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Editorial: Grave Traditions – Why are rocks on a headstone?

By Madison Monroe
Editor

While researching the story of the Angel of Grief on page 12, the Brave staff visited the Oaklawn Fraternal Cemetery to view Little Rock’s replica, located at the Steen family plot. While there, we drove around looking at other memorials and found two completely different and segregated cemeteries.

One was the historical African American cemetery and the other was the Jewish cemetery. Of course, our first thought was how far we have come in tolerance and acceptance of human differences. Our second thought was how differently the exact same emotion is expressed among humans.

All of the cemeteries had monuments with lovely words on the tombstones. In both the Caucasian and African American cemeteries, there were flowers placed on graves. Conversely, the Jewish Cemetery had no flowers, not a single one. There were rocks instead. Rocks covered headstones like the spots on a Dalmatian. This intrigued me. So, upon returning to the office, I did a little investigating.

I remembered that at the end of the movie “Schindler’s List,” the survivors each placed a rock on Oskar Schindler’s headstone. At the time, I thought the symbol was very theatrical and assumed it had some meaning that just went over my head. When I saw this practice in real life, I knew it warranted research. What I discovered was lovely.

This Jewish custom recognizes that stones, unlike flowers, are eternal. When you place a stone on the grave of a loved one, you are affirming that the memory of that person will never die in you. It fosters a sense of community for everyone who loved that person. When they visit the grave, they see that others were affected by their loved one’s life, and that their memory endures beyond death and their impact on others continues like a ripple in a pond.

The thought of this tradition is contagious–so much so, that I decided to borrow it from our Jewish brethren. Last Monday was my late mother’s birthday. I went to the cemetery, and this time, I left a stone. I wonder what I will see when I return?

BRAVE MEANING: noun: brave | 1.a brave person. | 2.to meet or face courageously:to brave misfortunes. | 3.to defy; challenge | 4.ready to face and endure danger or pain 


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