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  • Writer's pictureNancy Rogers

Things Left Behind

I’ve always been fascinated by the things people leave behind at gravesites.

At Jewish cemeteries, like the two I used to frequent in Columbia, SC, visitors leave stones and river rocks behind. According to legend, the stones represent a permanent reminder of respect. Some historians point out that desert people didn’t routinely have access to flowers, as we have today, so it became tradition to select a remembrance stone on the way to the grave. There are other legends about the practice, but these seem to make the most sense.

In Western Christian cultures, it’s more common to leave flowers behind, but I’ve seen all kinds of other things at graves. And those mementos are the most profound. We’ve already talked about leaving coins at military graves, but they’re often left at non-military graves, as well. Sometimes you will see costume jewelry, teddy bears, dolls, ribbons, toy soldiers left behind. It could be anything, but you instinctively know that there is a spiritual connection to the deceased and you know not to touch.

My friend always told her granddaughter that removing anything from a cemetery will bring bad luck of the worst kind. The granddaughter took home an iron finial from the top of a fence post at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, once, and the fur flew once it was discovered. She not only had to return it, but she had to offer up a prayer of apology for having done it, even though she insisted that she had found it on the parting lot. Hallowed ground is hallowed ground.

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