While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Sacred Ground

A few days ago, I was out at Sharon Gardens Cemetery.  For work.  I know it sounds bizarre, but what can I say?  I go where my people are, and on that day they were at the cemetery.

When I was finished, I stopped by Jonah’s grave.  It’s kind of weird, of course.  Questions come to mind.  Is he there?  Do I say hello?  But what was most unsettling for me was the difficulty I had in finding a stone to place on his marker.  All I needed was a tiny pebble.  But in a Jewish cemetery, such things have long ago been claimed by others.  To go looking is a bit of a fool’s errand.  Nevertheless, I milled around looking for one that had maybe burrowed its way up from underground, perhaps pushed up by the recent rainfall.  All I knew for certain was that I couldn’t very well steal one off another grave.  It’s not that I didn’t think about doing it.  But I was worried I might get caught.  Worse than by the living, I might be caught by the dead (cue creepy music).  But that’s me.  My imagination tends to get the better of me.

I had the perfect pebble at home.  I’d brought it home from Kutz Camp this summer.  I’d been given it in a program and asked to write something on it to leave behind.  Well, once I’d written Jonah’s name there was simply no way I could leave the pebble behind.  I brought it home with me.  But I could maybe leave it at his grave.  Maybe next time.

I finally located a stone that seemed available (i.e., without moral repercussions) and I left it there.  Mission accomplished.

If I sound a bit flip about this, it’s because, while it’s certainly still sad to go to Jonah’s grave, it’s definitely not as emotionally wrenching as previously.  Jonah’s body has been in the ground for two and a half years.  That’s a long time.  I imagined what was left of him down there (cue more creepy music?) but I didn’t feel particularly emotional about it.  If anything, it became almost a non-event because if Jonah’s body is gone then what’s the big deal about being there?

Still, it’s sacred ground.  And I most definitely acknowledge that. The ritual of the pebble attests.


Elmsford Reformed Church & Cemetery Stuff of Memories, circa 2000

Elmsford Reformed Church & Cemetery
Stuff of Memories, circa 2000

On the way home, I drove by the Elmsford Reformed Church on Route 9A.  It’s a road we’d drive often, passing by the Revolutionary War cemetery at the church and, one day, stopping in.  Parking the car, Jonah and I spent some time looking at the 200-year-old markers whose letters were so weathered as to be nearly illegible, and whose stones frequently lay flat to the ground, long ago abandoning their assigned task of announcing to all who lies in eternal rest there.  Jonah must have been about ten at the time, and he’d really been fascinated by this little cemetery.  I think he considered our time there to have been a memorable event in our shared lives.  I know I do.  And it’s become a peculiar anchor for my remembering him.

But hey, two and a half years after his death and I’m still grabbing at every memory I can drag out of my brain.  It hasn’t been that long.  I still really miss him.  And if I can find a way to feel (even just a bit) his having been in my life, I’ll take that road.


One Response to “Sacred Ground”

  • Just a thought–when you can't find a pebble, a coin can suffice. It's a token my family often uses. For me a pebble signals someone was there; a coin… and you have a sure notion that love you to have felt has been there.

    Love to you and yours, Billy.


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