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.

Artwork at Levinson’s

No matter where you go in Levinson’s Funeral Home, you will find artwork. If you have been here, you probably noticed the stained glass, prints, paintings, the beautiful stone of the chapel walls and more. Most – though not all – of the artwork has a Jewish theme. Many images of Jerusalem can be found throughout the funeral home, as well as the tree of life, the twelve tribes, and many other events in Jewish history.

Why do we have so much artwork? First of all, the simple reason is that it beautifies the space, and makes it seem less formal and more like a home. Also, much of the work is by Jewish and Israeli artists, which we feel is an important community to support. But the most important reason is the first: the artwork serves to create a comforting environment in many places – in the offices where we make arrangements with grieving families, in the family rooms where you come to offer condolences prior to the service, and elsewhere in the building as decoration and inspiration.

The next time you are here, we encourage you to take a closer look at the works on the walls and appreciate their symbolism and beauty.

What Do I Say?

People often struggle to know what to say to someone who is seriously ill, to their families, or to the family of someone who has died.  This article from the LA Times suggests a sort of “Ring Theory” for determining where people fall on the spectrum of intimacy with the family, and what they should say to others, depending on the relationship of everyone in the conversation.

We react emotionally to difficult situations, for good reason. But this is a helpful reminder to think carefully about how our reactions affect others.

What Is This Blog For, Anyway?

A funeral home with a blog – seems a little strange, no? We think that as you have a chance to read our upcoming posts you will find it very useful. The purpose of this blog is to answer less formal questions about funeral practices, especially Jewish funeral practices. Also, it is a good place for us to highlight available resources that may be helpful for the families we serve, and provide updates on newsworthy events in the community and the funeral industry.

If you have any pressing questions that you have always wanted to ask a funeral director, first check our FAQ on our website or search this blog, and if you don’t see the answer to your question please let us know by sending a comment at the bottom of this page or by submitting an “Ask the Funeral Director” form. We look forward to hearing from you!