Last week, Halcyon and I went for a walk around the Pardes Shalom, a Jewish cemetery in the town of Maple just north of Toronto. It turned out to be much bigger than I expected, and in spite of the orderly rows, much more confusing to our uninitiated eyes to find our way around.
And, in looking up the history, I discovered that we missed a free walking tour! If only I had done the research as soon as I got home... though it is a long drive to go back.
Two things I noticed immediately that is different from many of the cemeteries I have wandered through recently is the neat rows with each grave facing the same direction and with the back of each stone including the surname. Maybe the names is not traditional but simply an accommodation to the fact that the entrance to this cemetery is at the western edge of the land, but it is a very nice feature. Also, the stones are pretty much all the same height with minor variations in the shapes - no one towers over the others or shows off with a large monument.
The Pardes Shalom Cemetery has been beautifully landscaped, which took five years, from 1972-77, to transform this former Christmas tree farm and gravel pit. Special attention was made to create a space that was as much for the living as for the dead. Had I gone on the walking tour I would now be able to tell you about the various species of the thousands of trees that were planted and the history of the land with the "attempts that have been made to promote the land's environmental health and the visual integrity of the cemetery".
What I can tell you is that there are 15,000 burials with most of the grounds filled with graves. Some of the plots once belonged to synagogues or burial societies while others were purchased directly from the cemetery. There was a variety of traditional and more modern graves, some were written on the front entirely in Hebrew, some had flowers, some had mementoes left. Almost all had stones left on top by those visitors who stopped by to remember them.
See more grave practices at Taphophile Tragics