Archive for July 3rd, 2010

Epitaphs are rather rare, but analyzing them can be endlessly fascinating. How do you summarize a life? What do you want to tell people who will walk through this graveyard in one hundred years, after you and everyone you know are gone from this earth?


The Lawrence obelisk in Erie Street Cemetery has epitaphs for those who lie beneath it.

Sarah Lawrence

The first and hardest to read (sorry about the dust) is “Sacred to the Memory of Sarah, wife of James Lawrence, who passed into spirit life Aug. 1842 Aged 52 y[ear]s.”  The final line reads “There is no Death.”  I do wonder if Sarah is buried here, considering that this inscription is “to the memory of” her, but the other two memorials  contain no such wording.
Marrilla B. Lawrence

The second panel is for James Lawrence’s other wife.  I find it unusual because we know nothing else about Marrilla – not when she was born, when she died, or how old she was, just that she suffered from a long illness before dying.  We don’t even know if she was his first or second wife.  But whoever selected the epitaph for her wanted us to know that she will enter eternal life “unaided by a suppositious savior.”  I’m not 110% certain how to interpret that line, but it suggests that the Lawrences were not traditional Christians.
James Lawrence

Finally, the last panel is for James himself, husband of both women memorialized on the obelisk. He lived to a considerable age.  Whatever else may no longer be known about the Lawrences, they chose to inscribe their faith in a particular kind of afterlife on their gravestones so that no one passing by could be unaware of it.

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