It turned out to be a grey day for a funeral. I got a lift with some co-workers out to Rookwood Cemetery, which just happens to be the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere. (Australians love declaring things the “largest x in the Southern Hemisphere.”) Anyway, we found the Jewish office and were directed to wait next to a freshly dug grave. Really. By the time the family turned up, there were probably forty or fifty people gathered together. I was pleased to note that the rabbi really looked like a rabbi. (From this Midwestern girl, that means he wore a trench coat and a hat and had a long Orthodox beard.) The rabbi asked for volunteers to help carry the plain wooden casket from the hearse and several guys stepped forward. The ceremony was carried out in both Hebrew and English, and at the end the rabbi gave a very nice eulogy for Laurie. I have to say, I was a little surprised when he invited family and friends up to shovel dirt on the casket in turn. I’d never seen that before. Then the professionals took over and the grave was filled within minutes. The rabbi then gathered the mourners together to pray, and afterwards he did a curious thing where he tore the shirts of the Morris sons. Then we hugged Mrs Morris and everyone headed back to Sydney. I discovered that dozens of customers had e-mailed their condolences and remembrances of Laurie, and for a while I felt really good about humanity. Then the staff told me about the asshole customers who had the nerve to complain about us being shut that morning, like it was such a hardship for them to wait four hours for their damned hardanger fabric WHEN WE WERE AT A FUNERAL. So I’m back to being a misanthrope again.
(Later that afternoon, Leanne and I were inspired to learn more about Jewish funeral traditions. The thing with the shirts is called “tearing the Kria” and it’s meant to be symbolic of the way your heart is rent. The rabbi told the sons that they should never repair it. That website also answered many of my other questions about the ceremony, like why it happened so fast and how come the casket was so unadorned. It’s a totally different burial tradition than I’m used to in Protestant U.S.A. There was just such an emphasis on the fact that this was a mortal man and we were burying him in the earth… I’m glad I went.)