Monday, October 14, 2013

Children at the cemetery

When we went last month up to New Jersey, I knew my kids would be the only children at a somber ceremony. We were there for the lovely husband's grandmother's unveiling, a Jewish tradition where family and friends gather to uncover the gravestone. There were the traditional prayer words, some memories shared, some voices cracked, the requisite gray drizzling sky. There are no explanations for death to young curious minds. Nevertheless, they asked all the questions.

Tradition calls for leaving little pebbles at gravestones: the permanence of memory, tending the grave site, carrying something weighty with you and leaving feeling lighter. I am sure that a long time ago someone once taught me that angels count those pebbles, smiling favorably on the souls who left enough love on earth to merit visitation in death. It could be superstition or folklore but you never enter a Jewish cemetery without first searching the ground for small, good rocks.

I don't know if this shows inadequate respect to somber tradition but I do know that I had to make our three kids feel ready for a cemetery visit, so we planned ahead with a craft-store bag of river rocks and my collection of Sharpies.

That cemetery in northern New Jersey is hundreds of acres, thousands of graves, but I like to think that Gigi is sporting the prettiest pebbles in the whole place.

Gigi would have smiled, I'm fairly sure, and the kids got to participate in the mourning and ritual in their own familiar language.

There are lots of ways to say goodbye.

Right after we got back from New Jersey, I read a book club book about the importance of each person finding her own way to express grief:

No one has ever entrusted impoverished Emmalee with anything important but she takes it upon herself to sew her mentor’s resting garment in The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Join From Left to Write on October 15 as we discuss The Funeral Dress. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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