On the morning of June 16th I received a call from my father alerting me that my grandmother, whom we affectionately called Nanny, had passed away early that morning. After a two-year stint in a nursing home with round the clock care following a massive stroke which robbed her of her very essence, I selflessly and secretly celebrated her return home. More selfishly, or should I say humanly, I felt that dull, sad emptiness that we all experience when we lose a loved one. Though I felt sad for myself, I knew that Nanny was at peace with her beloved husband, parents, brother and other souls who had crossed over before her. I contemplated her transition through my knowing that we are infinite spiritual beings who incarnate into physical vehicles for a trip to earth with the goal of growth and evolution for our eternal spirits.
In the Jewish religion, a funeral service is planned rather quickly, and in this case we found ourselves at the funeral service and greeting our fellow mourners only 24 hours after receiving the news. On the way to the funeral home I expressed to my mother that my grandmother, her mother-in-law, was very much alive in spirit and had simply returned to the other side. Though we would miss her for the remainder of our current stay here on earth, it was far from a tragic event for Nanny. My mother looked at me as if to say, "Yes, Allison. I know you believe in that 'stuff.'" I knew better than to debate her at such a sensitive time, so I held my tongue for the remainder of our ride.
Upon greeting guests in the waiting area before proceeding into the chapel, I mingled with friends and family members who came out to support our immediate family. I made small talk, catching up and yes, even laughing. I love to laugh! One after another, people approached me with, "I'm sorry for your loss," or "I'm very sorry." They had the sad eyes, of course. I began to question my own good spirits. Then I thought, "Why don't they all know what I know? They don't understand what life and death really is." I felt sad for all of us here, but gleeful for Nanny who was in a wonderful place that the rest of us can only recall on a soul memory level, but not consciously.
With no prior thought to giving a eulogy and nothing prepared, I approached our Rabbi before going in to the service. I told him I would like to speak on my family's behalf. There was no one else scheduled to speak as everyone was either consumed by grief, or they were not the public speaking kind. I didn't know if I was or not, but in that moment I just knew it was my job to speak on my grandmother's behalf.
Twenty minutes into the service, our rabbi said, "And now Thelma Kugel's granddaughter, Allison, would like to say a few words about her grandmother." I approached the podium and, no notes in hand, I proceeded to simply... speak. I looked over the crowd and I spoke a truth that I had been studying for the past seven years through much documented anecdotal evidence regarding "death," the spirit world, reincarnation, eternal spiritual growth, near-death experiences and past life recall.
As I stated above, I had not had a speech prepared, nor was it recorded. Here is my abridged eulogy for my grandmother, from my memory, as I spoke it:
I haven't had a chance to prepare or write anything down, so please bear with me. I'd like to speak generally for a moment, if that's okay. My first intimate acquaintance with death came in 2007, when my grandfather, Morton Kugel, was dying of lung cancer. One question continued to surface in my mind. That question was, 'Where is he going?' Serendipitously, I was told about the book Many Lives, Many Masters by the psychiatrist Dr. Brian Weiss. The book instantly resonated with me as I devoured its pages and went on to read nearly one hundred other books, research documents, and blogs about the eternal nature of our souls, the process of crossing over and of eventual reincarnation back to earth.
I have come to conclude, and not lightly but through extensive research, that we are spiritual beings who choose to incarnate in this earth school for the purpose of learning specific lessons, to grow, to evolve and to become closer to our G-d source. Our lesson plans when we incarnate on this earth are each as unique as our fingerprint. They are based on the specific lessons, encounters, successes, sorrows and choices that we have willingly chosen and charted for ourselves in the interest of our own unique journey.
These are my resolute beliefs.
Upon entering this funeral home today I was greeted by my fellow mourners, and vicarious mourners alike, who continually told me they were sorry for my loss. I appreciate those sentiments greatly. Although I am sorrowful for my own temporary loss of my grandmother in her physical state, I rejoice in the knowing that she has returned home to the other side in her healthy ethereal, spiritual "body," where she can resume her existence close to our source, G-d.
During my grandmother's latest brief trip to this physical plane, she was surely my style icon. She was the picture of elegance and quite fancy, I might add. Thelma Kugel was always impeccably dressed and coifed, bedazzled by the most breathtaking jewels, perfectly made up and anyone who knew her can attest to the fact that the woman didn't have a wrinkle to be found up through her seventies! In fact, she is the one who taught me the importance of skincare as I watched her apply her regimented routine of creams and serums nightly. Her nutritional habits were also something to admire and emulate. And I ask you, is this the face of a 40-year-old? (I pointed to my own baby-soft skin and got a few laughs from the crowd.)?
Some may say that Nanny was materialistic, but I say she knew how to make life beautiful... and she certainly knew how to make herself beautiful. And what's wrong with that? My grandparents enjoyed a spectacular and rarefied life: golfing, dinners, black-tie affairs and traveling the world over. I think they visited just about every country of consequence on the planet, and always in high style. But Nanny was also introspective and philosophical, more than many people knew; though she confided those qualities to me.
To conclude, my grandmother's latest trip to this earth plane was a hell of a ride (I knelt down and apologized to our rabbi for the "hell" part), and now she has returned home to evaluate her latest trip, to rest and to join some of our other loved ones on the other side.