Archive for March, 2012

I tried very hard to focus my posts this month on gravestones for women in honor of Women’s History Month, and I was kind of disappointed to discover how hard it was. Women’s tombstones seem less likely to have epitaphs or other biographical information beyond whose wife or mother the deceased was.

Tonight I was at a restaurant and the hostess’ nametag said her name was “Keziah.” It’s a name I had never before seen given to a currently living person, but it was a little awkward to explain that I run a cemetery blog, and so she might have thought I was a bit strange. She did tell me that it is from the Biblical Book of Job.

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Can you guess who it is?

At First Presbyterian Church in East Cleveland, Ohio:
First Presbyterian (10)

At Erie Street Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio:
Eliakim Nash

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Rogers 1

A frequent epitaph for mothers is “Her children arise up and call her blessed.” The words come from the Biblical book of Proverbs and are part of a litany of the attributes of a virtuous, godly woman as defined by the Hebrews.

Mary Ann Smith

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Belle Bingham 2

I have stared and stared at the scroll hanging below the urn on this monument, and what I am seeing doesn’t make sense. What I can make out is

July 29,
0 Y’rs
6 Mo’s

But it doesn’t make sense. Why would you list out the fact that someone had not lived a year? So either this is a very unusual monument or the number in front of the zero has been damaged or broken off. I tried looking at http://www.findagrave.com in hopes that they would have a detail shot that showed an obscured digit, but the photos I found didn’t look any different.

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The Shepherdess

I took this photo almost exactly a year ago at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York. I was back there this weekend, so new photos will be coming soon!

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Boyd  (5)

Arches and archways in cemeteries are supposed to symbolize the entrance to heaven. These particular examples are from Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Knox Josephine and Georgeanna

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When I tell people that I write a blog about cemeteries, I get a few different reactions. One is the kind that inspired the title to this post. Those people give me a strange look and sort of take a step back, murmuring something like “oh, that’s interesting” or “oh, that’s different.” The idea of visiting cemeteries, walking for hours in cemeteries, visiting and photographing tombstones of people I don’t even know is so alien to them that they don’t know how to process it. I probably freak these people out.

There’s another group of people who immediately exclaim something like “really? But isn’t that creepy? Aren’t you ever scared? Have you ever had anything strange happen to you there?” They ask me these questions, leaning forward with anticipation to hear the answers. They’re not brave enough to go traipsing in cemeteries themselves, though what they are scared of varies. Some believe in ghosts and spirits. Some don’t want to be weird, like me. Some probably just find cemeteries to be unsettling places, whether because of their quiet and solitude or their reminder of mortality or all of those reasons.

Then there are the people like me today. The ones who like to pick their way between the tombstones and learn about the lives of people before us. We will tell you that stones can speak, if you know how to hear their language. I am very lucky to count these people among my friends. When they ask me what I would like to do on a visit, they begin pouring forth suggestions as soon as I say that I’d like to go explore a cemetery. They forward me articles about cemeteries, arrange tours for me, walk around with me, and read these words.

But even though I am now the way I am, I have not always been that way. When I was a little girl, I was scared of cemeteries. I would try holding my breath when I passed, having heard the old superstition that if you inhaled near a cemetery you might breathe in one of the spirits. I feared them as dark and foreboding places. As I got older and more interested in history, I lost some of that fear, but I still wasn’t comfortable enough to stroll through the gates. It wasn’t until I was taken to some cemeteries as part of a college history course that I really began to appreciate them. I began to find other people’s websites and blogs about cemeteries, and one day I picked up my camera and drove to Lake View Cemetery. You know the rest of the story.

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All that’s beautiful in woman
All we in her nature love
All that’s good in all that’s human
Passed this gate to God above.

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