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September 28, 2016
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Full Circle

It's hard to start Diabetes Blessings Week in the first full day of shiva for my father. While I hoped that several nearby cousins might attend the funeral, family logistics and family dynamics transpired that the only people at the burial site were me, The Other Half, the funeral director, the rent-a-rabbi, and the gravediggers. (Talk about feeling/being alone...) Since I'd never met the funeral director or the rabbi before, and because we could not get my stepmother into our not-wheelchair-modified vehicle, we arrived early at the cemetery. My dad's family has a family plot, so I knew if the cousins came late they'd know where to find us.


During his life, Dad used to say, "call me anything but 'Late For Meals'". And while he might have been early or late for anything other than meals during his lifetime, his funeral began precisely on time. With only three living beings there (the funeral director and gravediggers being mostly on the side and carefully not-observing unless needed), the burial was an intimate one, giving me time to remember many things about my father, and as I shoveled dirt into the grave, I knew that the loamy, rocky earth would channel the prayers that those who could not attend would have wanted to pass on. It was a slow process, because for each person whose prayers I passed on, there were three "shovelsful" of dirt to be carried on the back of the shovel, (which does not hold much dirt, but which falls much more gently into the grave, as we reluctantly bid our loved ones "good bye"). The mitzvah is for the mourners to cover the surface of the coffin, not necessarily to fill in the entire grave (that's what the gravediggers are for), but even with three of us, it was some time before there was enough cover for me to consider the mitzvah fulfilled.


When the ceremony was completed, and we stepped back from the grave, the three of us discussed a number of things, amongst which were the acquisition and passing on of learning outside of a formal environment. I'd mentioned that I blog for dLife. He had never heard of this site before. In the process of explanation, I somewhat shocked him with the oft-mentioned prediction that by 2050, approximately one in three people living in the United States would be living with diabetes. Of the well-known risk factors, he was only aware of food choices and availability (what we eat); I explained that it also included how much we (Americans) eat, and our general lack of excercise. I also mentioned that there was some speculation that a toxic environment (pollution, other toxins, and potentially GMOs genetically-modified foods might be factors as well.


"Well, maybe there is something behind my wife's insistence that we eat organic and all."


When it comes down to basics, the less processed the food, more likely it is to follow religious dietary laws, whether they be kashrut, halal, or something else. It's easier to grow organic crops in accordance with religious laws, more likely that the plants were grown and harvested humanely, more common for the animals to have been raised and slaughtered humanely, and not specifically because it is required by religious law. Of course, just because it is easier to raise and prepare organic foods in ways that fulfill these obligations, it doesn't mean that everything marked "organic" was produced that way. Nor does eating organic, or according to religious laws, guarantee that one will never develop diabetes or any other chronic medical condition, for that matter. I wouldn't even bet that if everyone ate 100% organic, the rate at which new diabetes (or other chronic medical) cases are diagnosed would drop.


But for one person, for one moment, I could connect the rebbetzin's food choices to her husband's spirituality.


And as we delivered my father back to the earth, we remembered that we come from, and are nourished by, the earth.


We had come full circle.

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