"Absolutely do not let me eat there," Anat from the penthouse beseeched me. That was the first thing she said when I informed her that the father of Assaf, from the rear-facing third-floor apartment, had died. It's fascinating how people react to a person's death; the first thought that passed through Anat's head was that, in keeping with the occasion, all the food they would have at the shivah, would be low on nutritional fibers and heavy on carbs, the bad kind. "I really think it's terribly selfish to die," she muttered, grating a cinnamon stick over a macrobiotic salad with trembling hands. "You keep on getting thinner, all that's left is skin and bones, everything's just dandy, but all those who are left behind to mourn you gain weight. It might be okay for Assaf, it wouldn't hurt him to put on a few pounds, to be honest, but it's not fair to all the rest."

Her husband Yossi had a different take on the subject. "I have an idea for a start-up," he told me. "Catering for shivahs. Think about it," he enthused, as if this were his last chance to take life by the balls. "A brit mila or wedding is great, mazel tov, but with all due respect, we're talking only one evening. With a shivah, you close a deal for seven whole days, from morning till night, and no one's going to complain about the food. The close family is grieving too much to feel how anything tastes, and the guests won't feel comfortable complaining. Even you," he shot a look at my husband, whose favorite sport is sending back dishes at restaurants. "You're not about to go to Assaf and say: 'I'm sorry that your father died, but the asparagus stalks were too stringy.'"

My husband didn't have time for nonsense. He buried himself in the Internet, searching for articles on mourning customs, so he could e-mail them to Assaf, whose father was a descendant of an illustrious family of kabbalists. Granted, he wasn't a religious man, Assaf's father, "although he was an amateur shortwave radio enthusiast, and who knows whom he made contact with and in which worlds," whispered Rivka Melamed, the anthroposophic psychologist from the front, second-floor apartment, but my husband, who hadn't been in a synagogue himself since his bar mitzvah, suddenly decided to focus on the details.

"You need yahrzeit candles, and round bread and hard-boiled eggs for the meal after the funeral," he wrote to Assaf.

"Why do they have to be pushing carbs everywhere?" sighed Anat. "If you really love me," she gazed meaningfully at her husband Yossi, "you'll drop dead the week of Yom Kippur. I'm begging you."

Assaf's father had been very ill for years, but one visit to the shivah was enough to make one see that he was healthier than all the rest of us. He never let his illness define him, and even though he was confined to his home most of the time, with his shortwave radio he was able to wander the world like a Columbus of the radio waves. His death, although expected, left the family in deep pain and sorrow. After a long period of caring for him devotedly, something that extended his life by many years, they were left with a great hole in their lives. My husband described it as "a void and longing, of presence and absence in the mourners tent," and everyone present in the living room quickly nodded in agreement, before they turned away to avoid having to have a conversation on the subject.

Before he was rushed to the hospital, Assaf's father bid farewell to the house. He said good-bye to the bedroom, to the shortwave radio, to the two cats and to Koko the talking parrot, who was now biting the supermodel's upper lip because Anat encouraged her to give him a kiss. Columbus of the radio had been rushed to the hospital many times in his life, but he always returned home. This time he knew that the time had come to say good-bye, as if he'd picked up a final transmission and gone out to discover a new continent. "It was clear that it was the end, but there's no way to prepare for it," said Assaf, wiping his tears with a handkerchief stitched together from pieces of old sheets at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. "You know that the planet is sick, you know that the glaciers are melting, but the tsunami still surprises you and crushes you inside."

Anat couldn't take it anymore. She almost gave in to the marble cake, when the supermodel whispered to Yossi that his idea for a catering company specializing for shivahs was brilliant. "My psychoanalyst says that in the shadow of death, people are hungrier for food and sex," she smiled and rubbed her thigh against his, and I told about a restaurant in Los Angeles that offers tempura shrimps, served from the naked bodies of girls who lie at your feet on a table that looks like a fancy coffin, with a bowl of soy sauce sitting on their navels and small mounds of wasabi on their nipples.

"You see, you have nothing to worry about," Anat said to the supermodel. "You'll always have work in our shivah catering company," and we all tried to laugh our way out of the shadow of death, aside from the talking parrot, who suddenly said: "Good-bye room, good-bye Koko, good-bye house."