The Cemetery Walk Out

Mourners generally struggle to disengage and leave the cemetery after a graveside service. As a funeral director, I too labor to tie everything up. Last week, a wonderful rabbi introduced me to a graveside service conclusion ritual, common to Jewish funerals, that can wrap up any graveside gathering. At the end of the readings, prayers, or final remarks, when soil has been shoveled a little, all the way, or not, friends and more distant family can be asked to line themselves up in two rows extending from the graveside to the road where the cars usually are. It's the same sort of double line with long aisle down the middle used when wedding guests throw rice at the bride and groom, only in this case, it's the chief mourners who walk down the friend-lined path, looking tearfully into the loving gaze of what is now a support system, their funeral witnesses or pillars, reliable comrades shouldering the grief. When the immediate family reaches the lower end of the line, the folks at the top loop down through the aisle they created. Soon, everyone is where they need to be--on the way out of the cemetery--feeling perhaps less empty and less sad than they did coming in.