Thursday, October 24, 2013

The graveyard shift

We rabbis spend a disproportionate amount of time at the cemetery. Occupational hazard, I guess.

I was at a funeral again yesterday. Another rabbi delivered the eulogy, so I glanced around at the crowd and noticed the undertakers standing on the sidelines. I mean they're always there, so it was no surprise to see them. And it was surprising all the same.

Obviously there are gravediggers at funerals. That's what they do. They drive out to collect the bodies, they assist in the procession, they throw the last shovel-fulls of soil into the grave. 

Yet, they are invisible.

Nobody knows their names. The crowd stares right through them. You hardly ever hear their voices as they go about what they do. Obviously, the deceased whom they service never thank them. 

They do this job because they are often unqualified to do anything more sophisticated. Sometimes they're there because life's other avenues have shut them out, but usually they're there because they wouldn't make it in the high-brow world. 

Professionals and entrepreneurs are too anchored in the tangible, material world to offer dead people appropriate, humble respect. These gravediggers get what we miss- in the presence of the deceased, you should be invisible.

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