My husband and I are in our fifties, and thanks to G-d our children are all married and on their own. You might say that we are at an enjoyable crossroads in life — delighting in our grandchildren and reveling in some peace and quiet on the home front (obviously not at the same time).
On a somber note, my husband keeps broaching a subject that gives me the heebie-jeebies — he keeps pestering me about where I want to be buried. No, no, it’s not that I’m afraid he is plotting to do away with me, chas v’sholom. And deep inside I know that planning ahead – hopefully far, far ahead – is the prudent thing to do. But I still get very uncomfortable discussing it and, frankly, the mere thought depresses me. I just want to enjoy my life without having to dwell on the ultimate fate that meets us all down the road.
I once implied in passing (no pun intended) that the Holy Land might be an ideal option, but my husband let me know that such an arrangement would be beyond our means. Whenever he brings up the topic, I try telling him that I consider myself to be a long way from making such a move.
Just recently my husband suggested that I write to you and hear what you have to say about my attitude regarding this subject.
Living Llife to the Fullest
First let me assure you that the subject is not in the least a strange or unusual thing to be conferring about. In fact, various references in the Torah teach us that buying a karka (parcel of earth) in preparation for one’s interment is actually a segulah for long life, as the act shows a serious appreciation for the nature of one’s days in this world — which, for one, is likely to lead us on the virtuous path of teshuvah.
Reb Nachman of Breslev once said that the yetzer hora is likened to one who runs around with his fist clenched pretending to hold something of value in his hand. Each person believes him to be holding something desirable and pursues the yetzer hora that goads and teases his prey with his closed hand. But when the hand opens, it reveals nothing. And still man is fooled by the yetzer hora’s ruse time and again and is duped into succumbing to his ploy.
According to the Breslever Tzaddik, these yearnings can be compared to the brilliant rays of the sun; try catching one of the rays and your hand will grasp at nothing — like the nothingness in the cravings of olam hazeh (this world).
You say you want to enjoy life rather than dwell on morbid thoughts. Whereas we are enjoined to live our lives b’simcha, we must at the same time be aware of the transitory nature of our life in this world, which is known to be but the antechamber leading to the “main ballroom” in the world-to-come.
When planning a trip, we don’t tend to leave things to chance, do we? We reserve a seat on a train or a plane or whatever means of transportation we will employ. We plan for Shabbos in order to have what to eat on Shabbos. Securing a resting place for the end of our days demonstrates a sense of responsibility that, in turn, allows us to live a better life.
If you and your husband are paying members of a shul, you might be entitled to a plot in the cemetery grounds belonging to that congregation. If you have close family members who have passed on, you may want to consider reserving a place near them.
Ask your husband to accompany you to the cemetery on a day that would suit you both. (If you’re physically up to it, Tisha B’Av is an ideal time…) Pack some tea-lights and a sefer Tehillim; both will come in handy when you come across a familiar name on a matzeiva, and the neshama of the interred will be grateful for your prayers and kindness on its behalf.
Even as you come face to face with the reality of life, you will be taken with the serenity of the vast grounds where heaven and earth seem to converge. Make a decision, while continuing to daven for Moshiach’s arrival. In the interim, you will no longer dread your husband’s bringing up the subject again and shalom bayis will reign in your home.