Posts Tagged ‘sleep’



I’ve written before about the use of sleep as a euphemism for death. One of the most common iterations of this metaphor is the simple epitaph “asleep in Jesus” that I’ve found on a tombstone in nearly every cemetery I’ve visited. It is, I suppose, intended to add an additional layer of comfort – not only is your loved one not dead, but merely sleeping, but he or she is sleeping safely in the arms of the Christian savior and son of God.



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I’ve found some more stones that use the metaphor of sleep for death. Sidney Guy Sea’s epitaph is “Secure I turn to rest and sleep.”

Sidney Guy Sea

In a reference to Christianity, George Johnson’s stone says “He giveth his beloved sleep.”


Elizabeth Sanford “fell asleep in Jesus.”


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Not too long ago I found a post that I had started but never finished on the use of sleep as a metaphor for death in epitaphs.  Most of them seem to invoke the Christian idea of eventual resurrection.  The comforting reassurance to her children that she merely sleeps here might not have the same feeling if we couldn’t assume a Christian frame of reference.
Weep not for me

The Bowler-Burdick monument reads “He giveth his beloved sleep.”


Of course, sleeping implies a transitory state that will end with an awakening (or reawakening), made explicit in the Pankhurst epitaph.

Maria Louise Pankhurst

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There is a recurring metaphor in our culture of death as sleep, and it shows up in cemetery epitaphs. Guy and Carrie Kittell’s epitaphs both refer to sleep. His is “Just like going to sleep” and hers is “If I should sleep till morning, do not wake me up.”

Guy Kittell and Carrie Kittell

Elizabeth Waggoner’s family inscribed her tombstone to advise us that “She is not dead, but sleepeth.”

Waggoner (2)

The Gerhardts’ have a similar epitaph.


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I’ve written before about monuments for children that depict in stone figures of children asleep atop them in Not Dead but Asleep. I’ve found a few statues that are constructed to convey a similar symbolism in Lake View Cemetery. I can’t find a name or inscription on this one. It could be in the front where all the ivy is growing.


This child is sleeping with a lamb, another popular symbol for children.

Boy and lamb

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Before Spring Grove, I was aware that there were 19th and early 20th century monuments for deceased children that included a small representation of a sleeping child on top of them, but they aren’t popular in the Cleveland cemeteries I’ve visited so far. In Spring Grove they are absolutely everywhere – and they give me the willies.



I don’t know why I find them so unnerving – if it’s the fact that most of them are made out of a softer stone that does not weather that well and are therefore mere shadows of the original carvings. I know that I find very eroded angels and other standing statues much less aesthetically pleasing than those with crisper, fresher lines.


I realize that the artistic representation of the children is intended to convey sleeping, and it is not my way of coping with death to imagine that individuals have just drifted into peaceful sleep.

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