Nearly everything in Trinity Church had a memorial plaque or inscription on it. Unsurprisingly, the baptismal font is dedicated to a little girl who died young. I wonder what it felt like for the parents of Mary Rochester to watch babies be baptized in the font with their daughter’s name on it.
Posts Tagged ‘babies’
There are few words I find more poignant on a tombstone than “baby” or “infant,” and the effect is strengthened when that word takes the place of the name. It isn’t, I now realize, always the case that the baby hadn’t received a name or been christened yet. The “baby” sometimes wasn’t a baby in the sense of being in the first year of life: some of the Collinwood school fire victims are listed as “baby” on their tombstones, and they were of school-age! Baby seems to serve as a shorthand, though, for all the lost promise that goes with the death of a child. Using that term as opposed to a name brings out starkly the feeling of a life cut terribly short.
This unusual marker sits in the Chester Township Cemetery.
Even more striking than the front is the back, which is to “The Three Infants” of the Painter family. The years listed are 1906, 1912, and 1923, presumably each infant died within the same calendar year in which he or she was born.
As I’ve posted about before, lamb statues in cemeteries are usually on top of children’s graves. To me, a lamb clearly symbolizes a life ended too soon. If you look at the final inscription on this side of this marker, the Christian symbolism of the lamb is emphasized with the epitaph “I am Jesus’ little lamb.”
When I walk through an old cemetery, the thing that strikes me first about life before the mid-20th century is the child mortality rate – there are far more graves of infants and children than we are used to seeing today. But the thing that I find harder to remember is that life expectancies were overall shorter and that passing safely through childhood was still not a guarantee of surviving to a ripe old age. These three stones at Historic Hopewell Cemetery struck me as I was paging through my Flickr collections.
The first is for an infant son of Samuel and Margaret Buck.
Not too far away are this baby’s sisters, Sarah and Mary Jane. Sarah died just a month before her brother, at the age of eighteen.
Mary Jane died two years later in 1849 at the age of 22.
Did the Bucks have any more children, or did their family line die out in 1849? I don’t know. I didn’t find markers for any more Bucks in the cemetery, so I don’t know if they all rest there in additional unmarked graves, or if they moved away, leaving three children buried in a rural Ohio cemetery.