Angels and Tombs
Monday, October 5, 2009 12:57:20 AM
One of many, such as this Egyptian-themed temple standing adjacent.
I felt a call to revisit this cemetery this weekend. On Tuesday, a friend, Rose, died after a long battle with ovarian cancer. As was her nature, she downplayed her death almost to vanishing point. Perhaps I needed a more demonstrative expression, and these Victorian era tombs are as demonstrative as it gets, short of a real Egyptian pyramid.
Some, such as this gloomy statue sitting over the Francis family plot, seem to revel in the imagery of death.
But such a morose figure is a rarity. Most statues are of angels, sad angels perhaps, but at least a sense of the transcendent about them.
All the tombs are mournful, but those for children seem particularly poignant. Even an extraordinarily ornate tomb such as this one, an aged grave with its writing corroded to illegibility by the industrial St. Louis air. Far too fussy for this more restrained age, with many content simply to leave their ashes and plain marker stone in the ground, it is nonetheless powerful and moving despite hewing to the mawkish.
On top, a small statue of child, in a pose of supplication, has been eroded and discolored and is covered with a coating of mold. Even this stone representation seems to be returning to the elements that made it, centuries after the death that inspired it.
These ornate statues, tombs and mausoleums are not the rule at Bellefontaine. Obviously, only the wealthiest and most important families could afford them. Now they attract attention as historical, artistic and architectural relics. In most cases, the men, women and children they mourn are forgotten by all except a few. In this respect, they are really no different from the humble flat stone markers in the grass.
I spent about an hour at the cemetery. I didn't consciously think about Rose at all, but somehow, when driving home, I felt easier about her passing.