Life Happens – first educational series

LifeHappensLogoWe have just completed a very successful first-time educational series, in partnership with LifeBridge Health, the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Jewish Community Services. Thank you to all the speakers and participants.

Over the course of six weeks, we covered the following topics:

  • The Greatest Gift: Discussing and Planning for Future Financial, Medical and End-of-Life Matters with Loved Ones
  • Estates and Eldercare: Planning and Resources
  • Health Expectations and Challenges Facing Baby Boomers
  • Navigating the System: Aging in Place, Independent and Assisted Living, Households and Nursing Homes
  • Palliative and Hospice Care: Difficult Conversations, Valuable Resources
  • The Jewish Funeral: Traditions, Options and Funeral Home Tour

Each presentation was very well attended and we received a lot of excellent feedback. As we review the series and plan for future events, is there a topic you would like us to consider? Please comment here, send an email to feedback@sollevinson.com, or call Matt Levinson or Eliza Feller at 410-653-8900

Funeral Personalization

HoldingHandsFuneral personalization can mean a lot of different things, but the primary goal of personalization is that the funeral more fully reflect the life of the person being honored. Whether you are looking for traditional or non-traditional funeral arrangements, there are many ways to honor special wishes. Read here for a list of several ways in which a funeral or shiva home can incorporate options such as music, photographs, etcetera.

 Levinson’s is here to answer your questions about these and other options, and to make everything run smoothly. Make sure your funeral director knows in advance if you would like to include any of these elements, so we can be completely prepared upon your arrival for the service. If you have special requests for your own funeral, you may sit down with us to plan ahead and ensure we have the information in our records. It is also very important to ensure your family is aware of and comfortable with your wishes.

 Also, not all of these things are strictly in keeping with traditional Jewish funerals. Be sure your clergy is aware of any personalized aspects of your funeral so they may tailor their remarks appropriately to honor your loved one in the way you wish them to be remembered.

One thing many of our families find meaningful is to place photographs, notes and drawings (especially by younger family members) into the casket. Funerals sometimes feature special readings, or favorite music playing while other family and friends arrive prior to the service. Levinson’s also provides the option of a video recording of the service via discrete and unobtrusive cameras in the ceilings of the chapels. Family and friends who are out of town or otherwise physically unable to attend may then feel they are a part of the service even if they cannot attend. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know. If you have your own suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Yizkor – Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

yizkorThe Yizkor service is a special service recited four times a year in synagogues, to honor the memory of the departed. It is recited on Yom Kippur, on Shemini Atzeret (at the end of Sukkot), the final day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot (or the first day for those who only observe one day). The Yizkor service is not only an opportunity to remember loved ones, it is also an opportunity to recommit oneself to doing mitzvahs – acts of charity – in a loved one’s memory. By doing a good deed in someone’s memory, it carries on their legacy in this world.

Some synagogues have the tradition of everyone reciting Yizkor, with those who have not lost an immediate mourner reciting Yizkor for victims of the Holocaust or for other martyrs. In other synagogues, it is customary for only those who have lost an immediate family member to recite Yizkor.

A yahrzeit candle is traditionally lit the evening before the service. Please see our website for a full calendar of Yizkor dates (based on 8-day observance).

 

Any information about ritual practice is intended as a general overview for the broader Jewish community and there are many differences of opinion within this community. Concerns about specific ritual practices should be directed to your rabbi. Opinions expressed in blog posts and in external links may not represent the opinions of the staff or ownership of Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc.

 

How Can Hospice Help?

The guiding principle of hospice is to ensure that a person’s death is as dignified and comfortable as possible, to maintain a patient’s quality of life and avoid unnecessary suffering. The role of hospice is to provide medical care and emotional support for the terminally ill. Hospice caregivers also provide valuable support to patients’ families. Some hospice organizations also provide palliative care for non-hospice patients. Palliative care is relieving symptoms or suffering, without attempting to cure an illness or disease.

Hospice organizations provide medical care via doctors and nurses who help advise and administer medications to ease suffering. They also help patients’ families make arrangements to acquire necessary medical equipment. Social workers are also available to help families and patients with the emotional process. Hospice providers also offer grief counseling, and some offer spiritual guidance. As with Levinson’s Aftercare Resources, hospice organizations are known for their continued support of families after the patient’s death. Some hospice organizations in the Baltimore-area are religious, some are not. Some are for-profit, some are not. All are committed to easing the process of death and dying for the terminally ill and their families.

Hospice services are available in one’s own home, in some hospitals, as well as at dedicated hospice facilities. It is important to know that hospice organizations will evaluate patients several times over the course of someone’s illness to determine their eligibility for hospice care and help advise the family, even before they are actually providing hospice services.

Within the Jewish community, there are some important resources, such as Jewish Community Services’ resources for Aging and Caregiving. Their assistance with Elder Care Management begins with helping families make decisions as their loved ones age, and they can also provide information about important end-of-life resources such as hospice care.

Other resources can be found through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, as well as local hospice care providers such as Gilchrist Hospice, Seasons Hospice, and Stella Maris.

Jewish Genealogy

Genealogical research is pretty popular these days. How far back have you traced your family tree? There are a few resources you may not have heard of within the Baltimore/Maryland Jewish community to help you along the way:

The Jewish Museum of Maryland offers the most comprehensive on-line listing of individuals buried in Baltimore’s Jewish cemeteries. The list can be viewed and searched on the museum’s website.

• The Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland has lists of local and national links and resources, and also hosts a variety of programs.

Are there any other resources you have found helpful?

Caring for Yourself When Grieving

HoldingHandsGrief can be an all-encompassing emotion, and Jewish funerals often take place within a relatively short time after a death occurs, meaning the first few days after a loss can go by in a blur. Add to that the possible additional stresses of travel, family interactions, and sometimes a significant amount of time recently spent supporting someone with a lingering illness, and it is no wonder that mourners sometimes suffer serious illness themselves.

Jewish law requires us to take care of ourselves, even at difficult times, and we have put together some reminders that we hope will keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. If you are helping a friend or extended family during the time of a funeral, please make sure they do the following:

  • Drink water. Dehydration from crying, or simply not drinking on a normal schedule, can lead to a host of physical ailments even for people who are otherwise healthy. For people with blood pressure, heart or other health problems it can be dangerous.
  • Remember to eat. If you feel you have little appetite, have small meals or healthy snacks. And don’t over-do it with the caffeine. Grieving, planning and attending a funeral, and sitting shiva can be surprisingly physically taxing. From avoiding headaches to ensuring blood sugar stays level, keeping your body fueled is imperative to staying well.
  • Try to rest. Emotions can make it hard to sleep and sometimes, after a death, adrenaline kicks in. But the chemicals your body releases when sleep-deprived take a toll. Find ways to pause for a few moments of quiet or down-time. Delegate shiva set-up to someone else. Feel free to define times when you are receiving people, and times which are set aside for quiet family time to eat meals, or take naps. If you have people in your home for shiva and it starts to get overwhelming, you are completely within your rights to excuse yourself for a little while. Nobody will judge you. You are not hosting, you are sitting shiva.

Remember mourning is a process which takes a different amount of time for each person. As you grieve, please keep in mind we have several resources at Levinson’s to help you along the way. From books to lectures to bereavement groups, our Aftercare resources are always available to you.

 

Why Should I Plan Ahead?

Maybe you have a relative who is ill or going to need some long-term care and you have to spend down their assets, or your parents are older and you don’t want to have to worry about the impact of funeral costs while you are grieving, or you don’t want your family to have to worry about making decisions and handling the financial burden of your own funeral service.

There are several important reasons to take an hour of your time to make funeral arrangements in advance:

  • Ensure your peace of mind that your wishes will be followed.

  • Relieve the burden on your family, so they don’t have to worry about making significant emotional and financial decisions while they are grieving.

  • Control financial costs – when you pre-fund a funeral service, we guarantee our charges at today’s costs. (We always recommend speaking with a financial consultant or other professional regarding your personal financial situation.)

  • Reduce assets prior to applying for Medicaid.

Check out the Plan Ahead section of our website for an informative video, FAQs, and an online form to begin planning. Contact us to speak with a funeral director about any additional questions or to set up an appointment.

 

Let’s Talk About Death?

Have you ever talked to your friends or family about death? Do you know what your loved ones’ wishes are for long-term care? Have you told them what your wishes are? What does it mean to decide to send a family member to a nursing home, hospice facility or receive hospice care at home? Is your family prepared in case someone dies suddenly? What are your wishes regarding a funeral, and does your family know what they are?

The separation many of us have from death or those who are dying – due to extended life expectancy and the rise of long-term care facilities – means that this subject is rarely discussed and has almost become taboo. This does a disservice to those who are dying and those who are struggling to cope with the loss or imminent loss of a loved one. Several interesting communities and resources have recently stepped in to fill that gap.

Now you can gather a group of friends or family to discuss “Death Over Dinner“, sending out a resource for people to read in advance and then gathering to talk about your reactions or thoughts. They point out on their homepage that “How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having.” Bloomberg recently highlighted these dinners in an article which looks into some participants’ experiences. Or you can attend a “Death Cafe” which gathers people together over cake and coffee (or tea) to share their thoughts and fears about death. Back in March, NPR interviewed the man who started them, and you can read that interview here.

If you have any questions about Jewish funerals or the mourning process, funeral options available, or would like information about resources in the community, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Ask the Funeral Director – FAQs

There are many questions people have about Jewish mourning customs and the process of arranging funerals. On our website we have attempted to address the most common questions with our “Ask the Funeral Director FAQ”.

  • What do I do when my loved one passes away?
  • What should I bring when making funeral arrangements?
  • My family member lives out of state, but wants to be buried in Baltimore. What should I do when he/she passes away?
  • What if the burial is to take place out of state?
  • Is there a difference when a death occurs at home rather than in a hospital or nursing home? Will someone come right away?
  • My parent is going into a nursing home. I was advised that I could reduce their assets by pre-funding funeral expenses. How do I go about that?
  • Does the funeral service need to be held within 24 hours after someone passes away?
  • I can’t decide if I should have a chapel or graveside service. What should I consider?
  • I am not Jewish. What should I expect at the funeral? Is there a viewing?
  • Do you accept flowers? What is appropriate to send to the funeral home or shiva house?
  • I’m arriving from out of town for a funeral service. What transportation is available from the train station? From BWI Airport? How long a trip is it?
  • My family member has passed away. Should I wear a kriah ribbon? Where do I wear it?
  • I am planning an unveiling. Does Sol Levinson & Bros. assist with that? How do I go about planning?
  • I want to find the cemetery where my family member is buried. They passed away many years ago. Do you have that information?
  • I want to order a Yahrzeit calendar. How do I get one?
  • I need additional death certificates. Can you order those for me?
  • How do I choose pallbearers? How many should we have? How old must they be? What is the difference between active and honorary pallbearers?
  • What Social Security benefits may I be entitled to?
  • I served in the military. Are there Veteran’s benefits that I may be entitled to? How do I plan for military honors at the funeral and graveside?
  • Where is the shiva house? Do you have directions?
  • What are the days and times for shiva services?
  • Where can I call to get my loved one’s Hebrew name?
  • The headstone is knocked over at the cemetery. Who do I call for assistance?

If you have any questions that you do not see here or there are any important topics you feel we have not covered, please contact us.

Levinson’s Mobile Site – Up and Running

As promised, we now have a mobile version of our site and if you are checking us out from your phone, that is where you will be directed. Our hope was to create a platform that is much easier to use from a mobile device. With an emphasis on upcoming service information, we hope you will find it much easier to find the information you need at a glance.

On an individual’s page it is now easier to view and scroll through the obituary and memorial book information, and you can click to enlarge a person’s photograph. We have also made it easier to share the service details with others directly from your phone.

The mobile site also has information about how to contact us, cemeteries, planning ahead, and this blog. The archive of the past 6 months’ funerals is easy to find and simplified for the purposes of mobile devices. Several of our videos are on the new mobile site and the “Contact Us” page even allows you to use the virtual tour from your phone!

You can still access our full site and its many valuable resources via the menu at the top right.