The Unveiling

April 26, 2011 at 6:40 am | Posted in Death, Grief, traditions | 5 Comments
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Since ancient times, it has been the Jewish custom to mark the grave with a stone. After Rachel died, “Jacob erected a monument on Rachel’s grave” (Genesis 35:20). The marker/monument serves to identify the grave so relatives will find it when they visit, honor the memory of the deceased, and identify a place of burial.

It is also the Jewish custom not to place a headstone at the time of burial.  Instead an unveiling is the formal dedication of the headstone. The unveiling usually takes place 12 months after the funeral as a way to mark the end of the formal mourning period. However, the unveiling may take place any time after the first 30 days after the funeral.

June, 2006.  We had an unveiling for Jake 10 months after the funeral.  We made this decision in part because the Rabbi who presided at Jake’s funeral was moving back to California.  Evan and I both wanted the same Rabbi to preside over Jake’s unveiling.  So, Evan agonized over what to write on the headstone before ordering it.  He picked out the font and the border.  I was numb.  My mind did not seem to have the ability to think of anything to write on Jake’s headstone.  Evan did it all and then showed it to me.  We  finalized it and placed the order. 

We knew the headstone would come in a week or 2 before the ceremony was scheduled to take place.  I thought for some reason we would get a call to let us know it had arrived.  There was not a call.  I was still going almost every day to the cemetery.  Evan went with me sometimes and other times I went alone.  One day, we walked up the hill to Jake’s grave and there it was – his headstone.  It was covered with a sheer cloth.  The pit in my stomach which had been there for the past 9 months grew bigger.  We read the headstone over and over.  The dates were wrong.  The font was wrong.

Evan called the cemetery’s office and explained the mistakes.  They assured us that it would be corrected immediately. 

Our families arrived in town for the ceremony.  The day before the unveiling Evan and his mom went to the cemetery.  The sheer cloth was over the headstone.  They read it carefully – JACK.  Evan was beyond furious.  He and his mom went to the office.  The original wrong headstone was still there.  It at least had the right name so it was put back in for Jake’s unveiling.

I do not remember much about the ceremony.  I remember it was hot.  Our family and close friends were there.  Our 1-year-old niece and nephew were also with us and waddling around the cemetery. 

Today, 2011.  It is 16 months since Sawyer died.  In a few days it will be 16 months since his funeral.  We have not ordered a headstone.  We have no plans for an unveiling. Neither of us seem to have the ability to think of what to write on another headstone. I hope to write a post before the end of this year to tell you about Sawyer’s unveiling. . .


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  1. Can’t imagine having to do that once, never mind twice. Give yourself as much time as you need.

  2. Lanie,
    As we both know there is no time line to grief. Take it one step at a time. When you and Evan are ready you will know it. You will just KNOW it. I feel like I have come to know you through your writing and both our broken hearts. How I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee and talk about how to move forward, how to feel the sun on our faces once more.
    Blessings to you and your family Lanie. Blessings and time.

  3. Only your own timeline can be the right one. There is no way that Sawyer needs help being remembered — he will always been in your hearts (and all of ours) regardless of a piece of stone. Love to you Lanie,

  4. There’s no timeline for something like this. It’s to be done when you’re ready to do so. All would understand.

  5. Take your time my friend! You and Evan know how to best take care of each other and your children. Do what feels right in your heart. Sending hugs.

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