Monday, June 19, 2006

On Burying My Uncle

Last week started very badly, with the news that my much beloved uncle, Elie, had succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting since late last year. The burial was on Monday, and so Beth and I drove down to Long Island to be there for that. It was nice seeing family (some of whom I hadn't seen in a couple of decades), although the circumstances for bringing us together were the saddest imaginable.

I am very thankful that we now have a GPS device that gives us on-the-fly directions to where we're going. The trip was estimated at 4 1/2 hours. With the NYC-area traffic thrown in, it took us just 5 hours, which gave us plenty of time to get there early and have some lunch before heading to the cemetery. (This in contrast to a few years ago when we missed my grandfather's funeral because the mapquest directions we had printed were wholly inadequate and got us so very lost that we never did find the cemetery. On that occasion, we ended up heading home thoroughly disheartened just by the fruitless effort. This time, we're strictly devastated by the loss.)

Beth only met Uncle Elie once, at our wedding, but she ended up doing a lot of crying at his burial because (1) it meant the world to her that he came a couple of thousand miles to our wedding when my own father wouldn't even make the trip a couple of dozen miles and (2) she knew how wonderful a person he was, how much he was loved by so many people, and how unfair it was that he should have to die so young.

What I found at Uncle Elie's burial was that I felt compelled to participate quite heartily in the shovelling. For some reason, the possibility of letting the cemetery workers and their machinery put the dirt over him was a bit too unbearable to accept. I felt it needed to be done by people who knew him and who loved him instead of by strangers just doing their job.

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