On Friday, with a little time to kill, my daughter and I stopped by one of the many cemeteries clustered in our neighborhood.
I’d been in this one before, but I came through a different gate, so I had never seen the name “Dispersed of Judah.” I hadn’t noticed it was a Jewish cemetery, though several Hebrew headstones make that abundantly clear.
And I had not seen one particular monument, the tallest there, or taken heed of the story it tells.
This monument was erected in honor of a young woman named Virginia Lazarus.
The grief of her parents must have been tremendous. The river side of the monument bears the following inscription:
In cherished memory of our dearly beloved and precious daughter Virginia, who was called away in the fullness and freshness of her glorious young life on October 27th, 1897, aged 18 years 11 months.
Her nobility of character endeared her to everyone. Her presence filled our home with sunshine. Her absence leaves it in impenetrable gloom. Our weeping hearts yield her the tribute of eternal grief.
But there is more to the story. Her father is commemorated on the uptown side of the monument.
In cherished memory of my dearly beloved husband Henry L. Lazarus, who passed away on Nov. 2, 1917, aged 64 years.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., but a resident of this city from boyhood, he was an eminent lawyer, an upright, God-fearing man, a devoted husband, father and son, a staunch and loyal friend.
If everyone to whom he lent a helping hand should bring a blossom to his grave he would sleep beneath a wilderness of flowers.
That loving inscription was obviously written by his wife, Virginia’s mother. She is commemorated on the downtown side of the monument.
beloved wife of Henry L. Lazarus
July 13, 1853 — May 28, 1931
It would seem that when she passed away, there was no one left to memorialize her. No fancy inscription — just her dates of birth and death.
I was already moved to tears. Then I saw the lake side of the monument, and I learned that they also suffered the loss of three infant children, one in 1876, one in 1877, and one in 1885 who lived for nine days. Virginia must have been born in 1878. After that I was devastated and amazed. So much love, so much pain. I never knew a stone marker could convey such sadness.
There’s a row of small stones placed on the front of the monument that suggest I’m not the only one who has come and read these inscriptions.
I think I may have hugged my daughter a little tighter than usual after that.
Later, I did a little internet research. It seems there is a Virginia Lazarus memorial scholarship at LSU. Could it be the same person? I don’t think so — turns out it’s actually the Adrian Virginia Lazarus scholarship. That name led me to a recent obituary:
Beverly Albert Lazarus March 3, 1926 – August 28, 2010 • Beverly died on Saturday, August 28, 2010 at Chateau de Notre Dame. She was born in New York to the late Abraham and Lilly Albert. She attended Brooklyn College and worked in the retail business as a buyer for A&S Department Stores. Beverly was married to the late Eldon Spencer Lazarus, Jr. for 54 years living in New Orleans. She easily acclimated herself to the New Orleans lifestyle and loved to show her southern hospitality. In New Orleans Beverly was the buyer for Gus Mayer’s Children Department and Godchaux’s Department Store. She was preceded in death by her beloved daughter Adrian Virginia Lazarus, and her brother Henry David Albert.
Note that last sentence. That makes two daughters who passed away before their mothers here in New Orleans — both named Virginia Lazarus. What are the chances?
If any relatives read this, please know that you have my deepest sympathies.
Update: My old high school friend Georgie, who does genealogy for fun, tells me that indeed, the latter Virginia is related to the former. Virginia (1878-1897) had a brother Eldon Spencer Lazarus Sr who had a daughter in 1908, who was also named Virginia Lazarus. He also had a son, Eldon Jr, and Eldon Jr had a daughter named Adrian Virginia Lazarus. Apparently all three daughters died before their mothers. That is heartbreaking.
Also I have to note that I am currently in the middle of reading “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang which seems to be about a mother who outlives her daughter. Coincidence? I certainly hope so…