We set out to find my husband’s parents’ graves. We hadn’t been back to the cemetery in suburban Chicago since his father’s death 12 years ago. So we drove there today, GPS’d our way to the cemetery’s gates and then parked in front of the cemetery office. The place was vast, we needed a map.
“The lady asked me if we were interested in any property on the grounds,” Howard said, coming back to the car with two maps in his hand. “I said no. I told her I wanted to be scattered on Lambeau Field.”
I was glad for that. No one would ever find us here.
We started our search.
We drove into the cemetery, parked, and started looking for #248F. All the headstones are flush with the ground. No grandiosity in headstones here. Simple, straightforward. Modest.
We walked over old grass and new, stopped to read headstones, wondered why a 15-year old boy had died, saw the shared headstones where one spouse had died and the other was waiting. But no parents. Where was #248F?
Seeing a maintenance man in the distance, Howard waved at him. The man turned off his lawn mower and walked over. “You’re probably not used to having people talk to you,” Howard said, shrugging at the sea of graves and grass behind us. “I am of the living.” The man laughed a sweet laugh. Then he told us to follow him.
So we found their graves. Not in the place we remembered but the place where they were. The trees had grown and their graves seemed smaller and closer together than I remembered. But there they were, the people who made my husband a really good man.
My mother-in-law’s headstone bore the symbol of Kohanim, signifying that she was descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, the priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. Descendants are regarded as being of the priest class. DNA testing actually bears out the lineage – a Jew who is a Kohen has different DNA from one who is a Levi or other tribe. But Kohens know who they are without any DNA testing. One generation tells the next and no one ever pretends. Either you are or you aren’t.
In the center of the acres of green that constitute this broad, green Jewish cemetery is a monument.
Encircling the monument are beautiful mosaics.
And this heart-stopping reminder of the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. On this wall of remembrance, there are names, a few single names, but many more family names. Whole families gone. When Jews say Never Forget, they mean it.
I’m thankful for that. For all of it. For the day. For finding them. And being there.