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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rogers

More Things Left Behind

When I used to give cemetery tours at Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia, SC, I would show up with a small bag of river rock, the kind you can buy at garden stores. I’d tell my guest about the tradition of leaving stores at headstones, and offer a stone to anyone who would like to have one. I’d explain to them that If they were particularly touched by one of the graves during the tour, they could leave their stone behind if they wanted to.

After I started the tradition of issuing stones, it seemed to me that my guests were more engaged. And I’d always get the same question: “Do I need to tell you when I leave my stone behind?”

“Oh, no,” I’d say. “Just do it quietly. It’s entirely up to you.”

I never saw a single stone being placed on a headstone—ever, but when I’d go back to help retrieve the torches that we set out to light the pathways during the tours, I’d always see new stones. After the tours ended for the night, countless people told me that deciding where to place their stone was a challenging decision, and that taking part in that custom was the best part of the tour.

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