Considering traditional Rosh Hashanah visits to the kever avot (graves of the fathers), I spent an interesting afternoon in one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the US when I was in Rhode Island.
The pebbles that are left on a headstone are typically explained as a visual affirmation that someone had been there to remember the life. One Rabbi said it was because in ancient days, the method of burial was to place the dead under a pile of stones.
Another Rabbi offered this thought to mourners at a headstone unveiling….” In the past in Israel, a shepherd would use pebbles to count his sheep.” The Rabbi referred to the b’tsror word (in the Hebrew inscription on many headstones “Let his/her soul be bound up in the bonds of life”/”te’hi nafsho/nafsha tsarural b’tsror ha chayim”) as a play on tsror /pebble ( as in Amos 9:9 /KJV=grain).
Leaving a pebble could express our prayer that G-d, like a Shepherd would count and care for the friend or family member. I like the thought.
The second headstone, I liked the quote,
The older stones, for ladies usually had either shabbat candles or bread/challah images. (Levites had pitchers)(young people’s markers were cut-off tree trunk – like the Kennedy memorial in Israel).
But I was particularly touched by ‘Sarah’s’ inscription.
It is my wish each of you are remembered always, and safe in the arms of God.