Friday, May 19, 2006

Cemetery Symbolism--Shorn Wheat


Victorian cemetery art incorporated elaborate symbolism to convey the hopes and sorrows of those left behind.

Shorn Wheat: symbolizing the harvest of a long and fruitful life. Usually found on the stones of the old.

Inscription:
JOHN CRAGER
Died
Nov. 17, 1877
Age 94 years, 11 mo.

~~~

Seasons of labors
Warmed in the sun.
Life's greatest achievement?
To be mourned when you're gone.


(St. Peter's United Church of Christ, West Pikeland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania)

25 comments:

Claire said...

Then they used art to appease the fears of those left behind. Now we use size and stone to exemplify the wealth of those left behind.

I think I like the old days better.

Jay said...

94 years.
Imagine that.

Terri said...

"Life's greatest achievement? To be mourned when you're gone."

I'm not certain but I don't think I like that.

Meanwhile, I finally got to read part 3 of Flashlight Tag and where is part 4???!

Flood said...

Hi! I read this! :p

(I am not entirely sure about the mourned when you're gone business, either. Perpetual devestation of those you leave behind would be great for the ego, though.)

Scott said...

Then let me say that I really like the poem. There is a positive connotation to being mourned when you consider its complete opposite.

Bhaswati said...

Nice symbolism. Thanks for sharing this. I am not a poet and can't analyse a lot, but I like the sentiment the cemetery inspired in you.

The sense of emptiness we feel at the losss of our loved ones does reflect everything they encompassed during their lifetime. So I agree with the spirit of the verse.

anne frasier said...

wow. 94. if i remember correctly you posted an earlier stone that documented that kind of age. it always surprises me because that wasn't the norm back then.

Bhaswati said...

Sorry for the typo in my previous comment.

Rene said...

I like the concept of using wheat to symbolize the fruitfulness of a man's life.

I'm hiring mourners when I die. I want serious lamentations when I go.

beadinggalinMS said...

wow 94! The wheat symbolism to me is so beautiful. The top says father, I wonder was he a grandfather also?

Bernita said...

Fitting poem, Jason. Nice.

jason evans said...

Quick reply to "mourned when you're gone."

I intended "mourned" in the same sense as missed, that the world is a lesser place without you. Too many people strive for what they think is power and success, while the people around them look forward to rejoicing when they're gone.

jason evans said...

Claire, I agree. Many of the messages people chose to preserve are very touching.

Miss Jay, an achievement even today!

Terri, I'm contrasting this with a world which is indifferent or relieved at a person's demise. Glad you liked Part 3. :) Part 4 will be up Sunday night.

Flood, a very fair point. I didn't mean to devastate loved ones. I would hope to conduct myself in a way in which the world is better place with me in it. I would hope I'm contributing to the overall good, and not adding to the bad.

Scott, yes, that was my intent.

jason evans said...

Bhaswati, "The sense of emptiness we feel at the loss of our loved ones does reflect everything they encompassed during their lifetime." Are you sure you're not a poet? Beautifully (and more clearly) stated.

Anne, I hope I inherited some of the those genes. :) Probably didn't though. :(

Bhaswati, under my commenting technique, typos are mandatory! :D

Rene, I also like the fact that folks respected the metaphor. I can't say that I've seen shorn wheat on a child's stone.

BeadinggalinMS, good point. You generally don't see "grandfather" or "grandmother." I guess more weight is placed on the role of father/mother.

Bernita, thanks. =)

Flood said...

Yes, not being missed or mourned would be a blow to the ego. (Are there egos in the afterlife? I hope mine gets a thicker skin.)
I didn't understand that the poem was yours. In my faulty speed-reading, I assumed it was something I couldn't see on the headstone.

Kelly Parra said...

I really like the wheat carved into this stone. Makes it a really interesting design. =D

Jeff said...

Great photo, Jason. I love the symbolism with the wheat. :)

mr. schprock said...

Nothing beats the guy who had his headstone flanked by two expired parking meters. Or the one that read: "I told you I was sick!"

jason evans said...

Flood, the wheat harvest motif got me thinking. What would the best harvest be? Not personal achievement, but to leave the world better than you found it.

Kelly, I've seen several examples of wheat, and this one is especially nice in its artistry.

Jeff, it must've been especially meaningful in a farming community, like this one.

Mr. Schprock, I love the "I told you I was sick!" Humor from beyond the grave wouldn't be a bad message either. It speaks much about the person.

jackt said...

The father of a high school friend passed away last year. He had hundreds of people at his funeral. They flew in from all around the world. That was when it struck me that if you lead a good and full life, you wind up touching a lot of people and leave the world a little better place when your time is up.

September said...

I have always been fascinated by old graveyards. Great photo!

jason evans said...

Jackt, sounds like your friend's father did well with his time here.

September, then you've come to the right place! :)

Wendy Boucher said...

Just ran across your site from Jess Riley's. I see you are an attorney who writes. I'm a writer who was an attorney. With so much in common, I'll definitely be back to check your blog. Right now it's cookout time in the Boucher back yard.

Cheers.

Claire said...

Jason, If you think about it, that makes sense. The emphasis would be placed on the Father/Mother role because in that era, many didn't survive to become a grandparent. life was short, hard, and took its toll on the body quite quickly, so even if you did survive to that age (which was much younger than we see grandparenting in our society) you spent less of your life at the task, and made more of an impact as someone's mother or father.

After all, the only "older" people you read of in the history books are the elderly minister or the kindly spinster. Neither had the toil of making a living, nor the toil of raising children, so they had a better chance of surviving a longer time.

jason evans said...

Claire, that's an interesting point. I'm sure the grueling labors back then, in addition to the free reign of disease, wore down whole segments of society.