W hen Aunt Suzanna arrived in America from Europe, the first thing she did was have a nose job. It took me a while to realize that this wasn’t funny: It was 1938, and her father had disappeared on Kristallnacht, to return home a week later a broken man.

We never really figured out how her brother, my husband’s relative, got out. He wasn’t able to get a visa and was sent out on the Kindertransport. He arrived in London on Shabbos, and when nobody appeared to pick him up, he was returned to Europe. We know that he must have traveled — it could have been to Paris, and from there to Spain, where he got on a boat to America. First thing he did when he arrived in America was join the army to fight the Nazis.

In Europe, the family owned a store, which they kept open on Shabbos, though they avoided touching the money. When they left Europe, all traces of Yiddishkeit disappeared along with the receding shoreline.

I first met Aunt Suzanna when my husband and I got engaged: She was then in her early nineties, and I loved her right away. She was a straight arrow and a free spirit, and I spent many hours listening to her stories. She married later in life, and she and Uncle Bert never had children. Uncle Bert passed away quite a few years before her and, sadly, was cremated. Until the end, Aunt Suzanna was adamant that she, too, wanted to be cremated when she died. My husband and I and a frum cousin tried so hard to change her mind, but she wouldn’t budge. Nobody would visit her grave anyway, she insisted, and she had the whole thing prearranged and paid for.

It was Erev Chanukah when we got a call that Aunt Suzanna wasn’t feeling well. My husband jumped into the car and sped off to see her, but en route, the news came through that she had already passed away. The previous Shabbos, I’d had a detailed conversation about being a shomeres and what needed to be done the moment someone passes away. I have no idea why I had this morbid fascination on a Shabbos afternoon, but just three days later I was armed with all the knowledge I needed. I jumped into my car and joined my husband at the nursing home.

My husband was on the phone in the front lobby, basically hiding: It turned out that the cousin who was in charge of implementing Aunt Suzanna’s carefully arranged cremation plan was on a safari in Zimbabwe — with no cell phone. Nobody was able to get in touch with her. In her absence, my husband grabbed the opportunity and announced that Aunt Suzanna would not be cremated; instead, he would arrange for a proper levayah.

The family members were quite upset with this decision and when I arrived, the mood was stormy. I decided not to get involved and sat down next to the meis and started saying Tehillim for her neshamah. At the same time I davened that my husband’s efforts would meet with success and Aunt Suzanna would have a kosher burial. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 539)