As I watched clods of brown mud being spaded on top of a coffin last week, I was pondering what a person truly leaves behind them, when they die.
They leave behind a lot of paperwork – this agreement with the car leasing company, that letter from the bank, a will, a bill, an instruction to an insurance agent or realtor.
They also leave behind a lot of clothes. And accessories. And jewellery. Closets and closets full of stuff that no-one else actually wants, for all the person who used to wear them is so loved and missed.
Other things remain, like furniture. A new fridge. A shed-full of other people’s memories that couldn’t quite be discarded despite the lack of real use for them in the world.
Then there’s the photos – or at least, there used to be the photos before the i-Phones showed up and turned everything into yet another anonymous, bland file on Dropbox that could be viewed or ignored with equal equanimity.
All these things are left behind, but carry no weight in the world in the world as soon as person moves on to the next, purely spiritual, stage of left.
So what’s really left behind, tachlis, in the world?
The truth is, we really all already know the answer to this question, for all that it can be so obscured behind the rat race, and the keeping up with the Joneses, and the massive mortgage payments.
What we leave behind is our kindnesses, and the things we did that touched and effected other people worlds, in some way.
Like, that conversation we once had with someone that ended up somehow changing the whole course of their life. Or the event we helped organize that raised so much money, or brought so much joy and meaning to other people’s hearts.
Or the meals we made with love, day in day out, that nourished our families and friends, and made them feel like someone had their back.
What we leave behind is the impression we made on other people’s lives, and in other people’s memories, and within other people’s hearts.
Did we turn someone else’s heart to stone with a cruel word, or a hateful comment, or did we warm it up in some way?
Thank God, I haven’t been to a lot of funerals. But I’ve been to enough to know that no-one talks about how much money the dead person had, or how big their house was, or how nattily they dressed.
What we leave behind is our kindnesses for others, and our commitment to living a ‘good’ life as delineated by Hashem, and His Torah.
As below, so above. Parodoxically, what we take with us into the next world are exactly the same things that we leave behind here. Our kindnesses and our mitzvot, and our character traits.