As a parent, it is rare to walk through a cemetery, find a child’s grave and not be moved.
If you put aside the possibility of financial hardship (meaning the family is unable to purchase a crafted stone) and the probable sub-standard qualities of stone during the U.S. Civil War, how grieving families memorialized their precious little ones has not changed very much over the years.
In the mid to late 1800s, you would find draped (broken) columns, mostly in the eastern coast states and Great Lakes area; while from the mid-west to the West, foot-stones (half the size of a regular upright stone) with a perched dove, a lowing lamb, an small empty chair, ,a pair of empty shoes, a weeping angel or a sleeping cherub.
But, these carved monuments have changed drastically as early as the 1900s; and it is the visual symbolism that has proven to be the strongest and most popular venue, and the examples are endless! (I list but a few):
- from a child reaching for the sky as he climbs out of his wheelchair,
- to teddy bears holding hearts — or sleeping upon a smiling, crescent moon
- to baby blocks, favourite toys and Disney characters
- to a small basin that when filled with water, allows a small, surviving brother to play again with with the sibling he lost
- to a simple marker surrounded by the relics of the child’s crib
Because I lost 2 sisters in a house fire and a brother in a car accident when they were young children, there is a small section in the cemetery in my hometown that is quite emotional to visit. While their stones are quite simple, there are the small items left by mourners. As the years have passed, the little mementos have dwindled off. If someone walks by a child’s stone and wonders about them, it’s a remembrance. Even if the living that held and cherished the child is long gone, their presence on this earth is still noted. It’s a comforting thought.
Always a sadness. Too close to our deepest fears I suppose.