“Pip, the narrator and central character of Charles Dickens’ classic Victorian novel Great Expectations, informs us early in the story that, as he never knew his parents or saw any pictures of them, he drew his first impressions of what they must have looked like from the shapes of the lettering on their gravestones.
Certainly, as the author intended, this tells us a great deal about Pip’s fanciful imagination, but quite incidentally it also reveals a fundamental truth about the nature of grave markers.
In a very real sense, memorials erected to the dead are the material representatives of those now departed, and we, like Pip, often draw our impressions of what these persons must have been like from the things we find upon them.”
(Douglas Keister, Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography [Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith Publishing, 2004], preface).
Tombstones, cemeteries, graveyards – they all hint at what might be on the other side of this veil of mortality.
We find burial sites to be peaceful reminders of what none of us can avoid and at the same time markers of celebration for those who went before us.
Do you know the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard?
Traditionally, any burial place associated with a church was called a graveyard. A family burial place or a public burial place such as is maintained by a town or a private company was called a cemetery.
Tips on the care and feeding of tombstones
Do not use the following on tombstones:
- Wire brush
- High water pressure
- Sand blasting
- Chemical cleaners
- Paint remover
- Shaving cream
- Portland cement
The residue left by liquid agents, except for water, may cause further deterioration in the tombstone and may cause permanent discoloration if tombstone is later cleaned with another agent.
Misting or spraying water gently on tombstones is acceptable. Wetting lichen thoroughly with water and then scraping gently with a wooden tongue depressor is an effective and safe way to remove it.
Do not use the following items around tombstones:
- Electric weed trimmers
Use only stainless steel rods to repair a broken tombstone.
Damage to tombstones is caused by:
- Atmospheric pollution (black crust) which affects limestone and marble
- Acid rain which affects especially granite and quartz
- Any of the items listed in the above “do not use” lists