This morning, in pouring rain, we gathered to dedicate the gravestone of a family connected to our church for whom there are no surviving relatives.
I shamelessly stole words and actions from Roman Catholic and Jewish rites/rituals to create a liturgy.
We laid some beautiful flowers and then, borrowing from Jewish tradition had the opportunity to lay pebbles of remembrance.
I'd researched this custom, which is rich in symbolism... the Hebrew word for 'pebble' also means 'bond' - pledge, promise, and also securing, binding. The significance of the laying of pebbles is therefore twofold... a prayer for the departed to be 'bound in the bond of eternal life' and a pledge to remember them, to keep their memory alive.
In Jewish thought, flowers, though beautiful, must fade, but pebbles (and grave markers) have a sense of permanence. Perhaps in laying both, we held together profound truths - that earthly life is beautiful and timebound, that our loved ones are safe and secure in the love of God and the promise of eternal life, and that we choose to keep alive the memory of those who have gone before us.
Nishmatah tzrurah bitzror hahaim
‘May [your]* souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life
May the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you, and give you peace, now and always Amen
Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord, and let perperual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace.
* The Hebrew is feminine (her), but I liberally translated it as 'your' plural... after all the female can include the male, and the singular the plural...