Imagine for just one horrible moment that you have died. Your soul is hovering over your body, and you are frightened and confused. "What is going on? Am I dead? What happens now?" You see two strangers come in and start preparing your body for burial. At this point, you realize that in order to meet your Creator in perfect purity your body must be prepared a certain way, and they are doing it all wrong. You want to beg them to send you to your destination prepared correctly, but no one hears your pleas.

This is not a nightmare. It is a true story, and I felt that this was what was going to happen to my husband's beloved aunt.

She lived and died in a small town where there was no chevra kadisha ("holy society" that prepares Jews for burial in accordance with Jewish tradition), and due to circumstances beyond our control, there was no way to transport her body to a place where she could be prepared properly. So I was left with a choice: I could either allow her be buried in a state of impurity, or I could perform the taharah (purification process) myself...

Performing a taharah was definitely the most frightening thing I had ever contemplated doing I'm the type of person who can't look at a dead animal, let alone see a person who has passed on. I always speed up and look the other way when I pass any type of accident, and refuse to watch scary or violent movies. I even faint at the sight of blood. Performing a taharah was definitely the most frightening thing I had ever contemplated doing, but denying her a proper Jewish burial was out of the question.

My husband and I live in Miami, and were scheduled to leave for the town where the funeral was to be held before sunrise. I knew Jews were prepared for burial in a very special way, but had never really wanted to know how this was done. Now, I had to learn how to perform a taharah in the next few hours. I called my rabbi, and he referred me to a woman, who I now think must be part angel.

She took me to a funeral home for a "taharah crash course," and just walking through that door was torture for me. There, she gave me the ritual instructions, and a video in which a taharah is performed on a dummy, and gave me the supplies I needed. After this, she took me to see a body that was ready for burial, but I found myself unable to enter the room where the dead body was, and all my doubts and fears started haunting me. If I could not see the body of a person I did not know, how in the world was I going to be able to see my sweet aunt's? I told the woman to just explain the ritual and prayers to me and that I would somehow muster the courage later. Seeing how distraught I was, she offered to help me at the site by guiding me on the telephone every step of the way. What a brilliant idea!

Still shaking I went home, read the ritual instructions and prayers many times, and watched the video with the dummy, until exhaustion.

As soon as I went to bed, my heart and mind start racing. I did not sleep for one second that night, and as soon as my husband woke up I told him I could not do it. Again, we started to look for alternatives. We called more rabbis, more associations and more foundations, to no avail. There was no option, other than letting her be buried impure, than doing it myself.

A person cannot perform a taharah alone. The ideal number of people is four, but in this case, that was not an option either. The only other Jewish woman who could help me was my sister in law, and she was even more fearful than I was. There was no choice and she bravely volunteered. I could see the pain in her eyes. She loved her aunt dearly and having lost her was hard enough.

It was a long road trip, so I, the taharah "expert," had enough time to explain the procedure to her.

We arrived at the funeral home and watched the video for the last time. Before we went inside the prepping room, I took a moment and prayed to G‑d with all my might. I asked for courage, love, light, guidance and every positive thing I could think of. I begged G‑d to help me perform this ritual perfectly so that the deceased could enter her heavenly home in purity. Then, my sister in law and I entered the chamber. At that moment I realized my cellular phone had no service, and I panicked. How was I going to call my "angel-woman"? I found a telephone, connected it, and it worked!

Until that moment I had not even dared to look at the covered body on the other side of the room. I called my support lady, put her on speaker phone, and started the taharah.

It seemed as if my soul had taken over and knew exactly what to do As soon as we started the ritual and the corresponding prayers, I went into a daze and started feeling a special love; peace and serenity encompassed my whole being. Everything flowed perfectly. It seemed as if my soul had taken over and knew exactly what to do. I wasn't afraid to look, or touch, or do anything. I was doing something beautiful and so very important. The last act of kindness!

When we finally finished and left the room, my husband told us we had been in there an hour and a half. It seemed like only a few minutes, as if we had surpassed time and space.

After the funeral, when I finally had a moment to think, I remembered that I had been taught that preparing a body for burial was the ultimate act of kindness, because you can never expect anything in return from the deceased. But in this case, I felt as if I was the one that benefited most of all. What an opportunity it was for me to learn about our totally awesome religion and what is really important in our life. I am a different person since that day, and I hope that G‑d will help me deserve to stay this way.

When I got home, I felt as if I needed to encourage everyone to do a taharah if necessary, and this is the reason I wrote this true story. Believe me, if my sister in law and I were capable of performing a taharah, anyone can. It is not scary or gory, and our fears are much worse than performing the act itself. It is an incredibly beautiful spiritual experience, and nothing can be more important than sending off a soul to join G‑d with love and caring, and pure again. Every Jew has this right, and we should never allow another Jew to be buried without a proper taharah. If even one Jewish soul is buried with a taharah because of this story, sharing this experience has served its purpose....