Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Tender Epitaph

The personal information on this stone was almost impossible to read. The details I was able to discern were sobering. This woman died just a little over a month after her 20th birthday, and she was someone's wife. I can only imagine how she died... in child birth, due to an all too common and now curable illness, or perhaps a as a result of a terrible accident. Whoever it was that buried her and chose her gravestone decided to place this epitaph on it:

"Rest here blest saint till Christ shall come
With all the saints to Call thee home"

It's a very touching tribute to someone who died young and was surely missed. Would she be surprised that someone was writing about her on some newfangled thing called the Internet almost 200 years after her death?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Poppies, poppies will put them to sleep...

Poppies are one of the many different types of flowers that can be found etched onto a gravestone. Eternal, peaceful, restful sleep is symbolized by this flower. 

One can't help but wonder if L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the directors and producers of the film The Wizard of Oz knew of the symbolism of poppies. As the Wicked Witch of the West conjures a spell to make Dorothy and her comrades fall into a never ending sleep, her spell takes the form of a field of poppies. It certainly is an interesting coincidence!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Most Interesting German Inscription

This beautiful stone was the only one of its kind in the small Mennonite church yard I visited. There were many old stones, but none of them were in the German (or perhaps Pennsylvania Dutch... could be the case, since it is a Mennonite cemetery) language like this one was. 

I wonder who this woman was, whether or not she spoke English, or if Germany was her homeland. I can't seem to find any information about her, so I will be left wondering. I welcome any feedback from anyone who knows more!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What's in a book?

A book on a tombstone is usually representative of the Bible, especially in rural, conservative areas. The deceased may have been a member of the clergy, or just a very religious person. 

A hand pointing to the Bible indicates something deeper. This hand is pointing out the word of God, and the path to salvation it holds. A stone with this symbol on it is also showing that the deceased was a believer and is now enjoying their eternal life. It encourages observers to read and believe while they still have time. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Amish Cemeteries

"Be in the world, but not of it"

This statement essentially explains why the Amish live such plain and simple lives. Time on this earth is brief compared to the eternity that a person's soul will have in the kingdom of God. For this reason, the Amish live without attachment to material objects and modern technology. Amish cemeteries reflect their core beliefs with trademark humility. 

Typically, one will see Amish cemeteries in the middle of a plot of functional farmland that is surrounded by a white fence. Death is in the midst of life in this respect. I have seen an Amish man plowing his field in spring, alongside his family's cemetery, and it's a reminder of the circle of life, for sure. It's also utilitarian, as the Amish do not see a reason to set aside specific land for cemeteries when their ancestors have been buried on their family farms for hundreds of years. Each stone will be roughly the same size, without any adornment other than a name, date of birth, and date of death.

Some Amish cemeteries even go so far as to use wooden markers. This way, they rot and deteriorate over time, reminding followers that nothing in this world is permanent or lasting. Every church district has different traditions, according to their level of strictness, etc. 

When an Amish person dies, they will typically have a funeral at home. Then, a buggy will take the deceased, in their plain, pine coffin, to their final resting place. The graveside service will emphasize the glory of God, rather than the life of the deceased. After the funeral, graveside visitation isn't as common as it is with other Americans. The Amish believe that the person is gone, with God. Visiting their grave would show earthly attachment, and a lack of faith that the deceased is with God.