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It is comforting to know that Amy Winehouse’s family have a tradition to fall back on

Lots of parents, like Mitch and Janis Winehouse, have lost a child to drugs or alcohol. The stories are often very similar

By on Friday, 29 July 2011

Some reports suggest that Amy Winehouse died because of alcohol withdrawal (PA photo)

Some reports suggest that Amy Winehouse died because of alcohol withdrawal (PA photo)

The tragic death of Amy Winehouse has dominated the media for a few days, and the caravanserai has now moved on. The media’s treatment of the event was not exactly its finest hour, as Hadley Freeman of the Guardian spotted, in a thought-provoking piece.

Meanwhile her family are in mourning, following Jewish custom, and sitting shiva, as reported in the Jewish Chronicle, which gave the event a fair amount of coverage. It is comforting to know that the Winehouse family have an ancient tradition to fall back on to help them get through this very difficult time.

There are lots of parents in the United Kingdom like Mitch and Janis Winehouse, parents who have lost a child to drugs (if that is indeed how Amy died). Such children may not have shared Amy’s talent, but I do not see a necessary connection between artistic talent and a drug-related early death. You do not have to be a genius to die young, sadly.

All these deaths have features in common. These children were loved; they caused their parents huge distress; their parents did everything they could to save them, but failed. The stories are always the same. Some time ago I presided at the funeral of a young man who had remarked to a friend concerning his addiction: “Perhaps one day I will stop breaking my mother’s heart.” But he didn’t.

Many of these young people have been through detox programmes, which in their cases have not worked. They have also been through the criminal justice system, and done time for possession or for burglary and theft and other crimes- and that hasn’t worked either. My view is always the same: therapy and detox are hell on earth, but staying addicted is even worse suffering. So get therapy – it is what is called a no-brainer. Why some do get therapy and come out the other side, and some don’t, is a mystery for me. The usual judgment of bystanders and family members alike is that there is some weakness of character in the addict that stops him or her taking the difficult path to recovery.

Every drug-related death is tragic, because none of these deaths have to happen. The same is true of the drug alcohol. But as a friend of mine on Facebook pointed out, this is not the time for moralising, it is a time for prayer. One could recite a De Profundis, which is the traditional Catholic prayer for the dead, and which is of course the 130th psalm, and a traditional Jewish prayer. As for Amy’s community, they will be saying kaddish, the Jewish mourning prayer, the English translation of which goes like this:

May the great Name of God be exalted and sanctified, throughout the world, which he has created according to his will. May his Kingship be established in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire household of Israel, swiftly and in the near future; and say, Amen.

May his great name be blessed, forever and ever.

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, honoured elevated and lauded be the Name of the holy one, Blessed is he – above and beyond any blessings and hymns, Praises and consolations which are uttered in the world; and say Amen. May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen. He who makes peace in his high holy places, may he bring peace upon us, and upon all Israel; and say Amen.

  • Aidan Coyle

    There has been quite a lot of coverage of Amy Winehouse’s death which has seen commentators use the tragedy as an opportunity to wheel out their oft-repeated agendas. This sensitive, wise and open-hearted reflection is a very welcome antidote to that.

    Isn’t it interesting that Kaddish (which is recited in Aramaic) focuses on directing praise to God and glorying in God’s wonders, without any obvious mention of loss or mourning? There is something defiantly hopeful about reciting it at a time of loss and distress.

  • James H

    Indeed. Charismatics will tell you, praise of God is the best response to any crisis.

  • Martin

    However, as nice as being able to fall back on your tradition is in a time of pain, having a Jewish faith isnt the same as having a lively faith in their Jewish Messiah.

    Jesus alone is the way to the Father, and unless the Jews go the Father through Jesus, then their assurance is based on a false hope.

    The irony is that the Jews could be said to have more of a right to the Son of God than anyone else! It is indeed a shame that the majority of them are veiled to who he really is and their right to claim him as their own. (to our original benefit).

    Whilst Christians have a whole lot of common ground with the Jews as a people group, and i have a deep love for them, the hopes of the two groups (at the moment) are different.

    One currently has the Son, the other is still looking for him. Unfortunately, no one (as i said above) has the Father unless they have the Son. Any faith or hope to the contrary is scripturally untenable.

    St Paul himself understood the pain of this when he stated that he could almost wish to he cut off from Messiah out of love for the Jews. They had everything! The Judges, the Prophets, the privilage of being selected by God to be a chosen race…….but for all this.. missing the Messiah and the consumation of the Old testament and lossing it all.

    I dont mean to be hurtful, but the truth is that the comfort of the Jewish tradition is only of value to this life rather than the next if it is not centred in their Messiah. He is the resurrection and the life that they are really seeking comfort in.

    We need to present that with a humble love and passion, not simply act as if it is the same thing, it isnt.

  • Joan

    I’m going to risk being called anti-Semitic by saying I am surprised to see it said that it’s good Amy’s family “have an ancient tradition to fall back on” but no mention of the sadness that Amy did not die in the spiritual safety of the one true Church.

    I’m getting the impression that the Church is teaching that the Jews will be saved without Christ.  That doesn’t make sense, so I’m going to risk suggesting we pray for Amy’s soul.

  • Jack Hughes

    Joan , I think that Father was saying that for those people who have knowledge (albiet incomplete) of God, the death of a family member is not as sad as for people who do not know him at all. when my paternal gradmother died I did not know God at all and the funeral was gut-wrenching, now as someone who knows Christ in his One True Church the death of my maternal Grandmother whilst sad is not as painfull and I dare to hope that one day in heaven I will see her again. 

  • Martin

    But, at the risk of offending you, only if she had faith in Jesus and was his disciple.

    We have no biblical solid grounds for that hope otherwise.

    In the case of the Jewish believer, they fully believe in God, BUT, have rejected Jesus as his Son. They are still looking for him. St Paul would not have agreed with any alternate view other than they are lost without him

    Jesus is the only reason we can hope in seeing our loved ones again, that is if they were his disciples. A belief in anything less is a false hope.

    Only he is the resurrection and the life.

    That is the Good News (and the Bad News).

  • Diogenes, WA

    As a Catholic, I am saddened, but not altogether surprised, by the astonishingly bigoted, uncharitable, and unchristian remarks expressed in the previous post…I should like to remind the poster that the Kaddish is a prayer that might  well have been prayed by Jesus Himself on the death of a family member or friend…a person would need to have heard of Jesus and truly understand His teaching in order to be able to reject it, and in order  to understand and appreciate that teaching, one would have to become familiar with it, and also with the Christ-like behavior of His followers. Unfortunately the Jewish people have not seen much Christ-like behavior from Christ’s followers over the last 1500 years, form the vicious anti-semitic pogroms which accompanied the Crusades, to the Inquisitions which if not promoted by the Church were certainly promoted by prominent Christians, and were largely targeted at the Jews, down to the last 100 years, when so few Christians were prepared to oppose Nazi tyranny, and thus enabled Hitlers destruction of European Jews…I could go on. However at this point I will remind the poster of something that Pope John Paul II said of the Jews; ” More than anyone else, it is precisely you who have become the saving warning. I think that in this sense you continue your particular vocation, showing yourselves still to be the heirs of that election to which God is faithful. This is your mission in the contemporary world before all the peoples, the nations, all of humanity, the Church.”

  • Jack Hughes

    Dear Martin I am not at all offended by your remarks.

  • Wee Jock

    Diogenes, there is nothing bigoted about Martin’s remarks , they are fully consonant with Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium. Jews do not have a separate covenant other than the New Covenant of Grace that Christ gave us. 

    We should not despair for Amy as God’s mercy is profound and there are many saved who were granted the grace of conversion at the very last moment of their mortal life, unseen to those around. It is the great mystery of predestination why some receive that grace and other do not.

  • Martin

    Diogenes, i am truly sorry that you feel this way about what i have written.

    It is obvious that that you are a compassonate person from your comment however if i am a bigot or uncharitable or even so called unchristian for stating the position OF the Gospel then i am afraid that i am totally Guilty.

    There is nothing in Scripture that indicates that a Jew or Gentile can be saved apart from Christ.

    Your argument about those who have never heard of the Gospel being saved is also very strained and at absolute best a very very thin hope. It is hard enough for those that have accepted the Gospel to finish the race with the grace of the Holy Spirit let alone those that live apart from and normally in rebellion to him!

    Very few people in this world have truly not heard enough of the Gospel in order to merit further investigation. Even the position of ISLAM indicates that they must know the difference between the Christian faith and theirs on the issue of the Son of God. One says he has one, one says he does’nt. The whole arguement centres around this issue. The same is true from the Jewish and Christian perspective, one claims that the Messiah has come and the other claims he hasn’t, the entire arguement between the faiths again centres on this issue.

    Atheists again normally have a better knowledge of the christian faith than many Christians i have met. They love to show them that Science is the answer when compared to the Bible or tradition. It is in this way that they confuse the faithful.

    In regard to your arguements about Christians not being a very good example to the Jews during the crusades. Yes you are right, but that was generations ago. There is no one living now who was alive then that could with integrity use that as a reason why not to look at christianity as if they were personally effected by it. (those at the time could of). Likewise there are many many christians at work in Israel reaching out to the Jews. The American Christians are doing their best to even defend and guarentee their security! You are basing your arguement 100′s of years in the past. That is like saying the English and the French would never listern/walk to each other after the more recent 100 year war. They do and are allies…as we are with the Jews. They know enough about the Christian faith, but have mistakenly chosen to identify themselves with Moses rather than Jesus….the same error of the pharisees.

    As to the christians doing nothing in Europe, i am not sure whether to be shocked or angry with you. If you are claiming that you under the same circumstances as the Germans at the time would not have been brow beaten into doing the same then either you are someone who didnt mind their own family being persecuted with the Jews (like Corrie ten Boon) or a fibber. The Germans at the time could only chose to be identified with the Jews or against them. It was not as easy as you imagine. I take it you have never truly been persecuted? if you have and passed the test then i salute you as an example to the church.

    As for the remaining Christians in Europe. Who do you think made up the Armies of the French, UK, US, Common Wealth and Indian and Pakastani Armies? Do you think that maybe there was one or two Christians amongst these? Couldnt that be used as a reason why the Jewish people SHOULD listern based on the sacrifices they made on their behalf?

    As to Jews being a living example of God’s faithfulness, i totally agree with you, i have a great love for the Jews, but as i have said in another post. The Jew is not saved apart from through their Messiah. To say otherwise is to reject the foundation of the Gospel and is as a christian untenable.

  • Martin

    Thank you :)