When getting together with your family, there’s a good chance that you will be put in challenging situations. Anytime you deal with a group of diverse personalities, it can be very difficult to maintain your own mental and emotional equilibrium. Being connected by blood, marriage or friendship does not mean that you’ll agree on topics such as politics, religion, child raising or dietary choices.
I would like to share an experience that has helped me tremendously.
My cousin and I decided to organize a family reunion. We hadn’t had one in 20 years and we were excited to see each other and to have the next generations get to know their family. It was a pot luck, everyone checking in with me to make sure that there would be a variety of food. All kinds of salads, sides and desserts were suggested, everything was going great! Then, a cousin said that she would bring turkey and cheese wraps. My grandparents and great-grands were traditional and observant Jews, who kept strict kosher. Which means no mixing of meat and dairy. Which means no eating turkey and cheese at the same meal. Of the 65 or so people coming, only two kept kosher. But I was seriously torn. I didn’t want to dismiss the kindness of someone offering such a generous gift, but how is denying our ancestors’ values honoring them?
I stewed over this for a couple of days, then I did what I always do when I’m stuck: meditate. Within a second my great-grandfather came to me, happy and animated. His joyful laughter was contagious and I still smile just thinking of him. Behind him were generation upon generation of my family, all there to support what he was saying: We don’t care what you eat. We’re just happy that you’re together!
That’s it. It doesn’t matter what we think, what we believe or what we eat. What matters most is being together. What matters most is the love that got us here and being kind to each other. When we are alive our religious beliefs and practices are here to bring us comfort, create learning opportunities and to help us feel connected to a community. Being dead gives people a much broader perspective on life.
Dead people say: What matters is loving each other and being kind to each other! You honor us by honoring each other.