The grown up version

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I’ve got my theme

I knew it had to be a song.

I love singing. I grew up singing. And for a while now, I’ve wondered about the theme of my life. And of course, I knew it had to be a song.

So last night at church, we were singing an old hymn, and it hit me. When I was four years old, my papa taught me to sing, “The Old Rugged Cross” and an old Cathedrals song called “Hallelujah Square.” I distinctly remember being five years old and standing in front of a Ft. Jackson chapel singing to the soldiers who had gathered to hear my family and I sing. And I stood up by myself and sang while my mama played the piano, my Papa said, “Hallelujah. Bless her Jesus,” and my uncle played the guitar. It was the 1970s and my little sister and I wore matching long dresses with our long hair in barrettes.

Those two songs were never just songs to me. I understood that they spoke of the mystery of Heaven, and the promise that Jesus paid the price for our sins so we could live in Heaven someday. A place so wonderful that the lame walked, the blind could see and nobody ever cried again. A place so amazing that I need not fear death, because it could not touch me again in Heaven.

As I grew in my understanding, those songs meant more to me. But there’s just something about the practicality of living a life for Jesus that is picked up in “The Old Rugged Cross.”

  1. On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
    The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
    And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
    For a world of lost sinners was slain.

    • Refrain:
      So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
      Till my trophies at last I lay down;
      I will cling to the old rugged cross,
      And exchange it someday for a crown.
  2. Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
    Has a wondrous attraction for me;
    For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
    To bear it to dark Calvary.
  3. In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
    A wondrous beauty I see,
    For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
    To pardon and sanctify me.
  4. To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
    Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
    Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
    Where His glory forever I’ll share.
  • written in 1913 by George Bennard, public domain

I understand this song. I live this song. I’m grateful for everything that this song talks about. It’s my theme.

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Eventually, even graveyards die

My friends say I can sniff out an old graveyard. Whether a graveyard is hidden behind a storefront, on a dirt road or hidden in a grove of trees in the middle of town – it seems like I can happen upon it. To me, an old graveyard is like buried treasure. It tells a story of a time when someone lived there and was important to somebody.

This is what I’ve noticed. Even graveyards die eventually. The stones fall over (or they’re vandalized). Nature creeps in to reclaim the place where someone’s loved one was laid to rest. Here are some photos to prove my point:

A tree has just begun to creep over this stone at Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, Walterboro, SC.

A tree has just begun to creep over this stone at Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery, Walterboro, SC.

A stone has already been claimed and framed by this tree at Prince George Winyah, Georgetown, SC.

3 A stone has already been claimed and framed by this tree at Prince George Winyah, Georgetown, SC.

It seems kind of fitting, doesn’t it? If you view death as a time of rest, then what better peace are you resting in when nature has hidden your very existence? It also means that after you’re dead, and you’re loved ones are dead; then there’s no one left to mourn you except people like me, who happen to be able to find hidden cemeteries.


Iconography

Much has been written about headstone iconography. All the symbolism present in cemeteries would take many books to catalog. Yet it’s one of the first things I look for when I visit. Let’s explore some of the iconographic images I’ve seen.

I love this angel. It is handcarved into this stone.

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When you see a lamb, it’s usually a small child’s grave. The lamb is a Christian symbol for a child.

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The wreath is symbolic of victory over death. It comes from the fascination with Greek (as evidenced in the architecture of the stone). The Greeks awarded a laurel wreath to the winner of the race. 2 Timothy 4 in the Bible compares Christian death with the winning of race. Hence the symbolic comparison.

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This stone contains a sword, captain’s sash and wreath tied with ribbon and adorned with leaves. This symbols represents a military veteran (sash and sword) and a Christian (wreath and leaves). Captains in the Confederate Army during the War of Northern Aggression wore sashes.

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A cross (Christian symbol of salvation), a wreath and lilies all symbolize the victory over death for Christian believers. Lilies can also symbolize innocence and purity.

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Two cherubs lean against a Greek styled altar with a large urn. An urn is always symbolic of the soul. ECJ in this case are the deceased initials. At other times, you may see the initials for organizations such as Knights of Columbus.

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The weeping willow is symbolic of mourning in death. Notice that in this icon, there are two other graves underneath the tree. This could be symbolic of two loved ones previously passed, but I don’t know for sure. This would be a great example of a personal icon that meant something to the person who designed the stone and to the deceased.

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This is a second example of a weeping willow, symbolizing mourning. However, this willow is in a Grecian urn. The urn symbolizes the soul. These Greek symbols are typical in graves from the 1700s and 1800s, which was marked by a fascination with Greek and Roman architecture and symbolism.

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This cross embedded in a stone, the base of which is surrounded by three beautiful cherubs, is one of my favorites. This grave is for the small children of a couple. The cherubs are alternately praying, lounging lazily or picking flowers around the base of the cross. The base of the stone reads “These lovely flowers so young so fair called hence by early doom; Just came to earth to show how sweet flowers in heaven could bloom.” The flower theme continues just under the feet of the cherubs where writing “blooms” from a large petaled flower. A vine with flowers winds around the cross.

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A pall partially covers an urn on top of an obelisk monument. The obelisk represented a person of great importance, such as family patriarch. It also symbolizes eternal life and regeneration. The urn with mourning crepe symbolizes mourning. In the Old South, when a person died, mourning crepe was spread everywhere – mirrors and clocks were covered, for instance.

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The broken column symbolizes a life cut short, as in a person who died young.

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Another example of an obelisk covered with mourning crepe – all symbolizing eternal life in the midst of earthly death and mourning.

Elmwood Cemetery (9)

Before you say, “Another urn covered with mourning crepe,” let me draw your attention to the upside down torches on the four corners of this stone. The torch upright would symbol eternal life, but the torch inverted symbolizes a life cut short or the end of a family line.

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This is a great example modern iconography. This stone marks the grave of the pastor of a church. An actual picture of the church is engraved on the stone (an obelisk). Also note the symbol for firefighters on the stone. This symbolizes the pastor’s other chosen vocation.

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In yet another example of modern iconography, open gates in the center of the stone lead into Heaven. Praying hands symbolize Christian beliefs. The flowers on the female side of the stone, symbolize femininity, while the tractor on the male side symbolizes the male’s life work.

McClenanville Cemetery

These stones always fascinate me. I hesitate to call them iconography – it seems like sculpture would be better suited, but this is a symbol. Obviously, it symbolizes the grave of a small child. The child appears to simply be asleep, which symbolizes the words of Jesus in Matthew 9 and John 11, when Jesus refers to a young dead girl and to the dead Lazarus as sleepers.

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The two hands clasped in friendship symbolize the hand of God in the hand of the deceased. This is meant to symbolize that the person was a Christian who went to heaven at death.

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This hand, with the pointer finger extended upward, is symbolic of a person going to Heaven. There are clasped hands at the bottom of the stone.

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Mourning crepe carved over the top of the stone. This looks so detailed, and always amazes me.

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This grave of a Confederate General is covered by an epaulette. This is symbolic of his station and rank in the military.

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The broken column and wreath here are symbolic of a life cut short, but someone who had a reputation as a Christian.

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One of my favorites is this stone in the background, carved as a butterfly. In recent years, butterflies have come to represent eternal life and regeneration.

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This stone shocked me at first glance. Here, the pointer finger is extended down and is holding a broken chain. After some digging, I learned that the chain symbolizes a life taken young. The finger of God is pointing down to Earth (not to Hell) to chose the person to come to Heaven.

 


Reinventing my blog

Just an announcement that I am re-inventing my blog to include my genealogical research and my research on graveyards, mortuary science, and death in general. I’m not morbid, gothic or anything, I’m just fascinated by this topic. My belief system is such that death is not something to be feared. But I won’t be talking about death and the afterlife – I’ll be limiting myself to what happens to our bodies when we die? What does what I see in the local graveyard say about the people who are buried there?


Can I “friend” my Kindle?

     Facebook – I have a new idea for you. Allow users to send Friend requests to their Kindle, Nook, etc. I bet Amazon and Barnes & Noble would love that.

     Only problem is, I believe if I ever stalked someone on Facebook, it would be my Kindle.

     My Kindle can store all the books I want to read in one handy little place. It will save my place for me. It will save multiple spots in multiple books. It will let me skip ahead.

     My Kindle doesn’t judge my reading choices, as varied as they are. It understands my interests vary from Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction to Management to Higher Education. I don’t have to hide that I’m shopping for another dieting book. I don’t have to worry that somebody will see me in the Parenting section of the bookstore. It doesn’t judge my motives for reading “How To Kill Your Husband” by Kathy Lette.

     My Kindle will read to me. It has its own built-in light. The battery lasts a month. Its tiny enough to fit in my purse. 

     Right now, some of the selections on my Kindle are:

  • On Picket Duty, and Other Tales by Louisa May Alcott
  • Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore P. Stewart
  • So, You Want to Start a Business?: 8 Steps to Take Before Making the Leap by Edward Hess
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Fanny Goes to War by Pat Washington
  • Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century by Henry Jenkins
  • The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age by Cathy Davidson

     Yes, there is a dieting book on my Kindle. But that’s a secret between me and my “friend.”