I was working as a Funeral Director until September, 2008. Since then, I am occasionally asked to assist at a funeral. Such was the case this past Wednesday, January 19. My friend Karen's father had died. I had served Karen when her mother died and all involved thought I would be a comfort to her at her father's funeral.
If you haven't experienced winter in the Midwest, it's cold. Not Miami down in the 50's cold but cover all your skin or lose it cold. The two weeks prior to the funeral the temperature had exceeded freezing twice. The ground was frozen making burial without machinery difficult.
It is a Jewish tradition (though not exclusively Jewish) to not delegate the burial of a loved one to strangers. Instead, those attending the funeral share the responsibility of filling the grave; each person shovels earth to the extent of their own ability. Filling a grave is considered an ultimate act of kindness and a communal responsibility. The deceased cannot fill the grave themselves and the deceased cannot repay the kindness of those filling the grave.
Karen asked me to remind the cemetery crew their services would not be necessary to close the grave. "Karen the ground is frozen. There is one shovelful of earth. It weighs 2000 pounds", I said. "Barry, my friends buried my mother, they'll do the same for my father. It's what we believe in." I chose not to remind Karen that her mother's funeral had been in early summer. I asked the cemetery crew to stand out of sight but to be available if needed.
There were about 20 people present at the funeral. Once the Rabbi finished the eulogy and prescribed prayers the burial began. I was right about the frozen mound of dirt. Karen was right about her friends. Everyone took turns shoveling to their ability. When necessary, some took charge of loosening the frozen dirt with a pick or shovel. After approximately a 1/2 hour, despite the cold air and frozen earth, with everyone taking turns in rotation, the grave was filled. Acting together with purpose the community had fulfilled their role. I had planned on using this example as an introduction to the strength and depth of the 99er community. Unfortunately another more pertinent example surfaced.
The same day as the funeral an article in the Hartford Examiner about 99ers in peril referenced a post on Rant Rave. 99ers are at an increased risk of suicide.
The next night I was glancing at my Twitter history during the late news and was referred to a comment on YouTube: