Informant: The informant in question is a half-Jewish, half-Italian boy from Rockville Centre, New York. He currently is twenty years old and studying screenwriting at USC.
This isn’t really my story to tell but I love it a lot. It describes love in a lot of ways, and comedy, and the ebbs and flows of life. My uncle who’s not really my uncle, he’s my dad’s teammate from back in college. My parents were married at 21 and they were dating since they were 18 for the longest time, they were like the three musketeers, my mom, my dad, and my uncle. And my uncle went through a bunch of girls. And then when he was 23, 24, he was at a shiva. Which is a Jewish wake. And his mother had a friend who had a great niece and they met. And the woman was my Aunt Jill, they’ve been married for thirty years. They’re my parents’ best friends. And I love this image of a woman at a shiva for someone that she cared about, thinking “while this man is dead, there’s love to be had” and that they weren’t going to let this sadness get in the way of future happiness. Which I think is such a wonderful perspective on the world, you know, I only hope that my shiva brings someone such happiness as those two. And I love the concept of someone who would overcome the context of a shiva to say this match needs to be made. And my aunt’s always embarrassed to tell that story. And I think meeting at a shiva is the 1980s equivalent of meeting your husband on Tinder. But I think it’s lovely, I think it’s the perfect example of love: happiness comes from the oddest places. And you can’t force anything in this life. You can only put yourself in good situations and what happens will. It’s gonna throw you the cards that are meant to come your way. And it sounds really hippie and new-age-y, but maybe that’s who I am, I don’t know. And I’m not saying I’m looking forward to my next shiva, but the future Mrs. _____ could be there.
Who did you hear it from?
One of the family dinners. We had dinner with their family every week.
Is the story well-known in that extended family?
Yeah, really well-known. And their mothers wound up being best friends. It’s just the perfect family story. And it never gets old. It’s never not fascinating that that’s how they met. I guess it’s just, comedy is about irony. Things are never how they seem, there’s always some twist. But the fact that death and love are so intertwined is a comedic presence in and of itself. That such happiness and such sadness can hold hands in that way.
This story is a personal memorate that has become passed around an extended family unit to such an extent that it serves less as an account of actual events and more of a metaphorical reflection on the nature of human love. While the event of a shiva may seem like a staid, grave affair, a great deal of happiness can stem from it at the same time.
The story also serves as an example of the multiplicity and variation that occurs within the Jewish practice of a shiva. While some shivas naturally carry the solemnity that such an event would anticipate, this one in question possessed a degree of levity high enough that two individuals were comfortable setting up a date at it. Death, then, does not have to possess the layer of sadness that most cultures attribute to it. From each ending must stem new beginnings, a saying never more literally true than in this story.