Though apparently not a believer, per se, in any religious system, CalTech's Richard Feynman showed remarkable appreciation for the contributions and value of many manifestations of faith and spirituality. As a youth he expressed atheism, though in his later years one detects an openness or at least a seeking, of sorts. But did he ever truly become Baal Teshuva (Jew returning to his roots)? Perhaps not.

richard p feynman
Richard Feynman

Arline Feynman died on June 16, 1945. The paper on which this letter was written is well worn, and it appears as though he reread it often.

To Arline Feynman, October 17, 1946


I adore you, sweetheart ... It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you -- almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing. But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and what I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead -- but I still want to comfort and take care of you -- and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you -- I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together -- or learn Chinese -- or getting a movie projector.

Can't I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures. When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn't have worried.

Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true -- you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else -- but I want to stand there.

I'll bet that you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend after two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I -- I don't understand it, for I have met many girls ... and I don't want to remain alone -- but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you. I love my wife. My wife is dead,


PS Please excuse my not mailing this -- but I don't know your new address.

Perfectly reasonable deviations (from the beaten track):
      the letters of Richard P. Feynman. pp68-69.
Edited and with introduction by Michelle Feynman

7/15/2011 12:37 PM

[last save 9/13/11]
webster dedication to
Linda Jean Shepherd

"aint no sunshine when she's gone"
okay okay ~ the sun also rises ~ it gets better ~ good days will return ~ just have faith

Dance Until Dawn ~ Lisa Iskin

Bob Shepherd

Bereavement in Judaism

aveilut or " mourning"

a combination of minhag (traditional custom) and mitzvah (religious obligation) derived from Judaism's classical Torah and rabbinic texts. Details of observance, practice vary.

Yahrzeit (or Jahrzeit) is observed each year on the date of death of the loved one according to the Hebrew calendar. Therefore, the timing of Yahrzeit on the secular calendar will vary from year to year. The Synagogue notifies members of the secular date if the Yahrzeit records are on file. The names of the deceased are read at the appropriate evening service and at the Friday evening service the week before the Yahrzeit..

The Yahrzeit observance lasts a full day and it is customary to attend services on the evening Yahrzeit begins as well as the morning and afternoon of the next day. Those who come to observe Yahrzeit recite kaddish as part of the daily service and may lead portions of the service.

The Jewish tradition is to make contributions to charity on Yahrzeit. The Synagogue notification form may be used in order to make such a contribution. Perhaps the best known custom for observing Yahrzeit is lighting of a candle made to burn for at least 24 hours. The candle is lit the evening Yahrzeit begins. If Yahrzeit falls on Shabbat or Yom Tov, the candle is lit before the Shabbat or holiday candles. Although there is no formal blessing when lighting the candle, a meditation then may be said.

QERI'A qeri'a is performed when the mourner makes a tear a few inches long in his (her) outer garment at the inception of the grieving period.

SEUDAT HAVRA'A the seudat havra'a (meal of consolation) is the first meal the family eats after the loss of their loved one. It is a religious obligation on the community to join together to provide the meal. [Also translated "healing feast"]

Jewish grieving (customs); reflections

Richard P. Feynman

perhaps the most flamboyant personality in modern science

Richard P. Feynman was born in Queens, New York, on May 11, 1918. His family originated from Russia and Poland; both of his parents were Jewish (but non-practising). By age 15, he had mastered differential and integral calculus, and frequently experimented and re-created mathematical topics such as the half-derivative before even entering college. Feynman received a bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1939, and was named Putnam Fellow that same year. He received a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1942, and in his theses applied the principle of stationery action to problems of quantum mechanics, laying the groundwork for the "path integral" approach and Feynman diagrams.

While researching his Ph.D., Feynman married his first wife and longtime sweetheart, Arline Greenbaum, who was already quite ill with tuberculosis. At Princeton, Robert W. Wilson encouraged Feynman to participate in the Manhattan Project. He did so, visiting his wife in a sanitarium in Albuquerque on weekends until her death in July 1945. He then immersed himself in work on the project and was present at the Trinity bomb test.

Hans Bethe made the 24 year old Feynman a group leader in the theoretical division. Although his work on the project was relatively removed from the major action, Feynman did calculate neutron equations for the Los Alamos "Water Boiler," a small nuclear reactor at the desert lab, in order to measure how close a particular assembly of fissile material was to becoming critical. After this work, he was transferred to the Oak Ridge facility, where he aided engineers in calculating safety procedures for material storage so that inadvertent criticality accidents could be avoided.

After the project, Feynman started working as a professor at Cornell University, and then moved to Cal Tech in Pasadena, Calif., where he did much of his best work including research in quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, and a model of weak decay. Feynman's collaboration on the latter with Murray Gell-Mann was seen as seminal, as the weak interaction was neatly described. He also developed Feynman diagrams, a bookkeeping device that helps in conceptualizing and calculating interactions between particles in spacetime, notably the interactions between electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons.

He later married Gweneth Howarth and had a son, Carl Richard, and a daughter, Michelle Catherine. In 1965, Feynman, along with Julian Schwinger and Shinichiro Tomonaga, shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for work in quantum electrodynamics. Feynman's popular lection series was published in "The Feynman Lectures," while his personal side was captured in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"

Feynman is also known for his work on the Space Shuttle Challenger accident investigation, shocking the world by demonstrating the failure of the O-Rings. He died February 15, 1988, at the age of 69, from several rare forms of cancer.

last save 3/31/12

Canon Henry Scott Holland wrote:

Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

webster dedication to
Linda Jean Shepherd

Preacher's Kid and R&B Giant : Sam Cooke

Reading in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, Mukunda Lal Ghosh, [10/2/2015] I find this footnote:

A Hindu wife believes it is a sign of spiritual advancement if she dies before her husband, as proof of her loyal service to him, or "dying in harness."