The Pandemic and My Grandfather’s Funeral by Chaya Maimon

The Pandemic and My Grandfather’s Funeral by Chaya Maimon

I want to share something that happened today. Something that if these were normal times, could have never happened.

We were told that the funeral of my grandfather, Moshe (ben Amram) Grunwald would be at 10 am sharp. Don’t be late or you’ll miss it! The funerals these days are very minimal. And quick. Just a minyan, a chapter of Tehilim, a “Kel Male Rachamim” and done. So this morning, the mourners came up to the casket, begged for forgiveness, started the Tehillim. They had almost reached the end when a funeral aide walked in and took a peek in the casket. It wasn’t my grandfather. My family had conducted a funeral over someone else! Everyone was shocked, horrified, dumbstruck.

I was in the car outside, so my sister came to tell me what had happened. About 20 minutes later they started all over again, this time with my grandfather present. I have to admit I was so upset that this had happened to my Zaidy. This man who was loved by all. Who deserved so much honor, who had to die alone due to a pandemic, who had to have this embarrassment of a funeral, who couldn’t have a befitting burial or shiva. And this mixup was the final insult!

I was so upset, I started to laugh and cry simultaneously. I couldn’t believe I was living in a time where there are so many bodies, that they are getting mixed up. And then my mother called me. And she told me that I wouldn’t believe the story she was about to tell me. I told her I already knew about the mixup. She said “But you don’t know the rest!”

The body that had been brought in by mistake, it turned out, was a meis mitzvah (in Jewish law a meis mitzvah is a person that is found dead, or for whatever reason does not have family to bury him. So it’s the obligation of the community to bury him in a dignified way). This poor man had been dead alone in his apartment for 4 days before he was found. This man had no one there for him. No one to be sad, no one to say tehillim, or give him a minyan.

Through a weird twist of fate, he had ended up with a beautiful funeral, a minyan, something that under normal circumstances he would never have had. And then I remembered my grandfather, who was a man whom people always tried to honor, but who would run and hide from it. He never wanted to be in the spotlight. At family weddings we would send people to follow him in to the chuppah, to make sure that if the couple honored him with a bracha, he’d actually be there to receive it. That was our small way of ensuring zaidy got what he deserved. But zaidy always thought there was someone greater than him who deserved the honor. Well zaidy, as usual, got the last laugh.

Even in death he gave up the honor that was coming to him for someone else so a meis mitzvah could have a funeral. This is, I believe, the most Zaidy-like thing to ever happen. I can just imagine the laughter in zaidy’s eyes as he watched what was taking place from above. During his lifetime, his kindness and hospitality knew no bounds. I know in my heart that my zaidy managed to do in his death what he always did in life.

Instead of my horror of earlier today, now I am filled with pride. As Zaidy’s soul continues to give to others in need even following his death. May God heal the world quickly, so no one suffers anymore. And may we all return to celebrating happy occasions soon!

8 comments

  1. This is so powerful! Thank you so much for posting. This is one of the instances where you can almost feel the curtain lift between this world and the next and things suddenly make sense…

  2. so moving! may this beautiful soul of your grand father reside next to the Shehinah with all the tsadikim

  3. Thank you for sharing this,Chaya – so beautiful and touching – and I want to learn from your grandfather’s ways. May his memory be for a blessing and may you and your family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

  4. Thank you. Beautiful. I remember Reb Moishe very well from visiting his wife Claire who still today makes the most comfortable and beautiful sheitel in the industry. He was a kind and gentle man and his wife and daughters treated him with the utmost love and respect.

  5. Thank you.
    So heart warming.

    Thank you for your amazing website which is such a source of chizuk to me and the many silent readers who I know must love it and gain so much from it even if they don’t ever comment.

    A very happy, healthy and basically kosher pesach to all of klal Yisroel x

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