Several weeks ago I visited the grave of a very dear friend who passed away in a small French village. The custom in that particular area of France is for the grave marker be a large, long slab of stone. And so it was.
In preparation I gathered a large bouquet of fresh Rosemary branches. Not wanting to offer anything unnatural, I bound the branches of rosemary with pliable grapevine. Did you know that Rosemary is known as the herb of remembrance, having been thrown into graves by mourners in the middle ages, but also carried in bridal bouquets?
As I laid my offering of remembrance on Henk’s grave, I was curious to see a pile of small stones to one side of his name. I didn’t feel so alone in my sadness… there was distinct evidence of another visitor to the grave. When I spoke to Henk’s wife about it, she’d wondered about the stones too. She didn’t know who had left them; but always noticed when a new one had been left.
Returning home, I looked it up on good old Google. Apparently leaving a pebble or stone on a grave is a Jewish custom symbolic of lasting connection. A pebble is more enduring than flowers. There are many theories to how this custom originated… the most fascinating descriptions I found here, if you are interested in reading about it.
I loved learning about this and have decided that a sprig of rosemary and a simple stone will be my offerings of choice in the future. Both for their symbolism and their natural simplicity.
Celebrant Michele Davidson