Mourners and Guardians

Catherine Tracy clings to her only daughter Kate, who died in 1854 at the age of seventeen.

The neglected lichen-covered monument still vividly evokes a mother’s grief even 150 years later. I imagine Catherine coming to stand at the grave when the statue was new, then ten years later and twenty-five. The stone’s forever. I wonder how her feelings about it changed.

Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

Sculptures always get my camera clicking when I explore a graveyard. Some are just gorgeous. Others tug at my heart stings or get me thinking. There are the ones like Kate Tracy’s that are obviously there for the particular benefit of her grieving family.

But I also see many less specific, but no less touching guardians and traditional icons.

And then there are the in-your-face, ostentatious monuments. The only thing they say about the deceased is, I WAS RICH! I like those too.

Ordinary stones are great. Heck, I can get excited just reading the names and dates – Did they lose all of their kids in the flu epidemic? – She died in childbirth. He never remarried? – She may have been poor, but somebody sure loved her….

But sculptures can say as much as epitaphs. Maybe not what the mourners intended. Maybe much more. Take a look at nine-year-old Ryan Allen Scott Vanden Broeder’s guardian. This one astounds me. I know there’s a story here, but no amount of googling revealed it. What do you think?

12 thoughts on “Mourners and Guardians

  1. Have you seen the Woodman of the World stones – they look like logs – so odd to see carved logs in a natural setting. Love this – it’s like a sculpture garden. I also like to read and see what I can learn about those who the monuments honor.

    • I just googled Woodmen of the World. I’ve seen LOTS of monuments carved to look like tree trunks and logs. I had no idea they were linked to an organization. Is there one particular cemetery you were talking about that has a whole lot of them in one place?

      I’ll recommend a good book. John Gary Brown’s, Soul in the Stone. He’s a photographer/artist and tombstone lover. His book’s full of great pictures, history and stories about Mid Western US tombstones. (I have a signed copy.)

      • I’ll see if I can find a copy of that book. The cemetery where I first saw them was the Eureka Springs AR IOOG Cemetery. It’s a great one with stones dating back to just after the Civil War. I think there are a few there. It’s an active cemetery and they have a section called “Hippie Corner” where there are some interesting freeform monuments. I see those Woodsmen stones all over NW Arkansas and Southern MO. There’s a really neat small cemetery nearby – Pension Mountain – filled with the graves of Civil War Veterans from the North. Apparently there was a Confederate POW camp on the mountain. The Union prisoners were so taken with the beauty of the land and the people that after the war they pooled their pensions and bought the whole mountain. Their descendants still live there.

      • Very cool. I’ve been to Eureka Springs. I was lucky enough to be there near Halloween and took a night time tour through one of their great old cemeteries. There are a few pictures on one of my earlier blogs. I’m hooked on nighttime tours now. I’d love to volunteer to be a guide for one.

      • That’s the cemetery I was talking about. They do that on Halloween to fund the upkeep. Every year they focus on different residents of the silent city. I’ll look back through your blog to see your photos. Did you ever see the Native American style burial in the northwest corner?

  2. The monument of the rhino is for a little boy who died during football practice. His nickname was Rhino. His family leaves toys on the base and other children are welcome to take them.

    • Mary, thanks for letting us know about Rhino. My husband had guessed about the nickname, but we didn’t know his story. What a tragedy for his family. I’ll keep them in my thoughts.

  3. Hi. I’m Ryen “the Rhino”‘s Aunt. It was his nickname but he also embodied the true spirit of the Rhino. Large, herbivore (he loved green peppers), gentle but willing to be assertive to protect those around him. He had a lot of kids who called him “their best friend.”

    • That’s so sweet. It’s obvious from his memorial that Ryan was well loved. Even if people a hundred years from now, don’t know the whole story, they’ll understand that. Thanks for sharing your memories with me.

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