Veil of Death

The veil of death is represented in several forms such as a pall, shroud, or drapery. In the 20th century, when a person died the body was laid out in the parlour. It was also the custom to cover everything in black including mirrors, paintings, etc. A PALL was the cloth which was carried over the coffin.

A SHROUD conceals the partition between life and death, and is symbolic of mortality, sorrow and mourning. It is most commonly seen draped over an urn.

The gravestone below also contains inverted torches which symbolize death and a life extinguished. The flame indicates life continuing after death. shroud-urn-torch-campbellville-_jane

This gravestone contains circles supporting the shroud. They represent eternal life and never-ending existence. shroud-cirlce-milton-evergren

The trefoils supporting the shroud represent the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.shroud-trefoil-uslinch_crown

We miss thee in the circle around the fireside
We miss thee in devotion at peaceful eventide
The memory of thy nature so full of truth and love
Shall lead our thoughts to seek thee amongst the blest above

A cross draped with the shroud of Christ is symbolic of Christ’s descent from the cross and the removal of his body for burial.

DRAPERY is similar to a shroud with the addition of frills and tassels and denotes mourning.

The draped urn represents the soul. 

The Gothic cross symbolizes the grave of an adult Christian.

The circle on the gravestone below represents eternal life. drapery-circle-georgetown_greenwood

Two draped columns denote a family plot where each panel records details of a family member’s life. Draped columns are a funerary sign of burial.

DISCARDED CLOTHING represents the fact that the dead have left behind the burdens of life.
Several rosebuds on the same branch denotes secrecy. However, in this case it is most likely representative of the strong bond between two people.

Persecuted for Wearing the Beard

Joseph Palmer, a veteran of the War of 1812 and farmer from NoTown, Fitchburg, Massachusetts died in 1873. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, North Leominster, Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA. His gravestone bears a portrait of him sporting a large beard with the legend, Persecuted for Wearing the Beard.


Seems outrageous but when beards went out of fashion in the early 18th century, men who continued to wear a beard were considered lunatics and eccentrics with poor hygiene. He was nicknamed the Old Jew by the village denizens and accused of looking like the devil; to which he replied that Jesus wore a beard.

In 1830, four men armed with razors and scissors attacked Palmer in an attempt to shave him. His successful attempt to fight them off using a jackknife brought him to court where he was charged with unprovoked assault. When he refused to pay the fine he was jailed for a year.

Even in prison the relentless attempts to make him lose his beard continued. Palmer spoke out about prison conditions and his treatment, and fought for his right to free speech proclaiming his innocence. The county authorities and the judge eventually offered to repeal his sentence, but Palmer was steadfast until his mother pleaded with him to come home.


As with all trends, beards were once again fashionable by 1873, the year of his death. He died at age 84.


Mourning Cards

The average lifespan in the 19th century was approximately 50 years. Death followed disease, hunger, accidents and war. Child mortality rates were especially high. The death of Queen Victoria’s husband, whom she mourned from 1861 until her death in 1901, ushered in a strict formality in mourning etiquette.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Notification of the death of a relative or friend was made by 4½” x 3” funeral cards. Introduction was made with the phrase In Affectionate Remembrance or Sacred to the Memory of followed by the name of the deceased, the dates of birth and death, accompanied by a poem or biblical verse. Although the wording was simple, the artwork was formed with elaborate embossing which was rife with symbolism. The examples of mourning cards in this post contain the following symbols.

  • Angel holding a wreath represents the memory of a loved one
  • Bible is a symbol of resurrection through the scripture
  • Patonce cross( refers to any cross which has expanded ends) represents faith, wisdom and charity
  • Cross and Crown symbols together represent the reward of eternal life after death for those who believe in the crucified Savior
  • Doves: The white dove is symbolic of purity and spirituality
  • Drapes represent the partition between life and death
  • Lamp represents the flame of life, eventually extinguished by death
  • Laurels or laurel wreaths identify victory over death as in the resurrection
  • Obelisks represent the flight of the soul to Heaven
  • Palm branches are a symbol of eternal peace
  • Shroud protects the body as the soul ascends to Heaven
  • Inverted Torch represents life continuing after death
  • Weeping willows are symbolic of sorrow, grief and mourning
  • Winged Cherub is a symbol of the deceased soul in flight.

In life beloved, in death lamented

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To us for eleven months
Her pleasant smile was given
And then she bade farewell to earth
And went to live in Heaven.
1882 lament on a gravestone

People feared a lack of mourning more than they feared death itself. Portraits were taken with loved ones dressed in mourning often holding a photo of the deceased.


Greek Cross

A cross with four arms of equal length (crux quadrata) is known as a Greek cross. It is symbolic of the Church itself rather than Christ’s crucifixion. In non-traditional religions it represents the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.





Although a Greek cross does not represent the crucifixion, when five Greek crosses are displayed together, they symbolize the five wounds inflicted on Christ: nails in the hands and feet and a spear in his side. This cross was popular in the Crusader era.



A circle superimposed on a Greek cross is representative of the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head during the crucifixion.



Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was the co-founder, chairman and former Chief Executive Officer of Apple, Inc. He died in October 2011 at his California home due to complications of pancreatic cancer. Following his death the store windows of the old Apple Store in Palo Alto were covered in sticky note tributes for several weeks.


Originally having a preference for cremation, two days before his death he decided that he wanted to be buried in the cemetery near his adopted parents at Alta Mesa. As there is no requirement to erect a gravestone or marker, he was buried in an unmarked grave in Alta Mesa Cemetery on the edge of Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

As hundreds of fans visit the cemetery searching for his grave, a guest book was established in the cemetery office. The first page of the book states, “We appreciate your kind thoughts and wishes for Mr. Jobs, but with consideration for the privacy requested by his family, we do not divulge his burial location here at Alta Mesa.”


“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night, saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

There are several images on the internet of Steve Jobs’ gravestone. These images are the result of creative imagination and contests to create celebrity headstones.

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St. Mark’s Anglican Churchyard

In the centre of this picturesque and popular tourist town in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada, is St. Mark Anglican church founded in 1792. During The War of 1812, the church was used as a hospital by the British and as a barracks by the Americans. The Americans occupied the town in 1813, destroying Fort George and digging rifle pits in the cemetery surrounding St. Mark’s. The rifle pits can still be seen today.

The church is surrounded on three sides by a graveyard containing some very old stones. Not much character to the cemetery itself but many stones of interest.


This grave never to be disturbed


The blessed communion fellowship divine
We feebly struggle
They in glory shine
Yet all are in thee
For all are thine
Alleluia.  1866


In the silent tomb we leave them
Till the resurrection morn
When our Saviour will receive them
And restore their lovely form
Requiescant in Pace.  1855


Friends nor physicians could not save
This mortal body from the grave
Nor can the grave confine him here
And Christ shall bid them to appear.  1865


A stranger to hypocrisy
And ready to reveal his mind
A warmer heart, more open hand
Or noble spirit, few will find.


The pains of death are passed
Labour and sorrow cease
And life’s long warfare closed at last
His soul is found in peace. 1885


The trial is ended, thy rest is won.

Jesus in the Cemetery

The representation of Jesus, acknowledged by Christians as the Son of God, is commonly seen within cemeteries in the form of free standing statues or symbols on gravestones. The symbol of a crucified Jesus brings focus to our sins and his desire to save us; whereas the images of a resurrected Jesus with outstretched arms beckons and welcomes us to share in eternal life.


The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from sin.

Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

An heir of God through Christ.

Granada, Spain

With Christ which is far better.

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Acton, ON, Canada

Christ our life.

Granada, Spain

Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring him.


Sweet bitter sleep our Father takes
Till in Christ Jesus he awakes
Then will his happy soul rejoice
To hear his blessed Saviour’s voice.  1882

St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Acton, ON, Canada

Friends and physicians could not save
My mortal body from the grave
Nor can the grave retain it here
When Christ my saviour shall appear.

Evergreen Cemetery, Milton, ON, Canada

Jesus the very thought of thee.

My hope is in Christ.

Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, France

Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep
From which none ever wake to weep.

Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh. 1888

Asleep in Jesus.

Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA, USA