Jewish headstone ceremony

My grandparents were very special people. My grandfather passed away a few years ago. My grandmother passed away last summer.

As per Jewish tradition, the headstone (matzeivah in Hebrew) was being unveiled around 11 months after her death. Most people do it either after 30 days or between 11-12 months after the passing.

This past Sunday, a hot summer day, we made our way to the cemetery for the unveiling. The extended family was there which included all their children and grandchildren and people close to them.

My grandfather had been an influential member of our community, one of the leaders. We had quite a few people coming for my grandmother’s unveiling in my grandfather’s honor.

We started off with saying psalms corresponding to the deceased’s Hebrew name.

Then one of my uncles spoke a few words. He said he will be reading a letter my grandfather wrote. This is what the letter said:

“This letter is to beĀ opened by the unveiling of my wife’s headstone. As I went through the Hell that was Auschwitz, I made a promise to G-d that if I get safely out of this hell, I will dedicate my life to charity and good deeds. I came here, found my woman of valor that I shared my life with and settled down. I tried as best as I could to fulfill my promise and my dear wife was a full partner and did all she could to help me. She told me: “I ask nothing of you but when the time comes, I want to be put to rest next to you” so if this is in accordance with Jewish law, I want you to bury her next to me. If this is not possible for whatever reason, make sure I’m not buried next to a non-Sabbath observer or a stingy rich man.”

My grandfather was the most giving person I knew, he couldn’t fathom someone having riches and not give to charity. He lived for charity and so did my grandmother. My own family was the recipient of his monthly envelope with cash in the mailbox. Until today my family has no idea it was him.

I found that letter extremely moving. After that my brother in law said some words, remembering that special couple who left behind a legacy of charity and righteousness and G-d fearing descendants.

He broke down in tears while begging them to intervene on his son’s behalf who is stricken with pediatric cancer. Not a dry eye was left after his plea.

The ceremony ended with the Rabbi saying the Memorial Prayer and the sons reciting Kaddish.


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