Recently, I was doing some research for a story and strolling through a cemetery when I encountered a clear plastic box at the foot of a grave. The box was the size you’d store pencils in, but I could easily see through the clear plastic lid. It held 3 rabbit’s foots.
Not chopped off rabbit paws, but the kind of rabbit’s foot a person carries for good luck with little silver tops and beaded chains.
This was a strange thing to leave at a grave.
Now here was a story…but what was it?
I found a groundskeeper and asked about it. He knew of the box. It had been there a couple of weeks. It’s a small-town cemetery, and he’d likely leave it a few more weeks or until the first snowfall, then pick it up if it were still there.
He wasn’t much interested in discovering “why” someone had left it there. It was simply another piece of weird. It seems people left all sorts of unique items at graves.
Dead animals—some of them pets with the collars on
A box of Kentucky Fried Chicken
Boxes of Chocolates (particularly on Mother’s Day)
Pictures drawn by kids, then encased in plastic pages
Leaving something at the grave site is an ancient tradition. The Greeks left coins on the eyes of the dead, or in the mouth, to pay Charon, the ferryman who they believed conveyed souls to the world of the dead. If a person didn’t get a proper burial, then leaving a coin on the grave might help pay their way across.
The Jewish community often leaves stones on a grave. There are several explanations, but all of them convey the meaning: While other things fade, stones and souls endure.
A small memento on a grave can be a sign that someone came to visit and remember. This is a comfort to a family to see that others have come to pay their respects. Around Veteran’s Day, you may see coins on the headstone of someone in the military. Allegedly…
A penny means you visited and paid your respects
A dime means you served together
A quarter means you were there when the soldier was killed.
You may find a Challenge Coin on a military grave. A cherished coin left by a comrade.
In New Oreleans, I saw a grand collection of bobby pins and bows at Marie Laveau’s tomb. The famous hairdresser and VooDoo Priestess still gets requests from the living.
Golfer Bobby Jones gets golf balls on his grave.
Babe Ruth gets baseballs and sometimes beer.
So I asked the groundskeeper of the rabbits’ feet if that was the strangest thing he’d encountered.
“Nope. Once I found 15 pencils stuck in a grave. Unsharpened. Eraser-end up.”
“What’s the story there?”
He shrugged. “I heard the guy was always chewing on a pencil.”
Okay. So the unintended moral of this research trip may turn out to help you and me through the holidays when relatives come to visit.
Just remember…there’s always a story wherever you look.
It might be years or NEVER before you get the WHOLE story.