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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Caring for others in life and in death

Graveside service offers lessons

 May 24, 2018

“The Body of Jesus Carried to the Anointing Stone” by J.J. Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

On a sunny July morning, I drove into the Waldheim Jewish Cemetery in Forest Park, a suburb west of Chicago, to attend the burial service for a former hospice patient. Waldheim was founded during the second wave of Jewish immigration to the city in the late 19th century, and it has been the final resting place for women like Sara, a Holocaust survivor from Russia who lived into her 90s.

Sara never married and had no children of her own, but she came from a large family. After her siblings passed, a dedicated nephew supervised her care at a nursing home and supported her until she took her last breath. He made the arrangements for the graveside service. According to Jewish tradition, a rabbi read Psalm 23, as well as verses from various psalms emphasizing the brevity of life, and recited prayers.

The rabbi then invited the small congregation to offer words of remembrance. Sara’s nephew took the opportunity to share some of his family history — including a reference to other loved ones also buried at Waldheim. He then especially thanked non-family members, remembering that in Jewish tradition, caring for the dead is considered extremely meritorious because one is performing a service for someone who can never repay them.

I pray that we might remember the loving way in which Jesus’ disciples cared for his body — before his death by hosting him and feeding him, and after his death by visiting the tomb with oil and spices. And I pray that we might be moved to do caring deeds on behalf of those who are unable to repay us — like the children, the elderly, the poor, the immigrants and all of the vulnerable people in our midst.

Magdalena I. Garcia, Hospice Chaplain for Vitas Healthcare in Chicago


Mitzvah: Cuidar de las demás en la vida y en la muerte

Lecciones de un servicio de sepulture

Una mañana soleada de julio, manejé hasta el Cementerio Judío Waldheim en Forest Park, un suburbio al oeste de Chicago, para asistir al servicio de sepultura de una ex paciente de hospicio. Waldheim fue fundado durante la segunda ola de inmigración judía a la ciudad, a finales del siglo XIX, y ha sido el lugar de descanso definitivo para mujeres como Sara, una sobreviviente del Holocausto procedente de Rusia que vivió más de 90 años.

Sara nunca se casó y no tuvo descendencia propia, pero pertenecía a una familia grande. Después que murieron sus hermanos y hermanas, un sobrino dedicado supervisó su cuidado en un asilo y la apoyó hasta su último aliento. Él hizo los arreglos para el servicio de sepultura. Conforme con la tradición judía, un rabino leyó el Salmo 23, así como otros versículos de varios salmos que enfatizan la brevedad de la vida, y recitó oraciones.

El rabino entonces invitó a la pequeña congregación a ofrecer palabras de remembranza. El sobrino de Sara aprovechó la oportunidad para compartir algo de su historia familiar — incluyendo una referencia a otros seres queridos enterrados en Waldheim. Luego agradeció especialmente a las personas que no pertenecían a la familia y nos recordó que, en la tradición judía, cuidar de una persona difunta se considera algo extremadamente meritorio porque es realizar un servicio por alguien que jamás nos podrá pagar.

Oro porque recordemos la manera amorosa en que los discípulos y las seguidoras de Jesús cuidaron de su cuerpo — antes de la muerte al recibirlo y alimentarlo, y después de la muerte al visitar su tumba con aceite y especias. Y oro porque esto nos mueva a realizar actos bondadosos a favor de quienes no nos pueden pagar — como los niños, las personas ancianas, las pobres, las immigrantes y todas aquellas personas vulnerables entre nosotros.

Magdalena I. García, Capellana de Hospicio para Vitas Healthcare en Chicago.

Today’s Focus:  Life and Death

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Debbie Miller, PILP
Martha Miller, OGA

Let us pray:

God of abundance, fill our hearts and our souls. Open our eyes to see those around us who are hungry, whether for spiritual or physical food. Equip us to be your hands, bringing both spiritual and physical sustenance to your children and our sisters and brothers all around us. Fill us with your peace and love to overflowing. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 97; 147:12-20
First Reading Proverbs 7:1-27
Second Reading 1 John 5:13-21
Gospel Reading Matthew 11:25-30
Evening Psalms 16; 62