Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I am so disgusted right now, I just needed to vent to someone. Only I don’t think anyone else but you would take me seriously. I just returned from a funeral I really didn’t want to go to, were it not for the fact that my husband guilted me into going by saying there probably wouldn’t be more than a handful of people, even on a Sunday mid-morning and it would be a mitzvah. Just to make it clear the niftar was the nastiest, meanest, most miserly man that ever walked the earth. There was never a nice word from him. When my husband or children would say gut Shabbos he never acknowledged it with a smile or a return salutation. At kiddaishim, he would pile his plate full of food and go home with it, never wishing the baalei simcha a mazel tov or thank you for including him in the festivities. The only place you saw him was at funerals, only because he was collecting tzedaka!
I sat in the last row at Mr. Miserable’s funeral and listened as each speaker (thank goodness there was only four, making it four too many) spoke a merciful few minutes, my bile rose higher until I almost couldn’t control my anger. Every word they said was a lie! The first speaker, the Rav of our shul, said how he enjoyed discussing the weekly parsha with Mr. M, how learned he was and how he would be missed. The second speaker extolled the tzedakos the niftar gave without being pressed. Really?!? When we were in dire need a number of years ago, I convinced my husband to approach the miser for a short-term loan, as we heard that he had money, even though he never spent any of it to our knowledge. Guess what? He turned my husband away and said he couldn’t afford it. The last two speakers were distant relatives who were called upon to make the funeral arrangements and barely knew him, but said that quite a number of people had reached out to them with kind words about him. Yeah sure! So how come they didn’t show up for his last public appearance on earth? Could it be because they really don’t exist?
I was so furious at my husband for making me sit through this awful display of lies, that I walked home before the Keil Malei. When my husband arrived home, he was shocked at my attitude. No matter what I thought of the man, it was not reason enough not to be mekuyam the mitzvah of sending off the niftar with respect, in his opinion. I told him I was equally offended at most funerals I went to, at the falsehood and the untruths extolled upon the niftar. How is it that no one remembers the other stuff, the lashon hara they spread in their lifetimes, the people they hurt and the joy they took in other’s misfortune? Suddenly when they die they become saints?
I told my husband that I’m leaving a will, that after 120 years when it is my time, I don’t want anyone to speak about me…good or bad! Those who know me will know who’s lying and those who don’t won’t believe a good word about me anyway! Am I wrong to be so adamant and angry about this?
Wowwww! Step back a moment and take a deep breath if you intend to be around for that 120th birthday! There’s a lot going on here and I’m sure there are some other readers out there who have wondered about and experienced similar thoughts as your own. Perhaps I can provide some clarity in regard to the hespedim issue that so rankles your nerves. And let’s start with a little known fact. Perhaps not all those accolades are lies! Did it ever occur to you that Mr. M. may have given tzedaka in secret? That’s truly the way tzedaka should be given! Maybe, when you and your husband were in need, he was not monetarily solvent enough to extend you the loan, not because he didn’t want to but because he was stretched thin.
Another thing you might have overlooked, he may have been alone and lonely for a very long time. How many congregants of your shul ever invited him home for a home cooked Shabbos meal with your families? How many people even inquired about his well being during the snow-filled cold winters? How many people, you included, even knew where he lived? The Rav of your shul took the time to discuss the weekly parsha with him and saw that he was a learned man, maybe, had others taken a humane interest in drawing him out, you may have uncovered many other qualities that died away from neglect and indifference. And even if not, does a man deserve to leave this world as alone and uncared for as he was in his lifetime?
Your husband is right and he has a compassionate and caring heart, something you might consider catching from him. What purpose would it serve to insult and embarrass the niftar at his funeral, when his neshama is still there to listen to what people had to say about him, and the very last chance the living have to give him a proper send off as he prepares to defend his life in front of HaKodosh Baruch Hu. This is what halvoas haMais is! One of the holiest mitzvos one can do! And here you are, nit-picking and ripping the poor deceased apart when he can no longer defend himself or even show you how wrong you are. Many people leave behind huge monetary bequests, to their shuls, to individuals who have shown them kindness during their sojourn on this earth and these acts of kindness in return will yet reveal themselves in Mr. M.’s case after his departure. What would you think and say then? Guilt is a hard thing to swallow with morning coffee, so look deep into your heart and find some kindness to attach to his memory.
I do agree with you on just one tiny thing. After 120 years I sure hope everyone is away on vacation when I’m called home. In fact, I’ve pre-recorded my own hesped! I will be the only speaker and that’s one funeral where the crowd will leave smiling!