Posts Tagged ‘grave offerings’
I only photographed four tombstones with portraits in LaCarpe Cemetery. Two were of the more modern bent, laser engraved.
Posted in Cemetery Sculpture, Statues, tagged animal, cause of death, child, children, dayton, dog, drowning, grave art, grave offerings, ohio, sculpture, statues, symbolism, tombstone tales, woodland cemetery on May 6, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
The most visited graves at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio, are, not surprisingly, those of the brave early aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wrights are world-famous for their accomplishments, and countless people travel to see their final resting places. But if you ask the Woodland Cemetery staff to name the most visited grave of a person who was not famous in life, they will point you to the famous statue of a boy and a dog that marks the grave of little Johnny Morehouse. In 1860 (so the legend says), five year old Johnny, a cobbler’s son, was playing when he fell into the canal. He drowned, and when he was buried, his faithful dog refused to leave the graveside. The dog stands forever immortalized in stone, guarding over a peacefully sleeping little boy, a paw extended to shield him from harm.
The statue is hard to photograph for all of the trinkets left over and around it. Most are children’s toys or books, things that Johnny left behind all too soon over 150 years ago.
I found this grave offering, a pink ribbon tied in a bow, around this monument. Because the bow is situated centrally over the Katie Callio panel, I’m going to assume that it was left for her. (Even if it wasn’t, the other names on the monument aren’t much newer.) It makes me wonder who brought the ribbon here and left it. Maybe it was originally part of a floral arrangement? Was it a family member – someone interested in genealogy who found this woman in the family tree? Just someone who felt a connection to this monument when they read the inscription?
I grew up on a rural cul-de-sac, surrounded by farmland. If you leave my father’s house, the first main road you come to is called Old Stonehouse Road. I don’t claim to know which of the aging gray stone farmhouses along its length gave the road its name, but you see enough of them to understand how it might have come about. Old Stonehouse winds down past an alpaca farm, plenty of fields, and the Bricker farm on the corner where my mother used to pick strawberries in the early summer. If you head south, through the tiny village of Allen (better known as Churchtown) that is little more than a crossroads, you come back out into more farm land. Just as Old Stonehouse intersects with State Route 74, on the left hand corner, there is a tall set of trees with a row of tombstones in front of them. The sign says that it’s Bethel Cemetery.
The years have not been kind to Bethel Cemetery. All of the remaining stones were at some point reset onto a single, long concrete pad. It’s a jumble of headstones and footstones, many re-broken since being set on the concrete. Some of them are barely readable and others are only recognizable as grave markers because of their location.
There are 5 intact, still standing headstones.
I suspect it is the cemetery’s relative isolation and proximity to the road that has contributed to its deterioration. There is no fence, no wall, and no house close enough to it to keep an eye on it. It’s right along the road, a convenient target for would-be vandals. It clearly hasn’t had a lot of maintenance work done in a long time. But someone cares, as evidenced by the four or five scattered GAR markers and bouquet of flowers that adorned the central marker when I visited.
If you look very closely at this cross, you can see lines and shadows of something fairly narrow wrapped around it. It’s a wire and green foil disposable garland with shamrocks like you might find in a craft store in the weeks before St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not sure when it was placed there. It’s a little tattered, so maybe it could be a leftover St. Patrick’s Day decoration or placed there for a more personally specific day, such as a birthday or anniversary. In a city with such a strong Irish heritage, I wasn’t surprised to see symbols of Irish ethnic pride, but this was a little unusual.
I saw this grave offering when I was at Kirtland South Cemetery. I didn’t take a photo of the tombstone itself because it was very new, but I found the brilliant blue angel too compelling to ignore.
Let’s talk today about my idea of creepy. I used to live in a little town called Franklin, Ohio. If you left town on Main Street going south, just after you crossed the railroad tracks, there was a cemetery up on the hill to your right next to a little church. During the day, it looked like a perfectly normal southwestern Ohio country graveyard – rows upon rows of tombstones, not a lot of statues and no mausoleums that I remember. At night, the place was so filled with solar lamp stakes, it glowed. In my humble opinion, cemeteries should not glow in the dark. I still drive down to that part of Ohio with regularity, and there are a number of roadside cemeteries along the way that suffer (again, my opinion) from an overabundance of those lights. I guess they are called vigil lights, but I don’t care for them. Unnatural light emanating from the ground just in front of a tombstone makes a cemetery less inviting, not more, and I imagine that teenagers out looking to play destructive pranks are more likely to notice dimly lit cemetery than a completely dark one. So, please, if I can make one request – when it comes time to determine what to do with my earthly remains, choose a cemetery that does not permit vigil lights.
This is the most unusual grave offering I have found yet. Flowers are the most common of all. I’m used to the Jewish tradition of leaving a pebble or stone to signify that someone has been to the memorial. I’ve seen toys and figurines, usually on the graves of children or teenagers. But running shoes are a new one. I walked by the grave more than once in case it was simply a matter of someone using the bench to change shoes, since a lot of people do walk around Lake View. But after several hours, no one had been back to claim the shoes, so I’m going to guess that they were left there for the deceased. I am guessing she (gender guess on shoe size and style) must have been an athlete, maybe a walker or jogger.
When you visit a cemetery, you may see small rocks or pebbles set on top of monuments. This stems from a Jewish tradition. The predominant interpretation of the practice of leaving small stones on grave markers is that it originated in a time before modern burial and tombstones. The body would be prepared and wrapped, and then buried, but the arid heat of the Middle East, it was difficult to bury bodies deeply. A cairn of stones would be built over the burial to prevent animals from disturbing the grave. Leaving rocks at each visit would not only serve as a signifier that someone had visited, but would literally build and maintain the memorial. Even though the funerary practices have changed, the ritual of leaving a stone has survived and in some cases grown. I know a number of cemetery visitors who have left stones on graves who are not Jewish or even familiar with very much of Jewish religion and culture.
I found both of these heavily covered markers in Lake View last fall.