar experience.
Every time anyone offers to send us a meal, my mom tells them we keep kosher and not to send trays from places without kosher supervision. She asked for all meals to be pareve, because my husband and I are vegetarians who very occasionally eat fish. We got huge honking enormous platters of fish. That's normal shivah food anyway. If you aren't Jewish you probably don't know that instead of sending flowers to a Jewish mourner, people typically send trays and baskets and containers and shopping bags of food. When my father-in-law died, we got vats of vegetarian soup from his and my mother-in-law's friends in the Jewish community. This time we got trays and meals from all the kosher restaurants in this town, and there are many.
I think we have had probably a whole salmon's worth of lox, plus buckets of pickled herring, creamed herring, richly mayonaised tuna salad with egg and chopped celery, smoked sable, cream cheese, Tofutti cream cheese substitute, butter, and hundreds of bagels, a basket of fruit, two platters of cut fruit, three trays of cookies. Oh the cookies: the Russian tea biscuits and the rugelach, the brownies, the pieces of halvah, the congo bars, the lemon eclairs, and those pastries some people call "spitz"--cake with white goo covered with chocolate. Also my father's first cousin made us coated walnuts (ironic, as my grandmother was allergic to them.) Wait I also forgot that we got a whole meal of Israeli fried things: vegetarian kubeh, vegetarian Moroccan cigars filled with cumin-y meat substitute or potato, three kinds of borekas (mushroom, potato and spinach) felafel and humus, and soft fresh loaves of pita. Another friend brought homemade stuffed grape leaves. Also one relative sent a Friday night dinner of grilled salmon in sauce, with garlicky broccolini, rice pilaf, a portobello appetizer, french bread and one other thing I'm forgetting. In fact I'm sure I've forgotten a few things.
Each platter was supposed to serve 6-8 people but really there was enough for dozens of hearty eaters. There's this whole ettiquette thing, that mourners aren't supposed to serve people who come to comfort them, and that non-mourners aren't supposed to eat. It's really a good thing that a lot of people observe that one in the breach.
Many people in mourning put on ten pounds during shivah. It is an orgy of food. If you are like me, you could completely stuff your feelings down. Instead of even noticing that you are grieving, you could eat your way to a nap, and then wake up and eat some more. So it's actually not too bad that my dad isn't sitting in a traditional way, and that my mom took me to my grandmother's apartment in the assisted living place on Friday. I hadn't seen this apartment since my grandmother moved into it. My mom had moved as much of my grandmother's furniture as would fit the smaller space. The living room still smelled of my grandmother's perfume and looked like her living room always looked. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me, the profound lack of my grandmother in her house.
In the meantime my little two year old son is being so adorable and funny that it is distracting everyone. He sits at the table and eats the organic apples I made my mom buy for us, or pasta with tomato sauce, or all the tomatoes off of a deli platter, and everyone coos.