the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Unveiling


Blogging is probably not going to make most of us rich or famous.  But it is a great way of meeting wonderful people.   When my father passed away in September, I shared the experience with my new blogger friends.   A few months later, I wrote about my dissatisfaction with my father’s traditional funeral service, feeling that he was more quirky and original than any rabbi’s eulogy could express. 

I think this may be the first time in the history of the blogosphere that bloggers helped influence what is engraved on the stone of a blogger’s late father.  

This week was my father’s “unveiling.”  At first my mother was a little shocked at seeing the empty side of the stone reserved for her.  I can imagine how weird that must have felt, even though she intends to hang around to nag me until she’s 120!  But all in all, my mother was very happy with the stone, especially with the addition of my father’s favorite way of saying good-bye, “Be of Good Cheer.”


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Just Like Dad


  1. lizardek

    That is way cool. Encouragement and a positive attitude from beyond the grave!

  2. V-Grrrl

    A beautiful stone and memorial. “Be of Good Cheer!” is perfect, reflecting both your Dad and a quirky positive attitude.

    What do the Hebrew characters say? And if you know, tell my why Jews place small stones on top of the headstone.

  3. Student Nurse

    A fitting sentiment for your father. May he rest in peace (with a smirk on his face).

  4. Lauren

    I’m so glad you ended up adding your father’s “catch phrase”. Lovely.

  5. Karl

    Wow, very nice. I like it. I think it would be weird to see the “blank” half if you were the other half.

  6. anne

    Very very cool… It makes me happy to have been part of that particular decision.

  7. Tuck

    No disrepect intended but while the other side of the stone is empty, you can install a LCD screen and a broadband (wireless of course)connection and post your daily BLOG. You’d be the buzz of Wellwood.

  8. Neil

    Tuck — I was actually thinking that in the future, electronics and video might be used more at memorial sites.

    V-Grrrl — (from Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz:  The leaving of a pebble is in a way the erection of a small, new monument-a tomb-stone to honour the memory of the dead. Indeed, the custom may have evolved from an ancient method of marking graves. So in one sense, it is simply a way of saying: here lie the remains of a person worth remembering. And the pebble also lets others know that someone did come and remember. Symbolically, it suggests the continuing presence of love and memory which are as strong and enduring as a rock. And we know that one name for God is “The Rock of Israel.” So the rock is a reminder of the presence of the Rock, Whose love truly is stronger than death.)  The Hebrew is my father’s name, but I’ll let Sophia write the definitive answer. 


  9. Alison

    That’s excellent, just excellent. Thanks for the smile.

  10. Roberta

    Really beautiful, Neil. Be of good cheer leapt off the headstone, from the photo, before I read further.

  11. Roberta

    Yeah. Meant to add “” after cheer.


  12. Elisabeth

    Neil – This post revealed your heart more than anything I had ever read in your blog before (except for some stuff about Sophia.) I had never read what you had written when your father had passed away (I just read it today, actually.)
    “Be of good cheer” is wonderful.

    One question: What’s the Jewish take on cremation?

    And thanks for the info about the pebbles on Jewish tombs. Every time I went to the Montparnasse, Montmartre, or Père Lachaise cemeteries in Paris, I saw lots of tombs with pebbles on them, and I knew that it was a Jewish custom, but did not know what it meant.

  13. Margaret

    I love it!

  14. LisaBinDaCity

    All the best to you and yours.

  15. chloe

    this is so great Neil. First of all, your father’s way of saying goodbye is so appropriate and second, that’s one more thing to thank the internet for.

  16. Neil

    Elisabeth — I didn’t really know the answer on cremation. The Rabbis seem to be conflicted on this issue, although the traditional view is against cremation.

    From Wikipedia:

    Judaism has traditionally disapproved of cremation, as it was the traditional means of disposing the dead in the neighbouring Bronze Age Pagan Semitic cultures, but also disapproved of preservation of the dead by means of embalming and mummifying, as the Egyptians did. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, as the Jewish cemeteries in many European towns had become crowded and were running out of space, cremation became an approved means of burial amongst the Liberal Jews.

    The Orthodox Jews have maintained a stricter line on cremation, and disapprove of it as Halakha (Jewish law) forbids it, considering a soul of a cremated person will remain as a restless wanderer for eternity. Also, the memory of the Holocaust, where millions of Jews were murdered and their bodies disposed by burning them either in crematoria or burning pits, has given cremation extremely negative connotations in the minds of Orthodox Jews, who often view it as blasphemy.

  17. M.A.

    What a great dad, Neil!

  18. Rhea

    I think you did the right thing. You allowed your dad’s personality to come through, even if it’s just a little bit.

  19. Tara

    Good job. It is weird to think of just one line you want to leave the world with. What would you want on your head stone?

  20. Paris Parfait

    Wonderful, original – and appropriate – tribute to your very special father.

  21. Sarah

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing that, Neil.

  22. AWE

    Very nice Neil.

  23. Pearl

    It truly is only fitting, Neil, that your father’s “catch-phrase” — and a positive one at that — be engraved on his headstone.

    And your mother SHOULD live to 120 in good health…and in nagging-mother style!

  24. Melissa

    Oh, Neil, it’s perfect. I absolutely love it.

  25. Edgy Mama

    Best gravestone ever.

    I love the tradition of leaving stones on a grave. Seems much more sensible than flowers.

  26. Leesa

    Beautiful 🙂

  27. Brooke

    Your dad would be proud.

  28. Trixie

    Oh, Neil, that’s lovely. I’m sure your father is looking down and smiling. Well done, you.

  29. ACG

    Thoughts and prayes with you & your family. *virtual stone*

  30. cruisin-mom

    Neil, I think that’s just perfect. More people should be brave enough to put something that really represents who the person is on a headstone. You captured your dad beautifully. Anyone who passes his headstone, will know something very important about Arthur Kramer

  31. Erica

    That’s a wonderful marker, truly a lovely piece of work. Just like your dad, I imagine. 🙂

  32. party girl

    What a nice sentiment and a reminder to everyone and the world of who he actually was. There is a person behind the name and the date, a personality.

  33. Scarlet

    Aw, just perfect.

  34. laurie

    I heart you.

  35. DeepThoughts

    What a lovely tribute to your father.

  36. kristen

    I love the headstone! It’s a fabulous quote and sure to put a smile on the face who reads it.

  37. erica

    wow, that is truly touching.

    my father is named arthur, too….

  38. paperback writer

    That is a wonderful line for your father.

  39. justrun

    That’s wonderful, Neil. I really like it.

  40. mariemm3

    Very moving. A wonderful tribute.

  41. Sophia

    One of the traditional Jewish reasons against cremation is that Jews need to show respect for the body that housed the breath and spirit of God and therefore must return it to God in the same form it was given.


    “Judaism permits only burial. The source for this comes from the Torah, where God tells Adam: You will return to the ground, for it was from the ground that you were taken. (Genesis 3:19)

    Judaism not only specifically forbids cremation, but insists on a very simple burial directly into the ground. Let’s understand why.Upon death, the soul goes through a painful separation from the body, which until now had housed the soul. This process of disengagement occurs as the body decays. When the body is buried, it decays slowly, thereby giving comfort to the soul as it disengages from the body. This decay is crucial, which is why Jewish law forbids embalming or burial in a mausoleum, which would in fact delay the decaying process. Also, Jews are buried in a wooden casket, which decays more rapidly. Similarly, Jewish law dictates that burial take place as soon as possible after death. (In Israel, funerals often take place on the same day as the death.)

    All this is for the benefit of the soul.One reason that Judaism prohibits cremation is that the soul would suffer great shock due to the unnaturally sudden disengagement from the body. As the Talmud says: Burial is not for the sake of the living, but rather for the dead. (Sanhedrin 47a)

    Cremation/Resurrection: Jewish tradition records that with burial, a single bone in the back of the neck never decays. It is from this bone — called the luz bone — that the human body will be rebuilt in the future Messianic Era when all the dead will be resurrected. With cremation, that bone can be destroyed, and the resurrection process stymied. In fact, someone who chooses cremation is as if he does not believe in resurrection. This is a fundamental of Judaism, as expressed in Maimonides’ classical “13 Principles of Faith”: “I believe with complete faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead, whenever the wish emanates from the Creator.”” 


  42. chantel

    This is so sweet; it reminds me of when I wrote my mother’s eulogy and I made sure that it was funny because she wouldn’t want it any other way.

  43. ms. sizzle

    i love it. it’s perfect.

  44. plain jane


    I often walk in our small local cemetery in the rugged Pacific Northwest and my favorite incsription on a headstone is, “He rode a bear”.

  45. better safe than sorry

    that is so beautiful, i’m glad your mom agreed to add it.

  46. TWM

    You are a good son.

  47. V-Grrrl

    Thanks Neil and Sophia for insight into Jewish burial customs and beliefs.

    Sophia’s notes reminded me of the valley of dry bones in the Book of Ezekiel….

  48. Allan

    That’s cool.

    What a lovely way to honor his memory.

  49. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I would love to have somebody in my life who would close out conversations like that.

  50. Jules

    Neil – I echo the sentiments of everyone here – it’s lovely and you are a good son. Have you ever thought about what you would put on your stone?

  51. Nance

    Think of how everyone will smile when they visit your dad. What a gift!

  52. tiff

    Absolutely fascinating to discover more about other ways…the stones on a headstone remind me of Gaelic cairns, which is under what I wish to be lain to rest (after being cremated, which will occur after they take everything I can offer up in body parts to help other people…if anyone wants them that is.).

    Oh, hey, what’s the take in Judaism on organ donation? God, that sounds ignorant, but if you’re preserving the body for burial so the soul can say goodbye in its own good time, them what if you happen to take out bits and pieces before the burial? Would the soul KNOW about that and be fine with it?

  53. Painterbeachgirl

    This is good to remember, I am working with a lawyer currently to write up my will and estate plan, I should think of something pertinent and good for my headstone…Be of good cheer. I love that.

  54. Lin

    Any man who said “Be of good cheer” when taking his leave or saying goodbye must have been one terrific fellow.

  55. Lynn

    I love it, Neil.

  56. Myla

    Neil, it is a beautiful stone. I didn’t know your Dad for very long, but I would say that he would be very proud of you for honoring and remembering him in such a wonderful way.

    “Be of good cheer”…I need to remember that myself in my daily life.

  57. velma

    how is it that I have never been here before?
    I like that – on the stone.
    You know, when my brother passed away – we actually all discussed which of us would get to go into the wall with him at Forest Lawn. Room for four.
    But I also wore red to the non-service service as he’d asked.
    sigh, he would turned 40 this week.
    but yeah – that is pretty awesome, and pretty awesome of you…

  58. Janet

    I think your first lines say it all. Blogging isnt going to make us rich and famous, but the characters we meet and the stories we get to tell are well worth the trip.:)

  59. Neil

    Thanks everyone, especially Sophia, because she was the one who first said I should put “Be of Good Cheer” on the stone.

  60. Tanya

    Lovely. Really lovely.

    I’ve got to stop saying “Stay awesome” when leaving the room.

  61. ashbloem

    That’s really wonderful, Neil.

  62. Pam

    I loved reading your blog. I just came from my dad’s grave. My mother had not seen his marker until today and I saw it last week. His unveiling is next month when our family from CA, NY, NH, FL, MA, and Canada will be coming together. We put the words, “Happy Day” on his marker because on his message machines first at home in MA, then FL, his cell phone, and web mailings all started with the words, “Happy Day this is the (home/cell phone) or e-mail from Sid, Dad or more likely from POPPI!

  63. kenju

    I agree with Pearl!! It’s a very nice headstone and I love that your dad’s catchphrase is on it.

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