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Q & A on Jewish Mourning Customs & How to Choosing a Monuments

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JEWISH

CEMETERY AND MONUMENT

INFORMATION

Q. 1. How soon after death should a monument be ordered?

A. A monument should be ordered about two months after the burial, since it requires a considerable time to manufacture. The granite must first be quarried, after which it goes through many processes. However, the most time consuming element in the erection of a monument is the building of the foundation.

Monuments are prevented from sinking, tilting or falling by the existence of deep concrete foundations under them. Foundations are built for the monument companies by the cemetery which has the exclusive right to do this work. Only the cemetery knows the exact site of each burial. Cemeteries require from one to three months for the construction of a foundation. This length of time is required because the foundations must be constructed in groups located in the same block. The work proceeds from block to block, from the front of the cemetery to the rear This cycle takes from one to three months in most modern cemeteries.

Foundations are built at the head of the graves to a depth of about six feet. They are constructed of concrete and weigh over a ton when completed. The longer the foundation dries and settles without the monument being erected on it the more certain you can be of a durably erected monument. It is therefore, better to allow the longest possible time between the completion of the foundation and the erection of the monument. The winter months prevent the construction of foundations because concrete cannot be mixed during freezing weather. If an unveiling is planned for the early spring, arrange to purchase the monument no later than early November. The foundation can be finished during December before the frost sets in. Foundation construction is usually halted in winter until late March or April after the ground has thawed out.

Q. 2. How soon after death should an unveiling be held?

A. Although it has been the general custom to unveil the monument around the eleventh month after death, with the completion of the Kaddish, Orthodox Jews frequently have their unveilings any time after Shloshim (30 days) has elapsed. To accomplish this they purchase the monument immediately after the Shivah period. At the present time, custom seems to be divided between the two practices. Unveilings are held during periods that are most convenient, taking into account the weather, the summer vacation periods, expected births, weddings and bar-mitzvahs, so as not to conflict with these more joyous occasions.

Q. 3. Does Jewish custom permit the visiting of the cemetery before the erection of a monument?

A. Most rabbis advise that the unveiling should be the first occasion for visiting the grave. A more liberal opinion expressed by some rabbis is that extenuating circumstances can exist to warrant visiting an unmarked grave. It is a custom among Orthodox Jews to seek spiritual guidance from a visit to the grave of a deceased parent or spouse. Should such an occasion arise prior to the erection of the monument, a rabbi may be consulted to gain permission to visit the grave. This is called "asking a shalah”.

Q. 4. How is an unveiling ceremony conducted?

A. Unveilings are usually held before noon if in a local cemetery (within city limits) and about two o'clock if more distant: in Nassau, Suffolk Counties or New Jersey.

The immediate family should be at the site of the grave before the others arrive. They can then be sure that the monument is covered by the unveiling cloth. This cloth is given to the family when they receive the cards from the monument company.

The family and friends gather around the grave. The rabbi begins with recitations from the book of psalms (Thilim) and then he follows with the eulogy in English. After this, he recites El Moleh Rachamin and ends with the Kaddish prayer in which the sons, brother, etc. (males) participate. While it is not necessary for women to participate, it is not unlawful. The veil is removed immediately after the selections from the book of the psalms are read.

Q. 5. How soon before the unveiling are notices of unveiling mailed to family and friends?

A. Cards should be mailed two weeks or ten days before the unveiling. Unveiling cards are generally furnished by the monument companies. Most of them have directions to the cemeteries printed on the reverse side of the card.

Q. 6. Is it customary to have refreshments at the unveiling?

A. The cemeteries look with extreme disfavor on this custom. Years ago, cemeteries were difficult to reach and transportation was an all day affair. It was therefore, an obligation on the part of the family to see that their friends were fed. At the end of the day the cemetery had the appearance of unkempt picnic grounds.

Nowadays most people invited to unveilings still expect something to be served, as if by tradition. Scotch, Whisky, or Brandy may be distributed in miniature paper cups with honey cake or sponge cake cut into small pieces.

Some families prefer to gather at the home of the nearest relative, after the unveiling, where refreshments are served. They depart early so that the bereaved can relax after a day of nervous tension and sorrow.

Q. 7. Is it absolutely necessary for a rabbi to officiate at the unveiling?

A. While it is not required by religious law, a rabbi is best acquainted with the ritual of unveilings and the appropriate prayers. In choosing a rabbi it is preferable to choose one who was personally acquainted with the deceased. It would also be wise to choose a rabbi whose practices are in harmony with the deceased and the family.

If a rabbi is selected who did not know the deceased, a conference with the family before the unveiling is recommended. During this discussion the family can provide the rabbi with a description of the deceased, his character and attributes, names of his children, etc. Some families request that the eulogy be brief and restrained to spare the feelings of the nearest kin. It is also the occasion to discuss the fee. The rabbi's transportation to and from the cemetery should be arranged.

When it is not convenient to have a rabbi officiate at the unveiling, the family may engage the services of a shamos directly at the ceremony. Most of these pious men know the routine of unveilings and can perform the ceremony quite adequately. The only difficulty is being sure of getting one without an appointment and it becomes a matter of chance. A visit to the cemetery prior to the unveiling (not actually visiting the site of the grave) can assure you that the shamos you find most qualified will be there at the appointed hour.

Q. 8. Is a minyon necessary at an unveiling?

A. Yes. A minyon consists of ten Jewish males over thirteen years of age. Unless a minyon is present the El Moleh Rachamin and Mourners Kaddish may not be recited.

Q. 9. What Jewish prayers do the male members of a family recite at an Unveiling?

A. The male members of the family recite the Mourners Kaddish.

Q. 10. What is the significance of an unveiling cloth over the monument?

A. In early times it was the family who physically erected the monument to its loved ones. The monument might have been a pile of boulders surmounted by a crudely lettered slab of stone bearing the name of the deceased. All who participated witnessed their completed handiwork together. This task today is delegated to the others. The monument is dedicated on a day that is convenient to family and friends. The memorial is then revealed by the removal of the veil or covering, simultaneously to all.

Q. 11. During what periods are unveilings prohibited?

A. Since unveilings are solemn occasions they are usually not held when they conflict with a Jewish Festival, or Rosh Chodesh (the occurrence of the new moon). These holidays are considered joyous and happy times. An unveiling during a festival would bring sadness and are therefore prohibited.

Unveilings are not held during the High Holidays which usually occur in September (Tishrei) due to the solemnity of these days. Unveilings should be postponed until after Simchat Torah.

Q. 12. Is a Kohan allowed to visit a cemetery?

A. Since a Kohan is a descendent of the high priests of Israel he may not defile himself by visiting a burial place. Cemeteries, according to tradition, harbor the souls of worthy and unworthy persons and while the living body keeps the unworthy soul in restraint, it roams unchecked in the burial places. The only exception is to visit the cemetery for the burial of a close blood relative. Even then he never approaches closer than about six feet. After the burial he may not visit the grave again but must stay outside of the cemetery if accompanying family.

This ritual does not apply to the daughter of a Kohan as she does not inherit the lineage.

Q. 13. What is a Kaddish?

A. Kaddish consists of prayers in praise of the Lord so that the soul of the deceased may be dealt with kindly at judgment time. Kaddish is a holy pledge and an expression of continued faith in God. It is an affirmation to God that one will dedicate ones life to extol the virtues of the Creator and be faithful to the principles of Judaism.

Strangely over three-fourths of the Kaddish prayer is not in Hebrew but Aramaic. Legend relates that this was done to outwit God's host of angels who endeavored to shield him from the flattery of man in their prayers. Aramaic was the vernacular tongue that was presumably not understood by the angels.

Q. 14. How long is a Kaddish continued? May it be said at home? Do you need a minyon?

A. According to Jewish law, the son recites the Kaddish prayer for eleven months to save his father or mother from the judgment of God. In special cases when the son is aware of a particular wrong-doing on the part of the parent and wishes to assure clemency for the departed soul, he may recite Kaddish for twelve months. However, to sanctify the memory of his loved one, the twelfth month should be recited among strangers, so no aspersions may be cast on the memory of the departed.

The Kaddish prayer is recited in the synagogue or at the home after special prayer in the presence of ten adult Jewish men in the same room. The reader is considered one of the ten. Any matter of holiness may not be sanctified unless the minyon is present.

Kaddish is recited during the morning, afternoon and evening services.

Q.15. Who recites the Kaddish? How long is Kaddish recited?

A. Only the son recites the Kaddish for eleven month period for a parent.

Kaddish is recited for one month period for a wife, brother, sister, son and daughter.

Q. 16. What is yahrzeit?

A. Yahrzeit means anniversary (yahr-year plus zeit-time), The anniversary is remembered by lighting a candle or oil lamp the evening before the yahrzeit date. This date is determined by the Jewish calendar date and will differ radically from the English calendar date. For that reason it is wise to procure a yahrzeit calendar for the home or office. The light represents the soul of the human being.

Q. 17. What are the rules of yahrzeit?

A. Following are the rules for yahrzeit:

1 It is in the same month (Hebrew) in which the death occurs.

2. If the death took place the last day of the month (the 30th) which is Rosh Chodesh, or the first day of the following month or on a leap year (which has 29 days) then the yahrzeit is held on the 29th day.

3. If the death occurs in the Hebrew month of Adar on a leap year, then there are two Adar months, the yahrzeit is kept both times to avoid confusion.

4. When the exact day of death is uncertain, one may choose a day close to what the day seems to be and hold that day as yahrzeit from then on.

5. The candle should be kindled on the eve of yahrzeit day (the evening before the day ).

Q. 18. How do you observe the yahrzeit?

1. Light a yahrzeit candle.

2. Recite the Mourners Kaddish with a minyan. It is especially appropriate to lead the services for the minyan so additional kaddishs (Readers Kaddish) can be recited.

3. Visit the grave if possible on the yahrzeit.

4. Some people fast on the yahrzeit.

5. Because of the solemnity of the day one should avoid any joyous participation or festivity

Q. 19. Who lights the yahrzeit lamps?

A. Any member of the family may light the yahrzeit lamp.

Q. 20. If yahrzeit is overlooked, how can the oversight be remedied?

A. The oversight may be remedied by immediately lighting the yahrzeit light and making the proper prayers.

Q. 21.Does the date of death or date of burial serve as the yahrzeit date?

A. The yahrzeit date should always be determined by the date of death due to the fact that the burial might have occurred several days later because of unavoidable circumstances. The yahrzeit is held on the evening before the Hebrew date.

Q. 22. Does one usually give a Sholosh Seudah (Third Shabbath Meal) or a Kiddush at the time of yahrzeit?

A. It is customary at the yahrzeit to give a Kiddush at the synagogue. Not only do they make a blessing for the liquor and food but they also make a prayer that the soul of the deceased should "rise before the Lord".

Q. 23. If a double monument is purchased and the surviving spouse remarries, may he or she be buried beside the first wife or husband?

A. According to Jewish custom the first marriage is the significant one, especially if there were children from this marriage. If a double stone is erected and the place is reserved for the surviving spouse whose expressed wish is to be buried on the site of her first wife or husband, the wish must be granted. According to Biblical precedent Jacob had four wives, but was buried next to Leah, his first wife.

In most cases the second marriage is of much shorter duration than the first and childless. Secondly, the motives are based on a desire for companionship rather than rearing a family so that ties are less significant. This justifies burial next to the first spouse.

The ties of the first marriage are deep rooted and there are many instances where famous rabbis have remarried and they observed yahrzeit for the first wife their remaining days. With their second wife's consent and knowledge they visited the first wife's grave annually with appropriate prayers.

Q. 24. Is there a prescribed burial position in a double grave?

A. An old Jewish custom prohibits the burial of a woman next to a man other than her husband. Therefore in the section where double stones are permitted, the graves alternate, starting with grave number one for a man, grave number two is his wife, grave number three another woman, grave number four her husband, grave number five another man, grave six his wife's, etc.

Q. 25. Why is it customary for a woman to wait a longer period than a man before remarriage?

A. The custom is based on ancient heredity rights. It is conceivable that the wife may have become pregnant shortly before the death of her husband and for the first ninety days or until pregnancy becomes apparent, remarriage is not sanctioned. In this way the child may rightfully use the name of his/her father and be entitled to his rightful estate.

Q. 26. Who has the prior right to erect a monument, the surviving spouse or the blood relatives of the deceased?

A. The surviving spouse has the prior right to erect a memorial of his or her own choosing of any size, style and inscription provided it complies with the rules of the society and the cemetery. This monument may not be removed at a later date or replaced without the expressed and sole permission of the surviving spouse if the survivor remarries, the question may be subject to the consideration of the courts or the State Cemetery Board.

Q. 27. Why do Jewish monuments bear the Hebrew name of the deceased's father and not the mother?

A. This custom originated in biblical times before the adoption of family names. At that time when it was not uncommon for a man to have more than one wife, it established the identity of the father for heredity purposes and to carry on the lineage. To place the mother's name on the monument instead, is to imply a question as to the legitimacy of birth or the identity of the father.

Q. 28. What facts and information should you take with you when purchasing a monument?

A. 1. The name of the cemetery where it is to be delivered.

2. The name of the congregation that sold you the grave.

(Not necessary if purchased directly from the cemetery or undertaker.)

3. The correct English name of the deceased.

4. The correct birthday.

5. The date of death and hour of day.

6. The age.

7. The relationship to the surviving family members (Ex: For a husband, you would also say: father, grandfather, great-grandfather, son, brother, uncle etc.

8. Was the deceased (man only) a Kohan, Levi or Israelite.

9. Do you want an emblem such as Masonic, Knights of Pythias or Eastern Star on the monument, a caduceus for a doctor, etc.

10.The deceased's Hebrew name (or Yiddish name).

11.The deceased father's Hebrew name (and sometimes both the fathers and mother's name).

12. Any Hebrew name given during life, as during a severe illness and recovery.

13. Do you want some expressive epitaph such as the following:

"Forever in Our Hearts" "Forever Cherished" "Loved by All", etc.

Q. 29. Is it advisable to enclose the grave with a concrete framework (Bed) if permitted?

A. Most cemeteries have made rules and regulations prohibiting the use of any kind of concrete "bed", because there is no permanent method of supporting and keeping it level. Since the grave is constantly sinking and the bed is erected directly above, no foundation or support is lasting. Furthermore, the average cast bed is not an enduring product and tends to deteriorate from the action of water and the soil around it.

Q. 30. Does the cemetery have exclusive gardening rights? Can you engage an outside florist or do the gardening yourself?

A. A cemetery cannot legally prevent you from engaging an outside florist to do your planting care of the grave, but there is little to be gained by this practice. The cemeteries are better equipped than anyone else to do the planting and annual care. They know from experience which plants thrive best in their cemetery and maintain a year-around staff to attend to grave care, furthermore, only the cemetery can provide the care established by the "Perpetual Care Fund".

If you do the gardening personally, you may do so but as a rule most people prefer to have the cemetery do the work. You might contribute some of your own efforts to the grave occasionally as an assurance that it is to your complete satisfaction.

Q. 31. What are the best plants to choose for the grave? Is it best to plant before or after the placing of the monument?

A. The evergreen or dwarf yews are best because they are the most hardy and enduring. In the very beginning the evergreens look rather wild, but after one or two years, when the bottoms fill in and the tops and sides are clipped straight, they present a clean looking uniform appearance. They are the only type of planting that are green both winter and summer. Graves planted with perennials (Never Dies) are barren looking during the winter and require spruce covering to look cared for. Ivy has a tendency to spread wildly unless well care for. It is generally wiser not to do any planting until the monument is erected, as the construction of the foundation and the settling of the monument will damage the newly planted grave. However, be sure that some kind of planting is ready at the unveiling. If possible rent or borrow artificial grass blanketing.

Q. 32. What is permanent care? Is it costly?

A. This is an optional service. The State Cemetery Board provides for an establishment of a Permanent Care Fund closely supervised by the State, wherein lump sums of money may be deposited with the cemetery for permanent care of graves. This does away with the any annual care and assures that the interest on the original sum deposited will perpetually provide the care and maintenance of the grave. The principal is never used up, it merely becomes part of a large fund. This Fund is honestly administered and the public welfare fully protected. The cemeteries will readily furnish information on these funds upon request.

Q. 33. What are the religious restrictions concerning the removal of a deceased from one grave to another? From one cemetery to another? What is the ritual and mechanics of this procedure?

A. Religious law prohibits the moving of a body from its original burial site unless it is done for the good of the deceased; specifically, that it will neither degrade nor dishonor the deceased, but will elevate and improve the situation. If the deceased left instructions prohibiting removal, but extenuating circumstances develop that compel those wishes to be altered, then the permission of an authoritative rabbi should be sought. Special prayers by a rabbi and the nearest relative at the time of the disinterment are made to allay the fears of the departed spirit and set it at peace for the disturbance.

Some valid instances for the moving of the remains of the deceased are:

1. To remove the body for reburial in Israel if this was an expressed wish of the deceased.

2. To move parents and nearest kin from a neglected burial site to a private plot where all can be together in well-cared for surroundings with the grave adequately marked with a new memorial to their memory.

3. Where the existence of the grave imperils public well-being and the general welfare of the living, not for their comfort but for their necessity and very existence: for example, if the State or Federal Governments must construct a vital highway. Of course, it is assumed that the reburial will be done under proper religious observance and ritual to a site equally good or better.

4. To rectify an error at the time of burial, where the one who inadvertently committed the error will suffer thereby or it will disturb a preconceived plan of burial on the part of the organization or family. Again it must be stressed that the removal is not for the purpose of dishonoring or degrading the memory of the dead and that it is not being done for a monetary reason or scheme to bring anyone profit by the removal. The honor of the deceased must not be sacrificed to the benefit of another.

If a removal from one grave to another is to take place it is a simple procedure, provided there is no objection or interference from the cemetery, society, surviving spouse, children or relatives. If the removal is within the same cemetery, the cemetery itself usually arranges the disinterment. If it is from one cemetery to another; it is best handled by a qualified undertaking establishment. If there is any objection or disagreement regarding the disinterment, the matter can be taken to the Supreme Court for judgment.

Q. 34. Under what conditions can persons who were not born of Jewish parents be buried on Jewish cemeteries?

A. Christians who had a kosher conversion to Judaism may be buried in Jewish cemeteries.

It is part of the original charter of the cemeteries that the graves are reserved for persons of the Jewish faith and the cemetery, society and plot owner may invoke this privilege and authority when desired. There are non-sectarian cemeteries whose charters permit persons of all faiths to be interred. Catholic cemeteries restrict all burial to persons of the Catholic faith.

Q. 35. Is there any significance to the custom of putting a pebble on the monument when visiting a grave? What is the origin of this custom?

A. According to the Bible the first monuments were merely mounds of stones or insides of natural rock caves as the graves of Abraham and Isaac. The early Jews were nomadic tribes and shepherds and were not skilled in the arts of quarrying and stone carving until the their contacts with Babylon and Egypt.

It is the custom when passing by a mound of stones marking a grave to deposit one from the vicinity that may have fallen off. This became interpreted as a mark of thoughtfulness and regard for the memory of the departed one. These mounds of heavy rocks served to guard the graves from predatory beasts and grave robbers.

Q. 36. Suppose you wish to sell a grave or plot, are you permitted to sell it for a profit? How do you go about it?

A. All graves or plots must first be offered to the cemetery for repurchase. if for any reason the cemetery does not wish to repurchase the grave or plot, the grave owner requests a letter to that effect from the cemetery. This letter is then taken to the State Cemetery, Board, 270 Broadway, NYC. The procedure for disposal of the burial ground is available from this board. In most cases the cemetery will repurchase the grave or plot at the original purchase price plus some interest for the period that it was held.

Q. 37. If the yahrzeit occurs during the winter when should the unveiling be held?

A. If the yahrzeit falls in December, January or February it is advisable to postpone the unveiling until more favorable weather in April or May. This delay is permissible because of inclement weather. Actually, one may also unveil the monument during the preceding November or December.

Q. 38. Is it advisable to put a picture or sculptured likeness on the memorial?

A. Most cemeteries prohibit the use of porcelain pictures because of vandalism. Many have been destroyed by air-rifle and thrown stones. However, there is a new bronze cover that protects the picture. It remains closed until opened by a proper key in possession of the family.

Porcelain pictures are everlasting if undisturbed. They are fired in a furnace at 5,000 degrees, which fuses the picture to a bronze backing and becomes glazed porcelain. The picture is fastened to the monument by concealed stainless steel fasteners which are attached by drilling a one-quarter inch hole into the granite. Before this attachment was developed, it was necessary to make a large deep hole in the monument in which to cement the picture. This cement would eventually discolor the monument by dripping down the front.

Line-etchings are a new medium which can be skillfully done by craftsmen at small cost. For those who wish to perpetuate a likeness of the loved one on a monument this process should be investigated.

Q. 39. Once a grave has been used, a burial having been disinterred, Is it sanctified to use the grave for another burial?

A. It depend on the period of time that the grave was used for burial. If the interment was a brief duration, only a few days or weeks, then the grave can be reused for another burial. Sometimes unintentional errors are made by the cemetery personnel, undertaker and even members of the family. This should not be held against them. On the other hand, if the burial has remained past the yahrzeit, then it is considered unusable for another burial forever. In such graves it is the custom to bury old and worn out holy books of Judaism in a bag immediately after the body is disinterred. It is against Jewish ritual law to burn or discard or otherwise destroy books of prayer or learning.

Q. 40. When is it best to order a double grave monument or a single grave monument?

A. If there is a reserve grave adjacent to the burial, a double monument is preferable. In addition to giving assurance to the survivor that the reserve burial site will not accidentally be used for another burial, there is some comfort in the knowledge that it is at the side of one's lifelong companion.

On good rabbinical authority, it is permissible to be buried at the site of a double stone even if there is a remarriage. (See No.23).

Other situations where double monuments are used are:

a. For two unmarried sisters.

b. For a mother and daughter.

c. For a father and son.

d .For a mother and son.

e. For two brothers.

The sentiment "united in life-inseparable forever"-is fulfilled in the selection of a double stone.

Q. 41. What is the meaning of the different symbols used on monuments: Lions, candelabra, Star of David, two hands, water pitcher, etc.?

A. The most frequently used symbol on a monument for a man is the Star of David. On a monument for a Kohan the symbol of the two hands with thumbs and forefingers touching and on a monument of a Levi the symbol of a pitcher pouring water, are traditional. The lion is the "Lion of Judah" a symbol of courage, strength and superiority and carved on the shields and banners of warriors in battle. They gradually found their way into the Temple worship and were carved in relief over the cabinet where the Torah was held.

There are emblems of fraternal organizations such as. compass and square (Masonic emblem) three links (Odd Fellows) shield, and helmet (Knights of Pythias), the caduceus (doctors), etc.

On a woman's monument the menorah or Sabbath candelabra is most frequently used. This usually has five lights. The candelabra of the Temple has seven lights and may be used on a family monument or mausoleum as a symbol of Judaism. The broken tree is a symbol of departed youth, male or female and is used in various ways on monuments for young people.

On a child's monument we frequently see the figure of a lamb or a bird-both symbols of innocence, purity and gentleness.

Q. 42. What are monuments made of?

A. Until hardened steel and carbide steel tools became available to stone carvers, they used soft materials such as marble, slate and limestone for monuments. Now, most monuments are made of endurable granites which come in many colors from the quarries of the world.

About it ninety-five percent of the monuments sold in New York City have been made of white (light gray) granites for the past sixty years.

During the past few years several colored granites have become available for monumental use Canada is the source of pink granite of fine workable grain. From Wisconsin has ruby-red granite that can attain a glistening polish because of its amazing hardness. New western quarries have been discovered yielding granites that rival the famed Carrara marbles in variegated graining.

The light gray granites are most plentiful in the eastern part of the United States, from Maine to Georgia following the Alleghenies and Adirondack Mountain ranges. Some black granites come from Pennsylvania, Canada, Africa, and India.

Q. 43. How should a monument be finished-rock-hewn, smooth or polished?

A. While some prefer to have the top and sides of a memorial finished smooth, the majority select the "natural rock" appearance of the original granite and leave the top and sides rock-hewn. Granite is quarried in huge blocks about twelve feet long and four feet square by a combination of techniques involving blasting and drilling,. These blocks are then sent to the saw plant where they are cut into slabs from six to twelve inches thick by the use of multiple wire saw. These saws leave ridges on the face of the granite which are removed by rotating a heavy flat disk of steel on the surface of the granite with grinding grit under it. After many revolutions of this heavy, flat wheel, the ridges wear down to smoothness.

To bring a high gloss to this surface, this process is continued with the use of felt and putty power (a polishing rouge) under the heavy rotating disk. The combination of the high speed of the revolving wheel (disk) pressing down on the surface and the polishing agent, brings the granite to an everlasting gloss. Since granite is largely silica, the main ingredient of glass, the same gloss is realized.

Q. 44. What causes the discoloration of monuments in the cemetery?

A. Granite is composed of quartz, feldspar, mica and other materials. There are sometimes also traces of ferrous metals in oxide form. When a strata of granite containing ferrous (iron) metal is used for monumental purposes, oxidation occurs and the granite changes color. White granite with such impurities turn brown or yellow. Another frequent cause of discoloration is the use of "top quarry" granite for monuments. When a new area is cleared of soil for quarrying, the top layers of granite have been saturated with organic and inorganic chemicals contained in the soil immediately above it. These impurities which have been absorbed by the top layers of granite are called "sap". They are not apparent in newly manufactured monuments, but exposure to the elements on the cemetery, dissolves them and makes them come to the surface. Although the supply of granite is inexhaustible, only about twenty percent is suitable for monumental use.

Q. 45. How do you select a proper memorial?

A. History reveals that the erection of monuments is as old as civilization, in fact, it is a measure of civilization. The higher the cultural and intellectual attainments of a people, the more beautiful and expressive were their memorials and cemeteries.

A true memorial should be so designed that it has a two-fold purpose.

First, it should express your love, affection and admiration of one whose life was deeply woven with your own. By the use of interpretative ornament and commemorative symbols, you can perpetuate precious personal memories and family ties.

Secondly, it should endeavor to reflect something of the personality, achievements, ambitions, avocation or credo of the departed one. This is memorialization in its truest sense.

Q. 46. What are the requisites of a fine memorial?

A. 1. IN THE LETTERING. Be sure the lettering is deep and legible without the use of black paint, which will eventually fade away or streak the monument. A double process letter (cut twice) is cut to form a "V" which creates a contrast making the letters easy to read. The larger the letter the deeper it is cut. Observe the layout, the proportion and shape of the lettering. An otherwise fine memorial can be ruined by slip-shod arrangement and lettering.

2. IN THE CARVING OR ORNAMENT. Pay particular attention to the shape of ornament-leaves or flowers. Are they crude and shapeless? Careful comparison can distinguish artistry form crudity. Triple process carving will shape the details of the design and make the design sharp and distinctive. Is the background of the design darker than the leaf itself ? This is an indication of quality craftsmanship involving several detailed carving processes.

3. IN THE FINISHES. Do polished surfaces have a high deep shine or are they dull and lusterless? Is the lettering surface bordered by a deep and dark polished area or a weak gray polish that is hardly different from the face?

4. SIZE IS NOT A MEASURE OF VALUE in a monument, because granite from the same area can vary greatly in color; purity and cost. Furthermore, the craftsmanship on a small monument can excel that of a larger one.

In conclusion:

Be suspicious of anyone who is too interested in sending you to a special company to "get-a-break" or a "discount". More than likely, just the reverse will happen. The sender will gain a commission at your expense.

Be leery of unsolicited quotations, by mail or telephone. Most often these quotations are well below true cost of the memorial and do not reflect a complete and final price. They are used to entice the family but, in fact, most end up far in excess of the original quotation. You must ask if the price is a complete price? Are there extra or hidden charges that can be added after you order the memorial? Does the firm offer a written guarantee? In making a purchase, which can only he done once, it is most critical that it be placed in the hands of a reliable, responsible firm. The old adage tells us "When the price is too good to be true, it generally isn't".

The above is provided as an educational service by:

Monuments By Riverside

Copyright 1998 By Joel Lelonek

Please call our office if you have any additional questions or to set up an appointment with one of our memorial experts for guidance on the proper monument, inscription and design.

Contact us at monumentsbyriverside@msn.com

Monuments By Riverside
 130-30 Horace Harding Expwy, Flushing, NY 11367
718-548-0096, 800-998-4484