Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
When my mom’s oncologist told her in no uncertain terms that all the chemo, clinical trials, vats of green tea and chanting at the Ashram weren’t doing a lick of good, she fired up her computer, lit a cigarette (hey, she was a goner anyway,) poured herself a strong cup of instant coffee, and sat down to plan her funeral.
“Wouldn’t it be great to go to your own funeral?” She asked in the middle of downloading Peter Paul and Mary’s song “Weave Me The Sunshine” for the processional. “Like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn?”
I thought about it while she dragged the downloaded music file onto the playlist she was assembling.
She was right: Going to your own funeral would be like the ultimate love-in - like the Academy Awards, only even more
When else are you going to see yourself in the best light? When else are you going to be front and center—so what if it’s in a wooden box— and the star of the show?
What other time but at a funeral or wake are your foibles going to be magically transformed into charming anecdotes…
In real life, I don’t know when to shut up. But when I’m dead, I’ll be someone who spoke the truth. In real life, I’m sloppy and disorganized. But when I’m dead, I’ll be “creative.” In real life, I’m lazy. But when I’m dead, I’ll be someone who didn’t sweat the small stuff
In real life, I’m an obnoxious exhibitionist who is so insecure that she needs to go to her own funeral for validation. But when I’m dead, I’ll be “Sarah! A an honest, creative, and spirited woman! Let us drink a glass of wine in her honor!”
Pour one out for your homies.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house.
Unless of course, nobody came to my funeral.
Or worse. People came to enjoy themselves while singing a rousing chorus of Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead.”
(Ah, now there’s a song for the processional…)
But on the plus side, if I do catch someone enjoying themselves a little too much at my funeral, I’m a haunt a bitch.
Delusions of grandeur and departure from reality not withstanding, I know that you can’t really go to our own funeral. Unless you’re a complete douchebags who likes to play on the feelings of your loved ones just to get a little positive reinforcement.
But still, like my mom, you can set the tone for the whole thing with a kickass playlist.
So, I’m curious: What songs would you want included at YOUR funeral? Speak now, or forever hold your peace.
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March 25, 2011 | 4:55 am
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
I remember the first time I heard the story about Sadako and the thousand paper cranes. I was five years old, and I was sitting cris-cross-applesauce on the big blue rug next to my best friend, Rachel. We were giggling. We had finished drawing our pictures of shining suns and rainbows and unicorns, and it was almost time for lunch.
(I could never sit still.)
But then, Ms. Taus started talking, and with her words she took us with her on a journey to Japan, to a hospital room, where we met a doomed little girl who had an impossible dream: To Live.
With broad strokes, she told us of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The flash of light, the thundering stillness that echoed long after impact. With a gentle voice, she told us of Sadako’s aching bones and the disease that no doctor could cure.
She kept the backdrop abstract, focusing instead on the poignant details:
In Japan, there is a folk belief that if someone folds one thousand paper cranes, they will be granted a wish.
And so, with breathtaking hope, Sadako held a square of origami paper and began to fold.
Let me live. Let me live. Let. Me. Live.
Each bird a different color. A tiny jewel against the pitiless backdrop of hospital white.
And we, all sitting cross-legged on the rug, were enthralled as we imagined the rainbow of birds dangling from the hospital ceiling.
One thousand paper cranes. The highest I knew how to count then was to 20. And yet, I could picture them fluttering in the hospital room: One thousand paper cranes, each folded with a prayer.
Let. Me. Live.
And then, Ms. Taus told us, when Sadako’s fingers were too weak to lift the flimsy paper, the hands of her friends took over, folding folding folding…
Let her live. Let her live. Let. Her. Live.
A beautiful story.
A true story.
And now, while the horror in Japan seeps in, slowly slowly slowly, the news more dire each day, I can’t help but wonder: How many more Sadakos there will be.
March 13, 2011 | 11:54 am
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
She lit the Shabbat candles. He blessed the wine. The oldest sprinkled salt on the challah, and they thanked God for the delicious golden bounty.
Together they sat - faces warmed by candlelight. The rain outside threw frigged daggers against the windowpane.
But they were inside - cozy and safe from Winter’s last gasp.
Maybe they ate chicken soup. Maybe vegetable barley. Maybe they had cholent, and chopped liver and kuggel.
Maybe she baked the little ones’ favorite Parve chocolate cake.
And that night they went to bed in the wrapped stillness of Shabbat - in a peaceful quiet, they tucked their children in —the youngest one just a baby, born only last month. Maybe her body still ached from the memory of birth. Maybe he rubbed her back while she drifted off.
Maybe they never heard The Terrorist come in—the tinkling of glass, and his footsteps muffled by the whoosh of wind and rain.
Maybe The Terrorist killed them first.
Or maybe the children.
Maybe The Terroist’s blade sliced swiftly through their vocal cords, severing them before they could scream.
And maybe just before The Terrorist slaughtered the newborn his hand trembled for a moment as he watched the infant’s tiny chest rise and fall. Rise and fall. Rise and fall.
Maybe they bled out as fast as mercy could allow.
March 7, 2011 | 1:09 pm
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
Walking to class past the political and cultural smorgasbord of Sproul Plaza at the University of California at Berkeley was a feast for the eyes. There was, of course, the Ralph Nader-loving table teeming with activity and the ever-desolate Berkeley College Republicans station. But the one that always caught my eye was the “Male Circumcision = Genital Mutilation” table. And yes, they had pictures.
I remember once, an outraged Member of the Tribe holding a sign that read: “For God’s Sake, My Penis Was Ruined” told me that the traumatic experience of circumcision had scarred him physically and emotionally. Forever. At the time, I was all like “Dude, chillax. Smoke a bowl or something” and I went on my way to my next class.
But now, 10 years and one telltale ultrasound later, I can’t stop thinking about this man, his sign, and his tsurus. Because with the knowledge that the fetus I now call Little Homie is indeed a boy-child, comes the inevitable deep breath as my husband and I mentally prepare for our baby-to-be’s eighth day of life: Little Homie is getting cut.
And I’m not happy about this.
Since I kick ass at Googling, I know that while the medical community at large generally considers circumcision to be medically unnecessary, there are statistics that support the theory that this practice is actually quite healthy and sanitary. And while some argue that circumcised men experience less sexual pleasure than their non-circumcised counterparts, I have yet to hear one complain.
And, beyond these facts and figures, I have been raised to believe that circumcision symbolizes a profound covenant with God. It’s a ritual that has existed for thousands of years, and I always believed that if I had a son, I would want him to take part in this time-honored tradition.
But this was how I felt before I saw Little Homie’s boy parts.
And now, even though we’re shopping around for the best mohel in town (think Benihana chef with a yarmulke), I have a lot of reservations.
I’m afraid that the mohel will develop a palsy seconds before the blade meets my baby’s foreskin. I’m scared that Little Homie will get one of those extremely rare infections, and his penis will turn gangrenous and fall off, and he’ll never give me grandchildren—oy vey iz mir. And, I’m terrified that one day, Little Homie–for whatever reason‑‑will grow up to resent our decision to have him circumcised.
Ok, ok, ok, before you tear my “Member of the Tribe Card” into a million pieces, please know that I love being a Jew. And while I do not, nor have I ever, taken the biblical narrative literally, I am proud of my heritage. But I also believe that intrinsic to being Jewish—hell, to being a person—is to question long-held assumptions and beliefs, no matter how inviolable and sacrosanct they may seem. And in the end, it is Little Homie’s penis. So, ultimately, shouldn’t he decide what is (or isn’t) done to it?
But, my husband feels differently. After all, he was circumcised on his eighth day of life, so why shouldn’t his son be too? I suspected that my husband was driven by ego and the desire to see a doppelganger when he had pissing contests with his son more than anything else. But during a fight late one night he set me straight.
“I want him to be circumcised because my grandmother lost most of her family when she fled the Nazis, and I think it would break her heart if we didn’t circumcise her great grandson,” he said.
“Besides, this is a tradition, and I won’t be the one to break the link in the chain.”
I could see his point. But I persisted. Why couldn’t we wait until Little Homie was old enough to make the decision himself?
“Look, parents make choices for their children all the time,” my husband said. “We’re Jewish, and to deny the brit is to deny our people. So he’s getting circumcised. Period.”
I’ve read the literature on both sides of the circumcision debate and while it seems that the peer-pressure within the Jewish community is to make the cut, I know there is a small, but growing group of Jewish imas and abbas out there who are taking a revolutionary path and refusing to circumcise their baby boys. The question is, do I dare join them? And if I do, and my husband doesn’t, what does this mean for our family? The kid only has one penis, so how can we compromise over something that either is or isn’t? Ah, where’s King Solomon when you need him.
But still, I know that regardless of what we do, a foreskin—or lack thereof–will not define the person Little Homie becomes. And, foreskin or not, we will raise our son in a home steeped in Jewish values including Tikkun Olam, Gemilut Hasadim, and Tzedakah. We will do our best to make sure our baby-to-be grows up in a world where he is loved, nurtured, and honored, so that he, in turn, can love, nurture, and honor others. That is the best we can do.
And, if one day Little Homie ends up holding a sign that reads, “For God’s Sake My Penis Was Ruined,” we will pay for his therapy bills.
Post Script: I wrote this article while Little Homie was still chillin’ in the uterus. And yes, on his eighth day of life, we made the cut.
B and his father, and my father looked on while I cowered on the couch, my face buried in M’s curls while my Fairy Godmother in Law held my hand. And Little Homie slept through the entire thing.
And almost 15 months later, Little Homie doesn’t seem to have incurred too much psychological damage. Although his first word was “balls.”
This post originally appeared here on Kveller.com.
Kveller.com offers a Jewish twist on parenting, everything a Jewish family could need for raising Jewish children—including crafts, recipes, activities, Hebrew and Jewish names for babies…and advice from Mayim Bialik.