The Story of the Stones

March 28, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Posted in Cemetery, Grief, normal?, traditions, twins | 9 Comments
Tags: , , ,

You may have noticed in my last post that Jake and Sawyer’s headstone is covered with stones.  At the unveiling, Jake and Sawyer’s sister carefully arranged all of the stones.   In fact, the twins each painted rocks for the occasion.  She would only paint the smooth stones.  He would only paint the rough ones.

The tradition of leaving rocks on the headstone signifies that someone has visited which honors the deceased person’s memory.  The last scene of Schindler’s List depicts children of Survivors placing stones on Oscar Schindler’s grave. 

There are many theories on the origins of this custom.  A few are the following:

  1. The stones are a kind of calling card left for the deceased.   Stones, unlike flowers, are permanent and do not get blown away in the wind.
  2. Jacob’s sons took a stone and put it on Rachel’s (their mother’s)grave to make up Rachel’s tomb.  In placing stones on the grave one participates in building the tombstone.
  3. A large stone slab was placed on the grave so that it would not be lost.  Rabbi Tam, goes on to explain that there were smaller stones that were set under the sides of the large stone that rests on them so that it will not bear down too heavily on the deceased.
  4. The ritual of placing a stone is a way of expressing our emotions and spiritual needs. Rabbi Andrew Straus explains that “we need physical acts to express these things for us, to make them concrete.”

    “Placing a stone on a grave does just that. It works in several ways:

    1) It is a sign to others who come to the grave when I am not there that they and I are not the only ones who remember. The stones I see on the grave when I come are a reminder to me that others have come to visit the grave. My loved one is remembered by many others and his/her life continues to have an impact on others, even if I do not see them.

    2) When I pick up the stone it sends a message to me. I can still feel my loved one. I can still touch and be touched by him/her. I can still feel the impact that has been made on my life. Their life, love, teachings, values, and morals still make an impression on me. When I put the stone down, it is a reminder to me that I can no longer take this person with me physically. I can only take him/her with me in my heart and my mind and the actions I do because he/she taught me to do them. Their values, morals, ideals live on and continue to impress me – just as the stone has made an impression on my hands – so too their life has made an impression on me that continues.” Rabbi Tom Louchheim

I am sure there are more theories but no matter the origins I like the tradition.  Evan and I collect stones from places we go.  We have our own tradition of kissing the rocks before we place them on the headstone.  We are sending kisses to Jake and Sawyer.  I hope that they are getting them. 


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. I like the image of putting the kisses with the stones

  2. Very interesting bit of history here! I certainly learned something new. I too like the image laying kisses with the stones as well.

  3. I love this tradition, it’s many meanings, and how it involves everyone…family and friends and even passers by who just want to say they care too. Very thoughtful, very meaningful.

  4. I love this tradition as well. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. thank you for this post, beautiful tradition that you have with so much depth and love

    • Thanks to you too for reading and the thoughtful comment.

  6. I’ve never heard of this but I love it.

  7. I like this tradition. My late husband was a geologist so stones always had a place in our home. Jim would find a particular rock or stone and stash it in his pocket, his briefcase, our luggage…and they eventually found a place on a mantle, in the garden, or in his office. Stones are permanent. Just like the place our lost loves have in our hearts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: