What We Leave At the Grave

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.

Enjoy the weird you know.

Have a thankful Thanksgiving.

About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in A Laugh, Appreciation, Change, Humor, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to What We Leave At the Grave

  1. Interesting. I knew about the Jewish tradition. I do not plan to have a grave, but rather want my ashes spread or planted with a tree. I hope that those who see the tree or plants and flowers will suddenly think of me. They will know I had become a part of the beauty that surrounds us.


  2. nrhatch says:

    I bet I know what you want left at your graveside ~ chocolate and books! 😀


  3. Al says:

    This makes me think of the many times I have seen pictures of dogs lying on the graves of their deceased owner. Animals have a ethereal attachment to humans which seems to carry over to the world beyond.

    Good to hear from you again, Barb. Missed ya.


  4. Recie says:

    Thank you for this uplifting, honest piece, Barb. Your writing is a gift to us all.


  5. Glad to hear from you and read another of your thoughtful stories. Have a good holiday and a writing New Year.


  6. Margy says:

    I like wandering through cemeteries. So many stories on the headstones and among the things people leave behind! Then there are the things we can’t see. (My husband’s dad was cremated. We put his ashes into a wine bottle and dug his grave with a post hole auger…)
    Your comment about gathering stories reminded me of Nancy Millar, a Canadian author, who has written several books about Graveyards and one book about the history of outhouses!
    Last thought, but not least – Happy Thanksgiving!


  7. Recie says:

    A most interesting story. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting. I’m not much for visiting cemeteries, but I’ve seen a whole host of things left at the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C., which is the same sort of thing. I’m so anti-cemetery, I’m gonna be cremated so none of our kids feel obligated to stare at my gravestone after I’m gone. (They can toss my remains in the trash, for all i care.) Best thing about cremation is it’ll give me one last stab at having a smoking hot body. 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving, Barb! I hope you are doing well.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barb says:

      Ha!! Actually you’ll achieve two lifelong dreams with cremation. You’ll get the hot bod you always wanted, and you’ll become dust of the Universe—you’ll be EVERYWHERE. Happy Thanksgiving to you.


  9. jono51 says:

    Well, now I am going to have to start haunting graveyards.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Elinor Derrick says:

    I have gone to cemeteries all my life and wondered about the stories of other people. I have mostly just seen flowers left on the graves, but one time when I went to take flowers to my parents grave, a DQ token was lying on the stone. When I told my daughter about it later, she told me she had left it there because grandpa liked ice cream so much and it was all she had to give him.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Weird is just an anagram of Wired (differently).
    I still ponder a death notice I read years ago.
    It was a stock standard tribute to a much loved mother and grandmother and finished with the lines
    ‘the old cow has gone up the paddock for the last time…’

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Moma says:

    It’s really something to ponder. I’ve seen things at grave sites as well and wonder what they mean and who is putting them there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      Wouldn’t it be great to gather those stories? But that’s probably why people anonymously leave things…so they don’t have to carry the story anymore.


  13. Mary Jean Rivera says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Barb and loved ones!

    Liked by 1 person

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