How You Help: Shiva Candle in Mailbox Helps Mourning After Losing a Parent
The “generosity of humans” helps a couple to grieve
“I asked what she wanted, what can I do?” Marc Nachowitz relates the story over the phone, grief showing in his voice’s low intensity.
He and his wife had been told the sad news over the phone—her father was sick from COVID-19, in a nursing home, at age 86. Since he lived on the East Coast, they were unable to get to him, even if travel restrictions hadn’t forbidden the travel, as well as visiting the nursing home.
How to mourn in the age of COVID
After being rushed to a hospital, her father lived only 48 hours. The couple had to remain in Cincinnati even after her father passed. “We could hardly even talk to family members on the phone; we didn’t know if there was a funeral, or what,” said Nachowitz. Recently relocated to the Midwest, they felt isolated, and the pandemic was making it worse.
They had to find a way to mourn. They had to sit shiva by themselves.
Wondering how to comfort his wife, Nachowitz asked her what she needed. “My wife was having a hard time processing it. And I asked what she wanted, what can I do? She thought about it for a while, and the only thing she said she wanted was a shiva candle,” said Nachowitz. A shiva candle is traditionally kept lit for all seven days of the mourning period.
Their main connection to Judaism during their time in Cincinnati so far had been Marcy Miller, Executive Director at Hillel at Miami University, and her husband, Joel Miller. Nachowitz explained, “The hardest part is—when a family member passes—there’s things to do; steps to take, there’s family, especially, to talk to. We are isolated not just by the pandemic but because neither of our families are anywhere near here. That’s why we reach out to Hillel. It makes me feel welcome in a place where I am an overwhelming minority.”
Nachowitz said, “A shiva candle isn’t something you know where to go to get—someone gives you one. I didn’t know where else to start but Marcy and Joel. They called back almost immediately.”
They would find a way to help.
Help in a flower closet
Joel called Weil Kahn Funeral Home, which was able to help. They set a blue, tall shiva candle in the flower closet on the outside of the funeral home, to respect social distancing. Marcy said, “We got out of our sweats, threw the dog in the back seat, found the door at Weil marked ‘flower door.’” They were on the road to the Nachowitzes in under an hour from the time of the first call.
Shiva candle in the mailbox
They arrived outside the Nachowitz home. “We put [the candle] in his mailbox,” said Marcy, “and he came out to the driveway, and he spoke with us—with social distancing—for a few minutes, and we offered our condolences. He was incredibly gracious, and full of gratitude.”
How did Marcy feel afterwards? “There’s really no words to express the depth of what our help meant to Marc. It was important to us, it was really a privilege and we were very touched.” Joel added, “We were fulfilling a mitzvah. It made me feel warm inside.”
The generosity of humans
According to Nachowitz, “It was a tremendous act of generosity and very moving.” He continued, “You don’t have a funeral, you don’t have anything. We lit the candle, and said the mourner’s kaddish. It was emotional.”
“They did everything they possibly could to help. That’s it. The generosity of humans,” he concluded.
Hillel at Miami is funded by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. It remains active, working safely and remotely with students and the community, during the pandemic.
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