I received the following letter (actually email) from a gentleman named George (not his real name). As I began to read the email, I immediately wondered why he contacted me. It didn’t take long to understand as I now share his correspondence with you.
" Mr. Haddad,You are probably wondering why I am making contact with you, but I am at a loss to understand several things and am hurting both inside and out. My mom died recently after a brief illness. (Actually she has had her bout of nagging illnesses, but her passing was totally unexpected). Dad died more than 25 years ago (I was 11 when he died). My family has always been Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox), but I and my siblings sadly seldom attend church. Mom always went each Sunday when she was able, but not often in the past 4-5 years. My siblings and I have not been involved with death prior to mom’s passing, since we were all young when dad died.
For almost a year before mom died, we attempted to have her tell us what she wanted when she passed, but she would have nothing to do with this conversation. She was superstitious; believing if she made it clear what she wanted she would soon die. Two weeks before she passed, she called me and asked that I come to discuss several things that were bothering her. I sensed what she had on her mind. I asked if it was alright to have Jesse (one of my sisters) present – Jesse (not real name) lived 60 miles away. This was O.K. with mom.
Long story short, we could not find a time convenient for all after suggesting several dates. Finally we decided on a date and time, but as you may have guessed by now, mom passed before we ever had the conversation.
What transpired thereafter was nothing short of tragic. We did not know where to turn. We knew of a funeral home that buried many Orthodox people, but that was it. We contacted the funeral home and made arrangements to meet with a director. When we arrived another person greeted us and told us he would be in charge of mom’s arrangements. We asked him if he was familiar with Orthodox funerals, and he said, “Of course!” We were uncomfortable with him from the moment we met him. Come to find out he knew little or nothing about the customs and traditions in the Greek Orthodox Church and everything that could go wrong – did go wrong. To compound the situation (and I realize that this firmly rests on our shoulders), we had no relationship with the clergy prior to the funeral.
After the funeral was over I had a conversation with a business associate who directed me to the web site www.OrthodoxCustomsTraditionsandPractices.com). That evening I read every word on the site and it was all I could do to hold back the tears. If only I was aware of the web site and the wealth of information presented, mom’s passing would have been a lot different. I have shared your web site with everyone I know, and all have been very grateful.
In addition to the procedures and processes you have clearly posted for all, I have taken special note concerning “prayer.” I pray for mom’s understanding for not coming to her when she asked, for how poorly the funeral arrangements went, and for mom and God to forgive me. Yes, I am dealing with a lot of guilt, but the web site - Orthodox Customs Traditions & Practices has and continues to be a source of comfort for me and my siblings as we move forward.
Oh, and by the way, all three of us (me and my siblings) and our families have and continue to make every effort to attend services every Sunday (missed only one Sunday since mom’s passing). Thanks for taking the time to read this, and most especially for the content on the web site www.orthodoxcustomstraditionsandpractices.com. It should be required reading for all Orthodox Families and the public as well.
If you have a mind to do so, I would be pleased to speak briefly with you.
Thank you so much.
George (phone number provided)"
I responded to George’s request to speak, and we were on the phone for about 25-30 minutes. I assured George that his mother was in a better place praying for him and his siblings. We agreed on several things – two of which I will share herein. First off, knowledge is extremely important and so too is action. Delay (procrastination) plays into the hands of the devil. What George and his siblings experienced need not have happened. Secondly, reconnecting with the Church as well as establishing a relationship with the Good Lord is a major step forward in the healing process.
We agreed to stay in contact with each other. This young man has a beautiful heart, and I am pleased now to be able to call him a friend. We can all learn much from that which George has freely shared herein.
Philip G. Haddad, Jr.