Monday, October 16, 2017

Blumenort, Manitoba

Canadian Epitaphs: Here's the puzzle: He carries a distinctly Russian Mennonite surname, which is found throughout Manitoba. (If it sounds German, that is because the Russian Mennonites originated in Germany.) The name alone would lead you to believe he was a profoundly religious soul. However, the epitaph betrays a touch of agnosticism: "If there is another world, he lives in bliss. If not another, he made the most of this." If nothing else, his headstone loudly proclaims a belief in Canada, a love of the land, and the freedom it provided his ancestors (see the eagle?). EMC Cemetery. [2012]

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pelham, Ontario

Canadian Epitaphs:  The epitaph comes from the lips of a departed couple, his and hers: 'It took a lifetime. But we finally got here.' That could be written on almost any headstone (save the very young). Every life ends in the same place, and we all work so hard to get there. Pleasantview Memorial Gardens. [2013]

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Granby, Quebec

Canadian Epitaphs: The epitaph comes form the lips of the departed: 'Look at my life as it began, and not as it ended.' He died young, and one suspects of a malady that made his last few months (maybe years) difficult for him and his family. Granby Cemetery. [2011]

Monday, October 9, 2017

Steinbach, Manitoba

Canadian Epitaphs:  The words to live by on the front of the headstone are drawn from the Bible verse on the verso. From Paul's letter to the Romans: "Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going to work and walking around life - and place it before God as an offering." Translated into a guiding aphorism: "How we live our days, is of course, how we spend our lives." Now, look up Romans 12:1 and see if it all makes sense. Heritage Cemetery. [2012]

Friday, October 6, 2017

Landmark, Manitoba

World Teachers' Day ~ October 5:  Lots of teachers don't have their profession commemorated on their headstones. One lies buried here, but we'll have to check back later to see what's on her permanent marker. She wasn't in the classroom long, but the love of her students ran deep. They could hardly believe she was killed in a biking accident over the summer. So young, and such a loss. Prairie Rose EMC Cemetery. [2012]

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Durango, Colorado

World Teachers' Day ~ October 5:  Over 100 countries in the world follow the lead of the U.N. and proclaim October 5 as national Teachers' Day. That does not include the U.S. Nevertheless, feel free to proclaim tomorrow as your own Teachers' Day. Say thank you to your kids' teachers, honor a teacher of your own, or visit a cemetery and see how many headstones you can find that proudly identify the departed as teachers. Greenmount Cemetery. [2013]

Monday, October 2, 2017

Canal Winchester, Ohio

World Teachers' Day ~ October 5:  UNESCO honors teacher organizations around the world on Thursday of this week. By now, schools around the world are in session (unless they've been devastated by hurricanes) and teachers should be about ready for a little 'thank you' from their communities. We are fortunate that so many people who devote their lives to teaching. Here's a woman who taught for 38 years. It looks like she started in her early 20s and retired in her late 50s. Union Grove Cemetery. [2014]

Friday, September 29, 2017

Weaverville, North Carolina

Fantastical Birds and Where to Find Them:  They are in a cemetery, but they are not dead. They are full-figured, but they are not granite sculptures. They are denizens of New Jersey, but they are not confined by bricks and mortar. They are wild turkeys, and their presence illustrates the role of the cemetery not only as an aviary, but also as a wildlife preserve. Cemeteries help keep cities green. West Memorial Park. [2012]

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Kirkwood, New York

Fantastical Birds and Where to Find Them:  If you have even a small yard, set up a bird feeder, and watch clouds of fantastical birds appear. As I write this post, I am looking out the window at our feeder, which is filled with the fantastical: goldfinches, cardinals, woodpeckers, and sparrows. A few months ago, we even saw one very rare visitor, a painted bunting. Kirkwood Cemetery. [2017]

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Woodstown, New Jersey

Fantastical Birds and Where to Find Them: You can be sure this couple valued the wetlands that so characterize South Jersey. Cat-o-nine tails symbolize the marshes along the Delaware, and ducks come with every marsh. Just as this duck has "flown the coup," the soul departs earth for heaven above (hopefully)! Lawnside Cemetery. [2015]

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Augusta, Georgia

Fantastical Birds and Where to Find Them: Is that a bird house hoping to attract a new resident? Or, a waystation at heaven's gate hoping to serve a wayward soul? Westover Memorial Park. [2015]

Monday, September 25, 2017

Glen Castle, New York

Fantastical Birds and Where to Find Them: Go looking for those garden flags in cemeteries, and you might just find some birds. If they are as colorful as the goldfinch, they might even compete with the flowers for attention. Glen Castle Cemetery. [2017]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Milford, Delaware

The Cemetery as an Aviary: Speaking of ducks, here's the standard bearer: Yellow Duckie. Beloved in life; beloved in death! Don't you just wish you could add a little color, though? What does Rubber Duckie symbolize? Perhaps mirth, charm, and playfulness. Milford Community Cemetery. [2017]

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Williamsburg, Ohio

The Cemetery as an Aviary: Seagulls always seem to steal the show, no matter where they are. In this case, they are hundreds of miles from the coast. The seagull symbolizes freedom and resourcefulness; very opportunistic and very chatty they are. Perhaps the appearance of seagulls on tombstones is correlated with the publication of Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970. Williamsburg Cemetery. [2016]

Monday, September 18, 2017

Salisbury, Maryland

The Cemetery as an Aviary: From the wetlands of the Delaware to the wetlands of the Chesapeake, ducks are popular components of headstone design. These look like wood ducks. Nevertheless, like all ducks, they symbolize decisiveness and the ability to leave the past in the past. Parsons Cemetery. [2017]

Friday, September 15, 2017

Port Penn, Delaware

The Cemetery as an Aviary: Mallards are all over the Delaware River estuary: nothing unusual, just a part of the landscape. It is no wonder that their images, seemingly in full motion, would appear on tombstones throughout the region. The mallard, like ducks in general, are symbols of decisiveness. Hickory Grove Cemetery. [2013]

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pennsville, New Jersey

The Cemetery as an Aviary: As a coastal state with lots of wetlands, New Jersey should have a fair share of water fowl in its cemeteries. So, it is no surprise that people who have seen herons, egrets and cranes on a daily basis may choose them for their headstones. The heron is a symbol of poise, tact, and elegance. St. George Episcopal Church Cemetery. [2013]

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cynthiana, Kentucky

The Cemetery as an Aviary: "I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." The words are by Civilia Martin (1905), but the inspiration comes right out of Psalms and the Gospel of Matthew. There is no more ordinary bird, yet the sparrow's value is no less than any other. Battle Grove Cemetery. [2015]

Friday, September 8, 2017

Earlville, New York

The Cemetery as an Aviary: Owls are not cute, not graceful, and not flirtatious. They often get bypassed in the race to choose a symbol for the ages. Yet, the owl has its devotees. It stands as a symbol of wisdom, learning, intelligence, status, and wealth  Maybe surprising it is not seen more often in cemeteries. Wilcox Cemetery. [2017]

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Pine Grove, Pennsylvania

The Cemetery as an Aviary: Wild turkeys are not a common component of tombstone art, but when you have an avid turkey hunter, they are exactly what you need to define your life for those who may not have known you personally. The turkey is a symbol of abundance, blessing, satisfaction, and community. It should not be surprising that Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it the national bird. Jacobs Lutheran Church Cemetery. [2017]

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cheyenne, Wyoming

The Cemetery as an Aviary: The eagle is mentioned 34 times in the Bible. Probabably the most famous verse is from Isaiah, who tells us that those who serve the Lord "shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be  weary, and they shall walk and not faint." What a promise! And, what an explanation for the eagle's frequent appearance in cemetery art. However, we all know that most eagles in cemeteries are there because the eagle is the secular saint of American patriotism. On gravestones, the eagle is often used to symbolize patriotism, freedom, pride, and the power of dreams. Olivet Cemetery. [2013]

Friday, September 1, 2017

Beckley, West Virginia

The Cemetery as an Aviary: The dove may have deep and resonant Biblical roots, but not the hummingbird.These flower-suckers makes no appearance in the Bible, yet their popularity in tombstone art has risen steadily. Is it because the hummingbird symbolizes busyness (hardly a hallmark of cemeteries)? Or is it because hummingbirds are so common in the suburbs where most Americans how live? Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens. [2014]

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Resaca, Georgia

The Cemetery as an Aviary: The vivid red color of the cardinal matches the color worn by cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. Their color marks them as high-ranking birds, if for no other reason than they really do attract attention (especially in the winter). And, don't forget: The cardinal is the state bird of seven American states. In cemetery art, the cardinal is often used as a symbol of truth, beauty, and power. Now, would't you like to know the story behind the 'name train' on this headstone? Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery. [2013]

Monday, August 28, 2017

Worcester, Massachusetts

The Cemetery as an Aviary: The most common bird in the aviary is the dove, often portrayed (as here) carrying an olive branch. As the rains subsided, Noah sent forth, in succession, three birds. The third one, a second dove, returned to the ark with proof that humanity's home planet had not been permanently destroyed. A rebirth was coming: a foreshadowing of the rebirth that would be possible in Jesus Christ. The dove is seen as a symbol of peace, hope, love, and in this case, the wind beneath their wings. Notre Dame Cemetery. [2013]

Friday, August 25, 2017

Charlottesville, Virginia

A Symbol of Home ~ The Bird House:  A birdhouse by a grave may represent a place where the soul can remain on earth just a little longer, but it may also be just a way of giving birds a place to nest, a way of  making cemeteries serve environmental needs. Think of the cemetery as a nature preserve. The bird house here lords over what is called a 'false tomb.' Daughters of Zion Cemetery. [2013]

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Appleton, Alabama

A Symbol of Home ~ The Bird House:  We often conceptualize the soul as a bird. Well before the Christian Era, in fact, the Egyptians symbolized one aspect of the soul by a bird with a human head. And, Plato reminded us that "the soul takes flight to the world that is invisible but there arriving she is sure of bliss and forever dwells in paradise." So, a bird house in a cemetery makes perfect sense. Perhaps this bird house is meant to be a way station on the soul's flight to heaven. Weaver Cemetery. [2017]

Monday, August 21, 2017

Vineland, New Jersey

A Symbol of Home ~ The Bird House: In bereavement art, birds are often used to symbolize the soul. So, a stationary bird house near a grave may suggest that the soul has a place to stay on earth just a little bit longer. What do you make of the names and dates on this headstone? Vineland Cemetery. [2017]

Friday, August 18, 2017

Falmouth, Virginia

Garden Flags as Aides Memoires:  You know he must have spent many hours at home keeping an eye on the birdhouses (probably more than one!) in his back yard. It's good to know those doves on his tombstone will have a place to nest tonight. New Hope United Methodist Church Cemetery. [2017]

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Gouldtown, New Jersey

Garden Flags as Aides Memoires:  An Indian lies buried here: a member of the Lenni Lenapi tribe. That may mean the owl symbolizes tribal wisdom. The Lenni Lenapi were the original inhabitants of the Delaware Valley, but the dreamcatcher has become a symbol of unity shared by all North American Indians. He probably caught many a dream in that dreamcatcher. Hope so, anyway. Gouldtown Memorial Park. [2013]

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Garden Flags as Aides Memoires:  She loved the farm: the cows, the pigs, the sheep, the goats. She loved the violets that bloomed everywhere in the spring, too. Now, she reminds everybody of the things that made a difference in her life. That just might include her husband, too. Is that him standing out in the pasture? Mechanicsburg Cemetery. [2014]

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Pool, Maryland

Garden Flags as Aides Memoires:  Welcome. Your family wants to make your new home as much like your old home as possible. Remember the vincas that loved to welcome visitors? Remember the rabbits that used to put on quite a show in the spring? Remember the flag that flew in front of the house? Remember the street lights that turned night into day? And never forget the church in whose graveyard you now lie. St. Paul's United Methodist Church Cemetery. [2015]

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Paris, Kentucky

Garden Flags as Aides Memoires:  "Thank heaven for Little Boys" says this garden flag, which actually finds itself in a small garden. The little master would have had such fun growing up riding all those horses, but he could only stick around 121 days. Still, he was a God-send, a gift from heaven, to which he was called back too soon. Paris is in the heart of the Kentucky Blue Grass. Paris Cemetery. [2015]

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dillsburg, Pennsylvania

Garden Flags as Aides Memoires:  Small decorative flags are becoming ever more common in cemeteries. They are usually chosen to accentuate the virtues of a life well lived. The bereaved use them to bring out the personalities of their loved ones. What does this garden banner say about the person it honors? Patriotic, loved, memorable. The slogan "Always in Our Hearts" seems made for a cemetery, but most garden flags are simply repurposed to make graveyards feel more like home. Dillsburg Cemetery. [2013]

Friday, August 4, 2017

Meridian, Mississippi

The Lone Star Flag is Very Much Alive! The Lone Star Flag is very much alive wherever you find transplanted Texans, including here in Mississippi.This is a group marker. It honors "the men from Texas who are known to be buried here and to all Texans who passed this way." The boldest type is reserved for this, however: "NOTHING IS ENDED UNTIL IT IS FORGOTTEN." What does that mean? That the Civil War isn't (and never will be) over? Rose Hill Cemetery. [2013]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Pahrump, Nevada

The Lone Star Flag is Very Much Alive! The Lone Star Flag is very much alive wherever there are transplanted Texans, including here in Nevada. Clearly, this husband, father, and grandfather was a Texan at heart, or maybe a Texan-American. Notice that the the Texas flag flies at the same level as the U.S. flag, almost as if each was an independent country of its own. Flag representations like this are usually reserved for two sovereignties on par with each other. Chief Tecopa Cemetery New West. [2016]

Monday, July 31, 2017

Austin, Texas

The Lone Star Flag is Very Much Alive! The Lone Star Flag is very much alive in cemeteries all over Texas. Here it honors the man who created an organization called Celebrate Texas, which is dedicated to the celebration of Texas Independence Day on March 2. In 1836, Texas issued its own Declaration of Independence: from Mexico. Texas State Cemetery. [2009]