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By Gayle BrandeisOct. 21, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

I’ve been on a genealogy kick lately, and many of my rabbit holes have led me to, a crowdsourcing website that has millions of photos of gravestones, cemeteries and memorials. The site started as a way to track celebrities’ graves, but quickly expanded to include regular people in cemeteries around the world.

I was moved to see that strangers had taken snapshots of headstones for my ancestors whose names I’d just learned, and I was touched to see the word “beloved” carved into the stones in Hebrew. I discovered that several relatives from both parents’ sides of the family are buried in the Waldheim Cemetery outside of Chicago, a Jewish burial site dating to 1870. Several photos of their gravestones were uploaded by someone named The Dark Poet, and this person had left virtual memorial flowers for them — a sunflower for my great grandfather Jacob, two purple flowers for my great grandmother Esther Rifka, relatives I had never honored myself. I clicked on The Dark Poet’s profile, and learned he is Wiccan, and dedicates his Find A Grave work to those who suffer from major depression.

His profile says: “People who do not suffer from this will NEVER understand how much strength it takes just to get up each day and fight to keep going. For this reason, I will always have a special place in my heart to those who have left this world by suicide.”AD

He’s personally photographed and uploaded more than 90,000 photos of gravestones, adding that he doesn’t know how those people died. But he said because of his own suicidal thoughts, he’s explored the idea of death extensively.

My mom died by suicide in 2009, so his sentiment hit home. I felt a pull to reach out to The Dark Poet, to thank him for memorializing my ancestors, for dedicating his work to those who took their own lives and to find out more about why he decided to honor the lives and deaths of strangers. He agreed to talk to me, asking to do it by email since his long-haul trucking schedule didn’t always allow for phone calls. He shared his full name, but asked me to use only his first name, Daniel, here.

Daniel, a 46-year-old singer/songwriter and former chef, started writing poetry at age 13 as an escape from depression and bullying; he credits it and…

This article was sourced from the Washington Post.

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