My brother-in-law looked embarrassed as he told us about his visit to England.

He had made a special half-day journey to the town and cemetery where our father is buried; had said all the appropriate psalms at the graveside; and, as is the custom, he had put down a stone as he was about to leave.

As he bent down he glanced at the writing on the monument, blinked, stepped back and read it again.

Not only was the date of death wrong, but all the details were wrongHow could they have got the date of my father-in-law’s death wrong? he thought to himself. How could it be that none of us had noticed it? It didn’t make sense.

Suddenly he looked down at where he was standing. It was a fresh new row of graves.

My father had died over twenty years previously—it couldn’t be that no one else had died since then; so why was his grave amongst the newest?

He looked back at the gravestone. Not only was the date of death wrong, but all the details were wrong—only the name was right.

Suddenly he understood. He wasn’t standing at his father-in-law’s grave, but at the grave of someone with the same name, who had died recently.

He walked further back into the cemetery, amongst the older graves, and eventually found my father’s. But he didn’t have time to recite all the psalms again, or he would have been late for his journey back to London.

He hurriedly said a few psalms and “apologized” to my father for the mistake.

Fifteen years later my mother passed away. We four sisters made our way from Israel and the USA to London, where our mother had lived during her last years.

The snow was starting to fall, and we still had to make the journey from London to our old hometown in the center of the country where our mother had specifically asked to be buried. We were praying that the weather wouldn’t interfere with the funeral, which was scheduled for early the following morning, a Friday.

The snowflakes outside the window were getting larger and more steady. Would we even manage to get to the cemetery if the weather conditions worsened? We decided not to risk it.

As we were changing our plans to spend the night close to the cemetery, in case there should be problems with transportation in the morning—we received a phone call from the Burial Society.

They were very apologetic. It appeared that the place next to my father’s grave, which our mother had reserved many years ago, had been inadvertently used for someone else. They were very sorry, but there was nothing they could do; they were about to open another grave for my mother.

We were very upset. Our mother had reserved that plot at the time of our father’s death, and had constantly reminded us that this was where she wanted to be buried—no matter where she was when she died. We felt terrible. We had failed her. But what could we do—it was out of our hands.

But I was puzzled.

I had been to my father’s grave only a few months previously, when I had traveled to England to visit my mother in the hospital. I was sure that then the adjacent grave had still been empty.

But it was unlikely that the Burial Society would have made a mistake.

We had failed her. But what could we do—it was out of our handsThen I suddenly remembered my brother-in-law’s story from all those years back.

“Call them back,” I said to my sister, “and tell them I think they’ve made a mistake.

“The grave they’re referring to, which has no plot reserved next to it, is the other Jack Levy, not our father.”

I was right—they had made the same simple, easy error that my brother-in-law had made. In the dark and frozen night, as they made preparations for our mother’s funeral, they had looked for a stone with our father’s name. When they found it, it never occurred to them that another stone with the same name was situated many rows further back . . .

I realized then just how fortuitous my brother-in-law’s mistake had been.

Had he not made the mistake fifteen years previously, we would never have realized there were two people with my father’s name in the cemetery. We would have accepted the mistake, and our mother would have been buried in a plot far from our father—when she had emphasized for years that she wanted to be buried alongside him.

How little we understand about how G‑d works. What we think are mistakes can in fact be His way of preparing a solution for a future problem . . .