If You’re Under the Age of 13, Please Hand the Phone to an Adult

Newsroom

Newsroom

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but that’s due to a dearth of worthy material more than a lack of want. However, last night my family reached a milestone begging for the permanence of recorded history.

Jenna died yesterday.

Before you look in the obits for her, know that Jenna was of the amphibious persuasion; she was Joely’s goldfish. Joely had been asking for a fish and we finally relented last Sunday (Oct. 30).

Jenna basically lasted nine days (passing away yesterday, Mon., Nov. 7); it was likely the happiest week-and-a-half of her liquid-breathing life. No fish had been more loved — or likely overfed.

As I was drawing the bath yesterday evening, I caught what sounded like screaming coming from Joely’s room. Sure enough, I stopped the water and heard the two words I had hoped not to confront that quickly: “Jenna’s dead!”

It was a very sad moment, to be sure. Joely, 5, couldn’t understand why Jenna died when she seemed so happy just hours earlier. “Why, daddy? Why did Jenna die?” Her grieving caused older sister, Bella, 7, to also become emotional — fearing her fish, Max, could soon be next.

And our 3-year-old, Ari, well, he tried to get in on the act, too. He whimpered and moaned for poor Jenna, all with a smirk on his face. (Perhaps he was in on it?)

So, Jenna’s passing led to a brief life lesson for our girls on the circle of life. Through the tears, they seemed to understand. Bella was actually very sweet to her sister, loaning Joely a favorite stuffed animal to sleep with. And then she pulled out her wallet to give Joely some cash. WHAT!?!? (That was actually more unsettling to me than the premature “circle of life” conversation. Where’d she learn that money provides comfort?)

So, the levaya (interment) is scheduled for today, after school. Jenna was placed in the freezer with a package of frozen peas and a steak acting as shomrim (guards who watch over a corpse) until she is likely placed in a Tapper’s jewelry box and lowered into the ground.

The family will be sitting shiva through next Monday. Contributions may be made to the Gottlieb Tuition Payment Fund at Hillel Day School.

Oh, the headline — it probably makes little sense for anyone outside of the religious community; Amy and I had a good chortle over it this morning.

Many in Detroit’s frum community are connected to a phone notification system used primarily by the shuls to let people know if somebody has passed away and when the interment will take place. Of course, it has become monetized and bastardized like everything else — so we also get to know when there’s a sale a Shlomo’s Schlockhaus.

And, when it’s a death being announced, it’s usually the somber voice of a rabbi named Judah who spreads the word (by recorded message). I have to imagine it disconcerting to own the voice so associated with death. (I’m sure he was chosen because of his rich baritone octave.) Nevertheless, the man moved to New York a few years ago — yet his voice continues to resonate locally.

So, the message on the phone always starts the same way … “If you are under the age of 13, please hand the phone to an adult. We regret to inform you of the passing of our member (insert name here). The funeral will take place at …”

Tonight, when your phone rings and it’s Jenna you hear about, please think of Joely — and donate a tribute in Jenna’s honor to pay off this year’s tuition bill.

הַמָּקוֹם יְנַחֵם אֶתְכֶם בְּתוֹךְ שְׁאָר אֲבֵלֵי צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלָֽיִם

 

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