Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Flowers: Carved in Stone

I like walking through cemeteries, particularly old cemeteries. A few years ago we visited an old graveyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia and looked at the stones marking the graves of victims of the Titanic tragedy. Small family cemeteries are also interesting. Old headstones are very plain in local Mennonite graveyards, but the Lutherans, Catholics and others who settled in this area from Europe memorialized their dead with more elaborate stone statues. The statues and headstones pictured here are found in Mount Hope Cemetery, Kitchener Ontario. This large graveyard is full of interesting history and untold stories.

Some of Halloween's origins were based on superstition as people tried to understand disease, death, and the harshness and cycles of nature. We all want an answer to the question "why"? I work with patients and families who seek a diagnosis and explanation of their symptoms. Modern medicine and science have given us many answers but in times past this was not the case.

My father-in-law complied a detailed family tree and history which my sister-in-law typed up so it could be bound in a large book. It is interesting to read the causes of death from the past 200 years or more. One of the more common conditions was dropsy, a term that refers to abnormal swelling. Others died of inflammation, congestion, consumption, paralysis, and other conditions that described various symptoms. The cause and cure of these illness was often unknown. Death frightens, fascinates, compels and repulses us. Yet we desire to immortalize those who have been dear to us.

Flowers are symbolic of love and sympathy and also of eternity and immortality. The life of flowers is fleeting and remind us of the transitory life of man. There is spiritual symbolism in the very fact that flowers do not last forever but the seed contained in the flower will grow again when buried in the earth.

Canada Gen Web Cemetery Project has a goal to find and list all Canadian cemeteries. Volunteers are invited to take pictures of headstones and record the names of the deceased. The information will be indexed for reference and research. I am going to offer to take pictures of all the stones in two pioneer cemeteries in the county. My husband's family cemetery is over 200 years old and is quite small. Another small cemetery stands near the hospital overlooking the river.

But I will not be out taking graveyard pictures tonight...

The memory of the righteous will be a blessing,
but the name of the wicked will rot.
Proverbs 10:7


  1. Anonymous7:43 am GMT-4

    I too enjoy walking through cemeteries. The older "statues" and "headstones" are really a true artform in itself. The work that goes into them is unbelievable. All my family is in Holland, so I don't have a history of own here in Canada. But I still find it fascinating to spend time looking at others. I wonder about their lives and who they were. The life story of each person is held in that "dash" between the dates and everyone has one. When I was in grade 6 (many many years ago) one of our class trips was to our town's cemetery and we were given a list of things to find. I remember that day like yesterday. It was one of my favorite school trips.

  2. I really like the top picture! Nice sepia tones. Also, I'm glad I'm not the only person who likes to take photos in graveyards.

    The Germans tend their family grave plots meticulously--I see folks at the cemetery every day of the year, watering and planting fresh flowers and weeding. They even supply hand tools and watering cans!

  3. I also love walking through old cemeteries, trying to piece together the lives of those lying there. I took a graduate course on thanatology and we made many field trips to old cemeteries. They are so much more inviting than the sterile, uniform new "Memorial Parks."

  4. Those are beautiful photos. Lovely yet sad. I've been studying genealogy for many years and often visit cemeteries. Most aren't as nice as the one you photographed.

  5. This was a really interesting post Ruth. When I think of all the diseases that don't kill people now, many of us, including me would have been dead without treatment.

  6. A very interesting post for Halloween! You are a very clever lady.

    Great pictures of the statuary and neat that you are out there photography those pioneer stones. I always wonder about the lives of the people that lay beneath the stones ... how their life went ... was it a happy life ... did they follow and live their dream ... or was their life a disappointment. One can't help but wonder.

  7. Anonymous4:06 pm GMT-4

    I, too, am fascinated by cemeteries. For a year Dad & I lived beside the huge Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. To go there was our favorite walk. There is a large memorial garden there also to the casualties of the Titanic, especilly a large group of Salvation Army leaders.
    Here in Mexico with the day of the dead the customs are almost unmentionable with huge orgies in the cemeteries where the family of the deceased go to feast and drink and dance on the tombstones.Each school and store (including Walmart etc) have their candles lighted and their altars to the dead.
    Your explanations of symbols were so refreshing

  8. What is it about the Titanic that captivates us so much. It's almost become cliche, ... but visiting the cemetery where its victims are memorialized not doubt brings the tragedy home and to life. That must be a common tourist attraction judging from how well known the calamity is.

  9. Ruth--interesting that you would use cemetery "flowers" for your post--tomorrow being All Saints'Day. I posted today on the origins of some of our Hallowe'en practices.
    The causes of death sounds like an interesting project--dropsy, I think, is what they called what we would probably cause congestive heart failure--filling up with fluid.

  10. Fascinating stuff! There's something about cemeteries and gravestones that I am drawn to. Maybe it's the solemness or the reverence that seems to linger in those kinds of places.

  11. I love the post title Ruth... so appropriate. Old cemeteries are fascinating. I love the wording on so many of the headstones.

  12. Beautiful post!
    Great SWF post too!

  13. I'm attracted to old cemeteries as well.-When I see grave markers, I see history and wonder what the story is behind each persons life.

  14. Beautiful - I fond cemeteries to be restful - guess it's the beauty.

  15. Ruth,

    I too enjoy exploring old cemeteries. There are quite a few interesting ones in our area.

    Enjoyed seeing the beautiful tombstones. Thanks for sharing.

    It was a beautiful day to be out and about in our area today. Hope you enjoyed it.


  16. PS. Loved your autumn skies post and the creepy crawly one was great too.

  17. What a beautiful web site!

    Here is the url to the blog from the Sandusky Library if you would like to take a look. This entry
    features a Victorian statue at the

  18. A lovely set of pictures, Ruth. I like old cemetaries too, but often feel funny taking pics there.

  19. Thanks for all the comments. I am not the only one with an interest in the past.


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