Not too many people get excited at the prospect of going to a cemetery. But I was. Actually, I have waited much of my adult life to go there.
Let me explain. I am an only child, as we used to be called, a “late in life” baby. I was born on my parents’ 15th wedding anniversary. After losing a 5 year old daughter to the claws of cancer, back in the very early 50’s, my parents and the rest of the family were thrilled to welcome me into the fold. Growing up in South Florida, I was raised in a conservative Jewish home. I was named, in the Jewish religion, after two deceased dear family members. My name is Rose-Edith, lovingly named after my maternal grandmother Rose, and her beloved sister, Edith. My parents loved them both dearly and could not divide them as a first name and a middle name…. so I have lived my life explaining to the world that Rose-Edith is my first name, not first and middle, held together with a hyphen.
Being blessed with 3 healthy wonderful sons, grown and single, I knew it was time to go see exactly where Rose and Edith and all of the other family members are buried. My mother’s entire family was in Philadelphia. My husband, always doing research, was able to find the family manifest when they arrived in the United States. This was the beginning of the Greenbergs in America.
I called Edith’s grandson, my cousin, who at 63, also shared the same interest in our family past. As my cousin David, my husband, and I discussed, our adult children are not yet at this point in their lives to wonder about past generations. It seems that as we get older, our thirst for our past seems to increase.
So we arrived in Philadelphia, and I was excited to see where Rose and Edith sleep eternally. With prayerbook and yalmulke in hand and on head, my cousin took us right to the family plot at Har Nebo. My own parents are buried in a cemetery in Miami with the same name…Mt. Nebo. That was quite a coincidence. As we approached the area in the cemetary, my eye caught the large beautiful stone, upright and strong, with the name “Greenberg”. That said it all. My eyes welled up with tears, as this is where my mother’s entire family lies.
As the 3 of us went from stone to stone, reading the dates of births, the dates of deaths, the Hebrew words, I was overcome with emotion. This was my past, as well as the past of my sons. I never knew any of these people, only heard stories about them. I have photos of them and now it all came together. I could touch the tombstones, I could stand in the same spots they did as they buried their loved ones, and others after them, buried them. It was a cool beautiful day in the city and I was at home, surrounded by the memories of stories I had been told as a child.
I stood at Rose’s gravesite and then at Edith’s gravesite. How wonderful to touch and see what is left of these 2 special women. I saw my grandfather’s gravestone and learned that he was a Mason, something I never knew about him. My great uncle and great aunt, whom I did remember so vividly, were buried there as well. I cried. I cried because I am so grateful to have been able to be there, I cried because I miss my parents, and I cried because I am so grateful that I have 3 healthy sons.
In the Jewish religion, when we visit a grave, it is tradition to find a small stone nearby, and place it on the gravestone. It signifies that a loved one was there, the deceased are not forgotten. I walked around until I found 6 stones. They were few and far between on the ground. My cousin and husband knew not to mention leaving until I found my stones.
I placed 3 on my grandmother’s gravestone and 3 on my grandfather’s gravestone. Those were from their great grandsons, my sons…. one for Seth, one for Levi and one for Matt. It is a connection from generation to generation.
Some things never change. I took pictures….pictures of the 3 stones on my sons’ great grandparents’ gravestones. I emailed Seth, Levi and Matt the photos. I know right now, as they are busy with their lives, they understood my excitement, but certainly did not have the feelings in their hearts I did.
But the nice thing is, one day they will.
They will understand the meaning of the 3 stones.