Honoring Marcel, the Deceased

Ways I Have Honored the Soul of the Deceased, 

by Joy Krauthammer
July 2012

Since Marcel, z"l, died, I have consciously continually honored his memory, his Neshama, in all traditional ways and also non tradional ways.
It is important to me to traditionally have a Jewish child NAMED after a deceased loved one.
Marcel's and my daughter, Aviva, is named for my mother, Libby, z"l. With traditional wisdom of naming, I spoke to my rabbis and daughter and son-in-law of the importance of a baby's name and Neshama / soul.

One week ago when I was visiting (during a major hurricane and, oy, a week-long blackout), Marcel's first grandchild, when baby Maya Sage was two weeks old-- her parents accompanied her to her local Maryland synagogue (Ohr Kodesh), when Torah was being read. Aviva and baby had a traditional MiSheberach prayer said for them, while Brett went 'up to Torah' and had an Aliyah. Aviva benched Gomel, as is traditional following birth of baby to thank the Holy One.
At the Torah, Baby was given the Hebrew name of Maya Nechama, named for her grandfather Marcel, Menachem Elimelech, z'l. Amayn. Both Nechama and Menachem translate to 'comfort'.
Maya Sage is also named for her other 3 deceased great-grandparents, z"l, whose names begin with "S".
Maya peacefully slept the entire time, not requesting her regular milk meal.
Baby Maya Sage will also soon have a Simchat Bat at another synagogue, a large joyous Jewish baby girl's celebration with friends and paternal family in MA.
Younger baby Eliana Jade has been named for other relatives in need of the naming honors. (Jade for Yosef, Joy's father, z"l.)

This naming act with Marcel's name, is the final remaining significant act that could be done in honor of Marcel. 
He must be smiling in Shmayim.
~ ~ ~

I ensured that Marcel had a proper Jewish burial, with Tahara, Shomer, and Tachrichin by Chevra Kadisha, and I designed and ordered a kosher casket.
I paid for a pleasant cemetery plot in a Jewish cemetery.
I arranged for rabbis and honorary pall bearers that Marcel would like, as we had discussed years before.
I arranged for a funeral time so that disabled brother could come in time.
I arranged for the Mourner's Kaddish and a Minyan in full accordance with Jewish law and tradition.
I arranged for males in different cities to regularly say Kaddish.
For Marcel's levaya / funeral, I wrote a loving invite letter to all.
I arranged funeral procession through a fire-lit memorial garden so that Marcel's Neshama could find comfort.
I had traditional mourning rites with Kriah / a torn garment and ribbon.
I sat Shiva and covered mirrors.
For viewing by mourners and guests, I arranged tables of Marcel's memorabilia and photos of him.
I arranged for shiva meals for guests, and for us to be hosted at friends' home.
I arranged for obituaries for Marcel. I had Marcel honored in the press.
I answered all condolence correspondence and shared with his friends, family and colleagues.
I give Tzadakah in Marcel's name.
I donated a bronze memorial plaque in Marcel's name at Chabad.
I had a candle lit in a synagogue (Chabad) every day for the first year, in honor of his departed soul.
Marcel's name was also recited in synagogues across the globe, Maryland, Boston, New York and Israel at Hadassah Hospital.
I purchased his Bar Mitzvah Parsha to be written in a new Torah at Shomrei Torah Synaogue.
Additional Parshas were also written by his mother, and by Aviva at her shul.
I planted purple iris flower-filled gardens in Marcel's name at LA's Barlow Respiratory Hospital.
For Marcel, I very carefully and conscientiously designed, and purchased a beautiful Matzeivah / gravestone, and also a pillowblock/a head stone. I continue to clean the grave stone and make sure that plot is cleaned of debris.
Marcel had requested only a standing granite stone, per family history; I had to settle for a flat stone, trying to appease his Neshama.
I arranged for and led a loving Hakamat Matzeivah unveiling full ceremony, with friends and family present.
My Mitzvot increased in his name, and I inspired my daughter to do the same.
I studied Torah in the name of Marcel.
Books were donated in the memory of Marcel.
Each year In synagogue during Pesach, Shavuot, Shemini Atzeret, and Yom Kippur, I have recited Yizkor/memorial prayer.
Every year on his Yahrzeit, I say prayers in shul, give tzadakah / charity, and at Marcel's grave, recite Psalms.
I regularly visit the gravesite on yahrzeits and chagim / holidays.
I invite his friends to visit, and they accompany me.
I place a pebble on the gravestone to mark my presence.
I prepare pebbles for others to leave their mark.
I call our daughter from the gravesite and on speaker have her say hello.
(My daughter visits with Brett and also with baby Maya Sage Nechama Sivan (and now newest baby Eliana Jade.)
I plant by the gravestone.
I clean the gravestone of debris.
I paid for the gravesite to be cared for, without weeds or overgrown.
Marcel's gravesite has a granite bench to sit on. Colorful trees (Crepe Myrtle and Italian Cypresses) to enjoy, shrubs (red berry Nandina) and many day lily tuber flowers. Hawks soar overhead the hills.
On Marcel's yahrzeits, I bring to shul, Chabad of Northridge (where Marcel served as Ba'al Koreh for 18 years), for the rabbi to read to Shacharit morning assembled congregation -- a heavy over sized book called  "Divrei Shulim" ~ The Wisdom of Shulim Krauthammer: Letters to his sons,  1974-1984. The rabbi reads a teaching in the book on the Torah's Parsha, that was hand-written each week by Shulim based on weekly learning with his renowned teacher, Rabbi Yosef Soleveichik, z"l, and desiring to share that wisdom with his sons. Marcel's parents, Shulim and Thea, were devoted to him and his brother.
(I still have the original letters sent to Marcel from the time we were married.)
I send a letter to our friends reminding them that with gratitude, I recall their chesed and devotion to us during Marcel's 18 years of challenging cancer.
I created a photo and story-filled website in Marcel's memory.
I have scanned photos of Marcel for family, friends and website.
I created a large memory book for Marcel.
For Marcel's first few Yahrzeits, in his memory, I organized and played at musical events.
In Marcel's name, I created and donated Hope art for a Holocaust quilt.
In Marcel's name, I created Memorial Flame cards to comfort the bereaved.
A new baby, Maya Sage Nechama, has been named in Marcel's memory. Amayn.
I made a contribution, tzedakah, to that naming synagogue for Marcel's Neshama and Hebrew baby naming.
In Marcel's name, z"l, I stood up for him and fought for Tzedek / justice until met.
For Marcel and his mother, I speak weekly to her for Shabbat.

I have personally lived in the best possible sense with honorable midot / personal attributes and mitzvot in how Marcel was created in the image of G*d, and in his actions, I am conscious of emulating Marcel, especially where he cared about friends and would immediately come to their help when needed.
I have created photo art in the memory of Marcel. 

In her father's memory, Aviva has organized years of 'Tot Shabbats' with Torah teachings at her synagogue.
I have carefully written out family Trees with Marcel's ancestors, z"l, and descendants and shared Family Tree with family. 
Links to memorials that Aviva and I have held for Marcel, Ilui Neshamot, may his Neshamah have a continued Aliyah:

I have given to Aviva, the beautiful silver hand-crafted Tzedakah box I purchased in Jerusalem for Marcel.
With love and traditional loyalty,
a new Bubbie,
and widow (Yes, 6 1/2 years later, I've now used the "w" word)
Joy Krauthammer

I leave Marcel's golf balls in the garden where I find them, even 7 years later.
Dec. 20, 2013, 17 Tevet 5774

Marcel's, z'l, 8th yahrzeit today. 

Spoke to mother-in-law, and children.  Went to one of shuls / Chabad where Marcel served as Ba'al Koreh. Acknowledged his lit memorial plaque.  Appreciative of memories shared in shul by friend Larry; annual ritual that warms my heart.  Gave tzedakah.  More mitzvot in Marcel's name.  Made memorial collage for Aviva and sent it.  Thanked cousin Bruce for saying Kaddish at his shul, as family did last night on East coast. Studies Torah. Viewed left over golf ball still sitting under rose bush in my garden since at least a decade ago from before Marcel was paralyzed.   :)

I 'm grateful our friend Brian went to cemetery with me, as he does every year, and cleaned gravestone, rubbing off salt from water. Since stone is flat, it is ruined by the elements. We left stones. I feel the years.

Flickering memorial candle was color of sunrise. Made more art and share this with you below.

BlesSings, JOY

Light / Ohr Chanukah 2006

The Ultimate Metaphor of G*d's Expression

- Joy Krauthammer

I feel sad. The Chanukah candles just went out. They 'died'.
I never had this sensation before, but then I have experienced life (and death) differently this year.

 My husband, Marcel, z”l, (of blessed memory) died this year.  This is my first Chanukah without Marcel standing next to me or even lying in hospital beds as I stood next to him. (Not sharing candles as I grew up doing, but each with "our own chanukiyah", his Orthodox childhood custom, Marcel explained to me 36 years ago.) In the hospitals we used my Velcroed quilted menorah, cloth candles and flames: the hanging menorah -- a gift from the Russian family I had adopted. No candles allowed in ICU's. I really tried to bring Chanukah to Marcel while in hospitals, as did our daughter with her bride-groom.  This year, because of my dedicated advocacy on behalf of Jewish patients, our local (Catholic) Northridge Hospital now has 15 individual electric menorahs for patients and a large menorah in the lobby, and a Jewish Chaplain, my Chabad Rabbi Eli Rivkin.

I released new energy into the world, when tonight, I said the blessings and lit the Chanukah shamash and four candles. I was co-creating with the Source of All BlesSings by kindling candles. But then suddenly, I started over and I sang the blessings again because I realized that I had said them quietly mostly to myself, and I needed to sing them more cheerfully and out loud with alive energy, while inviting Marcel in to join me. (I would do the same on Sukkot, inviting ushpizin, the spiritual guests.) Maybe Marcel held my hand while I kindled. I opened the door to my heart, my Tiferet space. That felt better. Then I sang Marcel's favorite Chanukah song,  "Maoz tzur yeshua-si, Lecha na-eh li-sha-beyach..."  O Rock of my salvation, with delight we praise You.

I have not yet eaten a latke / potato pancake or played dreidle, but I did have half a sufganiyot / jelly donut and chocolate gelt (coins) at synagogue. I sent tzedakah / charity. I skipped all the Chanukah celebrations except at shul on Shabbat. On the first night, I was somewhat sad in synagogue, but I loved seeing Rabbi Debra Orenstein warmly bless the children by the menorah. At home, I did create a computer artsy menorah, and in the zechut / merit, of my husband's neshamah / soul, I sent it with Chanukah greetings filled with teachings and meditations on ohr/ / light, to my family and community. "The light represents the light of Divine teachings," I am reminded of my teacher, Yosef ben Shlomo Hakohen's words. "Torah is Light." (Proverbs 6:23)

Tonight I gazed at my candles. Meditating, I stood right next to them peering into them. From the distance was not good enough; I wanted to see the insides of the flames; their neshamahs / souls. (Could I be inside the flame?) I was searching for meaning. I felt blank. I could not feel the warmth, nor feel like a shamash myself. The ner / candle, consists of three parts, the ner itself, the patil--the wick, and the shemen --oil. Ner, Patil, Shemen: the first letters of the three parts of the candle spell out Nefesh--soul.

I looked into each flame individually. They were related, almost same size, height, width and dance. I was disappointed that within, they were mostly bland without 'fiery' color except for the lower blue and wick. I thought of Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s, z'l, teaching; that I could let the Chanukah light shine into all areas of my darkness. I gazed at the light knowing it is wondrously, the same Ohr Ha-Ganuz, primordial light, already here from Creation, Temple days and miracle days. I brought the light into my heart space yearning to experience my own soul at this moment. This Chanukah, while alone, there have been more 'grieving' tears. What happens when a tear meets a flame? (I observed my tears flowing into water while swimming this summer.) Probably for the first time in my life, I placed my moist finger into a flame, to feel its reality. I needed to do this.

Then facing the dark window on the other side of my menorah (I rescued it from an antiques store just before being married), I gazed at the dark illuminated reflection of me gazing at the barely dancing lit candles. I liked seeing myself with the candles. It was a different experience. It was dark 2D of me. I could see the outline of the flames more clearly than the ones in front of my face. Strangely, it was easier to describe the light by it's reflection, than by it's own full being. Try communicating a flame's form... Revealed, the transcendent light is real, a paradox: does and does not have substance of its own, or definable form, and yet allows us to experience higher truth and G*d.

Are the Flames watching me? I am observer and maybe observee.
Maybe Marcel, z”l, is watching over me.

Toward the end, the candles were as if souls returning to the Creator with their last breath. No longer reaching upwards in a dance between heaven and earth, they were a fragment of their former selves, returning to their grounding wick.  Pure blue light while ending their life. No other colors. Holding their own, I watched them each slowly die without even a flicker. Just poof and gone to G*d. I tried feeling for a rising soul. OHR (light), G*d's expression of existence, was no longer revealed to me.

Do flames have souls?
"Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam."
The flame of The Compassionate One is the human soul, says Proverbs 20:27.
So, maybe I am not so far off.
Maybe G-d is closer than I am feeling.

Reprinted from:
OHR Flame painting by Joy Krauthammer
created following a meditation on the Holy Temple


~ ~ ~


30th Wedding Anniversary

 Our 30th Wedding Anniversary Surprise
© Joy Krauthammer
Nov. 12, 2004  

Dear friends,
Aviva is really something special. Wish you could have been here too to celebrate our simcha with us, our 30th wedding anniversary.
Aviva's fiance', Brett, played along; when he arrived with Aviva by plane from Boston the night before, Brett pretended that he did not know it was our anniversary. I was a teeny surprised by Brett's not knowing as they arrived, on this, the day of our 30th anniversary. He was apologetic as he proudly handed me an addition to my tourist shot glass collection. (Most of my collected around the world glass memories died in the '94 Northridge earthquake.)  I am now the owner of a 2004 World Series Champions -- Boston Red Sox shot glass. (I also have a Cheers glass from my visit to Boston when Aviva first moved there for a Hillel job in 2000.) It is the only space I have for gifts. Marcel received from Aviva and Brett, a similar winner themed t-shirt.
Aviva TOTALLY AND SHOCKINGLY suprised me with the glorious gathering she gave to Marcel and me yesterday for our 30th wedding anniversary. I am amazed that Aviva could pull this off without me knowing or even suspecting. Roy, Marcel's aide, was even in on it, making sure Marcel was up and looking great in his new t-shirt. Marcel became speechless with the surprise visit of our guests.
I could not believe what I was seeing. I was stunned. It was as if I was watching a movie--of my life, a parade -- and each one all these dozens of people, dear, loving, caring, sharing, deep long-time friends of ours continuing in our lives today, arrived as in a parade band, cheering us, one by one in line and with percussion instruments–my tambourines and shakers. It was so strange...Surreal, as Marcel and I sat outside in the back porch getting ready to eat take-out vegie Chinese lunch (because I did not have time to cook the defrosted turkey), they entered, each friend from under the fruit-filled grapefruit tree, turning the corner from the side of the house and in the parade front was carried a giant 6' long banner reading, "HAPPY 30TH ANNIVERSARY JOY AND MARCEL." Ariel Levy, Aviva's god-sister, did a great job printing that out for us as a surprise.
These friends, every one of them, have been there for Marcel and me in trying times and times of joy. They have been there in the waiting room during Marcel's first brain surgery in 1988 and the many cancer operations following, always on call for us and present with Bikkur Cholim; visiting us at hospital and home, bringing cheer and goodies. We have shared shuls since being in the Valley and Aviva's birth. Friends have been there during Aviva's Bat Mitzvah in 1990 and with us during Aviva and Brett's engagement this last summer, 2004. They have shlepped assisting me with Marcel's needs, and in support to my performances as percussionist. We have played and prayed, laughed and cried, and gardened together.
As friend Yda wrote to us, excerpted from her 30th anniversary card "...in times of happiness and tragedy, troubles and rewards, yom tovs and bad days..."  All, oh so very true. I hope that I too have been a friend to our friends, our angels, as they have all been to us. My eyes are tearing and I am choking up right now remembering yesterday, and how my tears of deep joyful, grateful, and touching  emotion flowed from the moment friends were one by one and all in my sight and through the glorious gathering.
My immediate thought was, "How am I going to feed all these people?", and raced into the house to gather up nuts and fruits,"  having no idea that Aviva and her partner in this, my dear sister Faye, and our friend Suzanne were shlepping in tables, chairs, purple cloths, and food etc.  I could not believe what I was seeing. It drizzled and everyone came closer together outside and some inside as they all gathered to honor us with their presence. The pack of purple and silver balloons here remind me that it is real, as do all the yummy chocolates and cheerful flowers and greeting cards. I had even placed outside, thinking we had one guest, the lovely bouquet from Marcel's mom, filled with purple dutch iris, purple liatris, purple lisianthus, purple-yellow tulips and yellow and white mums and daisies. I had picked and arranged my favorite purple bearded irises, seasonal yellow mums and red roses for inside.
Aviva printed and surprised us with an enlargement of one of our 1974 wedding photos and had that framed on the table for all to see; we looked so happy and smilingly cute together. Me in my long hair and Mexican white wovensniut / modest wedding dress we bought for $20 in Tijuana, and the veil I created, and Marcel with his big brown velvety bow tie for our Chabad wedding. I can still taste that wedding cake from Schwartz's LA kosher bakery.
In addition to our huge personalized delicious rich chocolate cake with a sizzling sparkler, Aviva and Faye also sweetly had an apple cake decorated for three dear friends celebrating their birthdays, back to back beginning yesterday, Barbara, Yda and Suzanne. (Karen's had been a week earlier.) 
The table was graced with potted fall-colored mum flowers and chocolates from friends and purple flower vases, and a beautiful ceramic bowl for embracing luscious persimmons and other fruits. Some people, like Yda and Irwin have been with us since our wedding; Irwin and Marcel were colleagues for decades, and others like Suzanne and Alan, since my college days when Marcel and I were dating from 1969. They kvell  with her memories. Friends were here from our religious communities with the Temple Ramat Zion Minyanairres, Young Israel, and during the days of Heschel Day School, and when Aviva baby sat for their children.
Too bad I would not change out of my blue purple jeans and purple t-shirt for the one friend Aviva said was coming over; her friend since Heschel kindergarten, Shelly. And her dad Louis came. (Aviva had lived with them and mom Sandy, during Marcel's worst medical time.)
Not even earrings or make-up had I put on. At least I had taken out a gorgeous batiked red tassled table cloth from Bali.
I can not believe how many friends I spoke to during that and the prior day, who did not let on that I would see them in a few hours.
Interesting how many chairs and little tables I have around the back porch that I was able to keep pulling out. Am I glad I decided to dust the porch in the morning.
Oh, yes, immediately prior to the surprise!!! party, instead of dragging Aviva to the eye glass store for her opinion on the purple frames I was choosing, I took her into a boutique shop and early for Chanukah, bought her a few unbelievable stunning and unique outfits. All the women trying on clothes opened the doors to their dressing rooms to come out and see what the fuss was all about --that the Boutique women were making in oogling Aviva's modeling expertise. Everyone was jealous of how the garments looked on her tall, slim graceful body.
It was a memorable day. And when everyone left after yummy cakes, fruits and drinks, Aviva and Brett met at the house with a musician--a band leader, and then a wedding photographer, each to sell their wares. The guitarist Dale, serended Marcel in his hospital bed here at the house. Amazing day. Amazing Grace.

Our friends truly present in celebration whom I dearly love in addition to my loving family, Aviva and Brett, and Faye and Jim, include:  Adina and Jerrry Kraim, Barbara Klaristenfeld, Joyce and Sheldon Kirsch,  Karen and Brian Reff and their children,  Jesse, Chana and Ben (with a head of new corn rows instead of his huge impressive afro),  Lisa Weisbrod,  Luisa Latham and Arnold Bryman, Shelly and dad Louis Magier, Shelly and Pepi Rosenbaum,  Suzanne and Alan Levy, and Yda and Irwin Ziment. 

Unbelievable how many incredible friends could show up on a Thursday afternoon and exactly at the surprise time that Aviva requested. I am so very grateful. 

Beloved Friends
Very sad that Suzanne on left died 7.3.32016 and also on far left that Irwin Ziment died 8.4.2016. 



Barbara, Suzanne, Alan, Yda, Irwin, Aviva
© Joy Krauthammer 

"Marcel, My Brother"

"Marcel, My Brother" is the name of the internationally syndicated published eulogy that Marcel's brother, Charlie, gave at Marcel's, z'l, funeral. Sometimes, depending on the press, it is called, My Brother Marcel.

The essay appears again at the beginning of a 2013 book, a compilation of essays by Charlie.
Here is a screen shot with the story listed. The essay may possibly be viewed elsewhere in this site.