Ladies Who Mourn – Bellefontaine Catholic Cemetery

Bellefontaine Cemetery, Florissant, Missouri

Bellefontaine Cemetery, Florissant, Missouri

Angels watch over the dead all over the world.

You’ve seen the statues… wings, solemn indifferent faces, flowing gowns. They’re beautiful, for sure, but I love finding human figures like these in Bellefontaine Cemetery in Florissant.

Maysie Walker Pittman, Bellefontaine Cemetery

Maysie Walker Pittman, Bellefontaine Cemetery

Maysie stands calmly beside her own grave. She’s at ground level, life sized. You feel like you could walk up and put your arm around her shoulder. No towering plinth keepering her out of reach.

Gorgeous detail here.

Gorgeous detail here.

The woman who mourns the Hobbs family, Bellefontaine Cemetery.

The woman who mourns the Hobbs family, Bellefontaine Cemetery.

The poses and gowns are similar, but here the wife mourns her fallen husband. This widow made sure her husband was never left alone.

This lady has a beautiful ethnic look about her

Another lady companion.

Companions like these aren’t as common as angels, so I love finding them. One of my absolute favorites sits in a little cemetery in Kansas, called Antioch Pioneer. Check it out.

Where’s your favorite?

 

Weeping Angel – Rome, Italy

Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

The Angel of Grief – my favorite tombstone of all time.

This gorgeous sculpture by William Wetmore Story, weeps atop his wife Emelyn’s grave in Rome, Italy.  William was the hottest American sculptor there from 1819 -1895. When Emelyn died, he poured his grief into this beautiful piece.  It’s been copied all over the world, but none of the flatterers are as elegantly poignant as the original.


The Protestant Cemetery…

…or non-catholic cemetery, as the Italian name translates literally, is one of my favorites. I mean, you have to go to Rome to see it, so duh. A lot of famous people rest there, but it’s the not so famous and totally unknown, the quirky, the tragic the pathetic, the stunningly narcissistic, (see 30-meter-tall Pyramid of Cestius), that blend to give it its distinctive ambiance. Part English church garden, part first-century Roman ruin, this cemetery’s on the top of my MUST GO BACK TO list.

I always love Let’s Go Guides for European travel info. Unlike Frommer’s and MichelinLet’s Go caters to students and travelers with small budgets. It’ll point you to the best eateries and coffee bars around the cemetery, the ones the locals hang out in.

Graveyard Benches

William Jewell Cemetery, Liberty, Missouri

William Jewell Cemetery, Liberty, Missouri

Do you ever accept the invitation to rest and ponder?

Walnut Glen, Booneville, Missouri

Walnut Glen, Booneville, Missouri

 I think you can tell when the loved-ones were serious. Many state the implicit invitation in writing.

“We really mean it! Have a seat.”

Dungeness, Washington

Dungeness, Washington

With others, it’s the careful landscaping or spectacular view that makes me feel welcome.

Hazelwood Cemetery, Springfield, Missouri

Unless the bench is old and frail, or occupied,  I take a seat.

Walnut Glen, Booneville, Missouri

Walnut Glen, Booneville, Missouri

In Missouri, that's all I remember.

In Missouri, that’s all I remember.

 

       

Be respectful. Use common sense and good judgement, but try it sometime. You’ll feel a very visceral connection. More than simply reading the words on a stone or even enjoying the beauty of a sculpture. This is personal.

Lee's Summit, Missouri

Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Let me know what your experience was like.

Remembrances

Happy Homestead, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

I felt reluctant to blog about my love of graveyards this week in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut. But it’s not death that I blog about. It’s not death that I see in cemeteries. Not really. It’s peace and healing.

Genoa, Nevada

I see every grave marker as a step on a journey for both the living and the dead.

Dungeness, Washington. I love that she comes here to journal.

Grave decorations represent an outpouring of grief. There’s often such a raw sense of intimacy around the newest ones that I feel like an intruder just looking at them. And yet, they’re also a kind of invitation, grieve with me, support me.

Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri

 And they’re always beautiful, full of color and life, often even a sense of humor. I’ve never found anything ugly or angry left at a grave. Doesn’t that show a spirit moving out of darkness into light?

Moore Cemetery, near Liberty, Missouri

I believe that the children who died in Connecticut on Friday are already at peace.

Muddy Forks Cemetery, Kearney, Missouri

Though our hearts are breaking and it may take a very long time, the funerals that start today are their families’ first steps to finding peace too. My thoughts are with them.

Saint Genevieve, Missouri

I visited this 150-year-old cemetery over a decade ago and got a harsh reality check recently when I went back.

Granted, it was 104° F, a far cry from the balmy spring weather of my first visit. But, that didn’t explain the lack of shadowy, Victorian pathos that I expected.  

I had kind of a Planet of the Apes moment – you know the Statue of Liberty scene? I KNEW I was in the wrong place until I found two graves.

A simple epitaph: John B. Valle, May 3, 1827, August 22, 1869.

Here’s some insight into my taphophelia. Over the decade, I’d elaboratly decorated my memories to make a more appropriate set for the tragic romance I’d invented for John Valle and his consort, Mary St. Gemme.

In Memorium of Mary M. St. Gemme consort of John B. Valle, born February 9 1832, died March 6, 1853, 21 years, 6 days.

The cemetery I “remembered” was crowded with statues and tipped stones all carved in French. Moss hung from the branches of ancient trees and brushed my shoulders as I wandered narrow, winding paths among the graves.

No kidding. That’s exactly what I expected.

Monument to Mary St. Gemme with the simple grave of John Valle at her feet.

Instead of  telling you the story these two graves inspired in my obviously overactive imagination, just look at the pictures and the dates yourself. If you come up with a tale too, then you and I are kindred spirits…or similarly obsessed at least.  Let me know.