In the nursing homes, every so often, one comes upon a resident who has ' no know family'. Sometimes, the resident's family members don't want anything to do with the resident, sometimes, it's the other way around. Then there are other reasons, but the result it always the same. When the resident moves on to the next world, his/her only family is nursing home staff.
A few days ago, a resident who was 101 ( one hundred and one) years old passed away suddenly, overnight. One day, he was wheeling himself around in a wheelchair and the next morning he came up on the list of expirations. This resident had no known family.
When the social worker announced the date and time of his funeral, I told myself I'll go. I thought the man must've done something right in his life if he got to live til 101. And, I also remembered how I missed a funeral of another resident and the regret I felt about it. This was my opportunity to make things right, my chance to do tshuva.
On the day of the funeral, the social worker reminded everyone of the place and time, 12pm, as well as 'he had no family' detail. I relayed the message to all my colleagues and when one asked if I plan on going I said "Of course. You can come with me, if you'd like."
At around 11:45, all of my coworkers showed up with fried chicken for lunch. My pizza-lunch-plans quickly became an urge to eat hot chicken wings, and off I drove (noticing in passing that a social worker and a nursing supervisor went out for a lunch date).
I took the wings to go as I had to do some erev shabbat shopping. As I headed back to work at 12:40, happily munching on the fries, I suddenly remembered the 12:00 funeral, good 20 minutes away. A horrible realization that I may have missed it struck me. It would take 20 minutes to get there, I have an appointment with someone @ 1 pm, the funeral may be over by then... I didn't really have a relationship with this resident like I did with the one from last year. But did I make the same careless mistake twice?
I decided to go for it, praying that I won't get pulled over for speeding. Thank Gd, after an uneventful ride I arrived to the parking lot of the funeral home. It was empty except for one car that was pulling out. Was I too late?
"You are late! But he's still there, go in, ' a nurse told me as she drove off. I think he was Jewish but his funeral took place in a catholic funeral home ( with all the consequences). I walked into a room, empty, except for an open casket. I paid my respects and said a prayer for a man who lived to be 101. And I walked back to my car feeling that I finally did right by my friend.