Dear Bintel Brief:
My son’s bar mitzvah is later this month, and I am so proud of him. At the event, he has expressed a desire to honor his mother, my wife, who died last year after a long illness. But he has also expressed concern that he would be injecting a dose of sadness into what should be a happy event.
Can you offer any suggestions on how we can acknowledge his mother’s absence, all the while keeping the occasion celebratory rather than solemn? And should a tribute to her take place during the service or at the party afterwards?
Ed Koch Replies:
Dear Proud Dad: It is normal and expected that a young man — now 13 — would include his recently deceased mother in his bar mitzvah remarks. All bar mitzvah boys, myself included, refer to our parents in our remarks at the religious ceremony. So encourage him to do so. Americans, for the most part, fail to understand that death is part of life. Further, we should not constantly be sad when thinking of our deceased loved ones, particularly parents, but rather, think of them, if that was the case, as our protectors when we needed their close supervision and love. Rejoice in their accomplishments when they were here. Remark on what they meant to you in growing up and how they helped form your character. Whenever the speech of the bar mitzvah boy is regularly scheduled to be held, either at the service or at the following party, is the appropriate place. For me, the choice would be at the service. All the best.