At The Cemetery Visiting Those We Will Always Love

4 Aug

It has been over two years since we finally held the unveiling for my parents and brother in law. They died over a difficult 15 months. One funeral was more difficult than the next. In between my aunt passed away as well. Four new graves in a family plot.

The unveiling was emotional and miserable. Not just because we uncovered all three stones on the same day, but because it was held during a deluge of rain. The heavens were crying for us, as well as the over 80 people who showed up to remember our parents and my sister’s husband.

I have not been back to the cemetery since then. I live in Kansas. The cemetery, Beth El, is in New Jersey. I have not wanted to bug my sister about It when I was in town. But when I was in New Jersey this past March, I mentioned it. And she seems oaky.

Now I am back in New Jersey with my son to spend 12 days with my sister, niece, brother and other family members. We already spent a weekend at our Catskills home. It is filled with memories of our grandparents, parents and others. Over the weekend, I once again mentioned my desire to go to the cemetery.

My sister was fine. “Let’s not take the kids,” she suggested. I agreed.   They are in their early 20s. But I know that going to the cemetery is not something they want to do. It is still painful for them.

I meant to take stones from the Catskills back to New Jersey with us. But I forgot. In the last minutes as we were getting ready to leave, our children were impatient. I should have picked up some stones earlier, but we were busy visiting and just relaxing.

So this morning I went outside with a ziplock bag and searched for small stones around my sister’s home. Although my niece did not think I would be successful, I found enough stones. It is a Jewish custom to leave stones as remembrance on a grave, not flowers. And I needed at least 12 stones.

Our family plot includes all four of my grandparents, my parents, two sets of aunts and uncles, and another uncle. We are fortunate that my aunt is still alive. In fact we have plans to see her and some cousins in the City this week.

My brother in law is buried directly opposite my parents. My sister put the biggest stone on his grave. I had selected it for him, since it came from his house.

Then we turned and went to our grandparents. We went by couples, my sister putting a stone on one grave, while I put a stone on the other grave.  We read each name in English and Hebrew. We spoke about each of them, just a little remembrance: our grandparents, our parents, our aunts and uncles.

For the first time I really focused on their Hebrew names, I have begun to realize how important graves are for those studying their family’s genealogy.  Especially since I had joined the group, Tracing the Tribe.  I realized that some had left off the Levy designation.  And one did not have the Hebrew name.  Would that lead to problems for future generations? Perhaps not, since they were all together.

I had a stone left. I had picked up 13. We knew just a short way down from this family plot was our cousins’ grandparents. So we walked to visit them as well. We stopped and put a stone on Grandma Rose’ grave, we read her name and remembered her. And although we did not have a stone for him, we read the name of Grandpa Asher. My sister did not remember him as she was only three when he passed away. So I told her something about him.

In the same plot are the graves of one of their son’s in laws. So we read their names as well, and I remembered them.

My sister does not remember Grandpa Asher and the other couple as well as I do. Three and half years in age makes a difference. But I felt it was important that all of their names be remembered.

After we were done, I took photos of all the graves. Do other people do that? Or is it a Jewish custom? I am not sure. But since I am so far away, I wanted this memory.   I am not sure when I will be at their resting place again.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I started to cry, a little.  My sister admonished me.  “NO crying when we are driving.  If you cry I will cry.”  I stopped.  Driving and crying are not allowed.

So on our drive home we spoke about our great grandparents. Two perished in the Shoah. We have no idea where they are buried, or even if they were buried or burned. One died in Europe in the 1920s. Not sure if her grave still exists, so many were destroyed by the Nazis and the townspeople. Four are buried in the NYC area. We need to visit them at some time. We know were two are, thanks to our cousins. But the third and fourth we are not sure. And one we think is in Seattle, Washington.

I remember one of my great grandmothers. She passed away when I was not quite three. My sister is named for her.

We say in our tradition, “My His or Her Name Be a Blessing.” We name our children for those who passed before us. My brother, sister, cousins and I are all named for our great grandparents. Our children are named for the grandparents who are buried in the plot in New Jersey.

These are the graves of people who were blessings in my life, in my family’s life. I am glad we went to the cemetery this morning and remembered those we loved and still love. Those whom we will always love.

One Response to “At The Cemetery Visiting Those We Will Always Love”

  1. Amy August 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    Very powerful and very touching.

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