Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Classic Memorials and Symbolism

Every time I stand in a cemetery I can't help but think about the history and stories that surround me. Histories of how our community was built and how our country was protected, lessons learned, good times, bad times and sad times. Many have untold stories that will never be known, while others have stories that have been told time and time again; and to stand amongst them is always amazing.

Perhaps it doesn't come as a surprise when I tell you that I enjoy genealogy. The key word is *enjoy*, because I am certainly not good at it, nor do I have much time for it! However, I do enjoy tracing my relatives and subsequently visiting their graves. 

Visiting the graves of relatives is like a treasure hunt for me. I track down where the person is located, use a map to find their place and then never know what I will find when I get there! Sure, you can see photos of the monuments on websites such as, but there is something so exciting about finding it in person. 

I recently planned a trip to check out the cemetery where some of my relatives are buried and was so excited to discover this beautiful memorial!

It is a marble memorial that stands approximately 7' tall- all hand carved. Marble was a popular material that was commonly used for monument-making during this time period because it was a softer stone that could be easily carved by the memorialist. It is not used as commonly today, as granite is a more durable and preferred material. 

Upon first glance in the cemetery, all you see is this tall monument. However, once you get closer and really examine it, you discover a history just waiting to be told!

This memorial is for M.L. Hall, born July 12, 1867 and died Jan. 9, 1915. Notice how the letters in his name are raised? We call this "raised letters". Raised letters were especially popular during this time period and may also be seen on his base. They lend boldness to one's name and really look nice. 

< < See the raised lettering in his name?

You can see the raised lettering on his last name as well. So classic and pretty!                           >>

You can learn a lot about a person by simply reading his or her epitaph. Now, the thing is, if you don't pre-plan your own memorial, then chances are that you will not have any control over what your survivors choose to write. So, epitaphs may or may not be an accurate reflection of the person and his or her values. 

In this case, the epitaph serves as a message of faith and hope. It reads, "Another link is broken in our family band. But a chain is forming in a better land". 

It is difficult to tell one's entire life story on a material so limited in size. So, throughout history we have utilized symbols to help tell the story. There is significant symbolism on this memorial that I want to point out. 

The first symbol is that of the Woodmen of the World. For more on the Woodmen of the World, please refer to my blog post from October 2012 and also check out this blog post. The Woodmen of the World had a memorial template that they would send to a local stone carver, thus why many Woodmen of the Wold monuments have unique elements about them. However, this is not believed to be one of the Woodmen of the World patterns. 

Down below the Woodmen of the World emblem you will notice another emblem- the Masonic square and compass.  The interesting thing about this Masonic square and compass is that it appears to be sitting upon a mantel with a sunlight carved into the keystone area. This immediately caught my eye, as I had not seen it before. 

I had to do a lot of research on this, as I knew that the sun was a Masonic symbol, but I had typically seen a face carved into the suns I had seen in the past. You will notice this sun is a simple sun and does not have a face carved into it. 

From the best I can tell, the sun is representing fire (the sun is a ball of fire), which is a symbol that represents the importance of God and his judgement. The keystone can be a Masonic symbol for the York Rite of Order. 

The next symbol I noticed is the cloak that is draped over the top of the monument. See how it is draped over the top and sides and has tassels on the ends? It reminds me of curtains!
Curtains are a symbol often seen in the cemetery and are made "fancy" by adding fringe at the bottom and tassels. The curtains symbolize that the impact of this individuals death will continue to linger. 

The interesting thing about these curtains is that there is also an urn on the very top of the monument that has a cloak coming out of it. That is a very significant symbol. It's tough to see in this picture, but do you see the top piece? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
If you walk around to the back, you will see the obvious shape of an urn with the cloak coming out of it. 

So, when you hear the word "urn", you most likely think of ashes. Throughout time individuals have stored the ashes of a loved one in an urn. So the symbol of the urn has been associated with death for thousands of years because of it's history of storing ashes. As such, the urn is a symbol of the ashes to which our bodies will turn. The cloak coming out of the urn represents the soul departing the body for eternity. 

By analyzing the epitaph (message of faith and hope), along with the draped urn, we understand that he had a deep faith in God. We also understand, based on the epitaph and the curtain, that he was greatly missed. We also gain an understanding that he was social (having belonged to two fraternal organizations) and placed importance upon the activities associated with them. 

I hope you have found this journey through symbolism to be interesting and helpful! If you would like information on how to tell your loved one's story, please check out our website at