Category Archives: Canada

Shells

Actual shell fragments left on gravestones in pioneer cemeteries represent the journey through death and rebirth. Shells that are not part of the gravestone were left there to signify that the deceased had not been forgotten.

In localities near the sea, entire graves were covered with shells because this product was cheap and readily available.

Although not a common symbol the shell most often used is a scallop shell which represents the baptism of Christ. Many baptismal fonts are often built in the form of a scallop shell.

It is also a traditional symbol of the Crusades.

This large scallop shell was designed by the deceased, Ransom Cook, some years before his death.

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The art form of a child cradled in a scallop shell was popular in North America during the 19th century. Sears, Roebuck and Company had a contract with a Vermont marble producer to sell the shell headstone by mail order.

The conch shell was revered by many cultures as a symbol of reincarnation and wisdom. In Buddhism, the shell’s call can awaken one from ignorance, in Chinese Buddhism it signifies a prosperous journey; and in Islam the shell represents hearing the divine word. People in the Bakongo area of Africa believe that the shell encloses the soul (Pagans also held this same belief regarding the shell as a source of life.)

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He Is My Rock

This unusual grave marker in the form of a rock symbolizes Christ (“He is my rock…” Psalm 92:15).

The two symbols carved into the rock signify that the deceased was a member of two fraternities.

  • The Masonic compass and set square are a symbol used to represent the Order of Freemasons who view God as the architect and builder of the universe hence the use of these tools.
  • The three linked rings which signify the chains that bind the Fraternity are synonymous with the International Order of Oddfellows Fraternity (IOOF).

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The rock rests upon a stone base. A slate marker is engraved with two lines which share the same sentiments related in a poem by Robert Richardson.

Sleep Light Dear Heart
Sleep Light
Good Night
Good Night

The poem entitled Annette was published in 1893. The last lines of the poem by Robert Richardson reads

Warm summer sun, shine friendly here 
Warm western wind, blow kindly here; 
Green sod above, rest light, rest light, 
Good-night, Annette! 
Sweetheart, good-night!

Mark Twain also echoed these sentiments when he paraphrased the poem on the grave of his daughter, Olivia Susan Clemens.
Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light –
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.

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Davella Mills Memorial Carillonic Bells and Chime Tower

The David Mills Carillon Tower is located within the gates of the Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Queenston Street, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. It was created by architect Thomas W. Wiley and erected in 1949 in memory of David Bloss Mills and his wife Ella C. Mills.

The 30 foot tall ashlar stone tower contains a set of 86 electronic bells activated by hammers which are controlled by a keyboard. Narrow stained glass windows resembling vertical slits light the internal stairway.

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Known as the Davella Mills Carillon it was recorded on the Register of Canada’s Historic Places in 2009.

Mills was a native of St. Catharines who immigrated to the United States and invented the spark plug used by Buick. After his wife died he donated most of his immense wealth to needy organizations in North America and around the world.

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I have been unable to discover how often the carillon plays. However, I believe it may be hourly on the hour as the bells played at 11a.m. while I was there and did not play again (I left at 11:50a.m.)

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.

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This grave never to be disturbed

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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.

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

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Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

An heir of God through Christ.

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Granada, Spain

With Christ which is far better.

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

Christ our life.

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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

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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.

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Evergreen Cemetery, Milton, ON, Canada

Jesus the very thought of thee.

My hope is in Christ.

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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.

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Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA, USA

CWGC Graves

Following the two World Wars, discussion and agreement by Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom (member countries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) on the burial of the dead created a standardized format encompassing burial sites, layout and size of the gravestones, and the legend on headstones.

Commonwealth countries built burial sites close to combat zones to preserve the link with the battlefield, whereas the United States and France created huge regional cemeteries intended to make a significant impression on people’s minds.

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National Cemetery, Los Angeles, USA

The graves were arranged in straight rows and designed to be perpetual and permanent. The material used in the headstones varied due to the requirement of a weather resistant substance or occurrence of earthquakes.

The standard used ensured that every grave was marked with a headstone, originally 76 centimetres (30”) tall, 38 cm (15”) wide, and 7.6cm (3.0”) thick,  with upper case lettering designed by MacDonald Gill.

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Graves in Germany. Image Source: thebignote.com

Each stone contained the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty. In the case of burials of Victoria Cross or George Cross recipients, the regimental badge was supplemented by the Victoria Cross or George Cross emblem.

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Image Source: thebignote.com

An appropriate religious symbol was included; most often a cross denoting Christianity, and sometimes a personal dedication chosen by relatives.

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Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. J. F. Kennedy

Far away in a distant land,
Suddenly struck by death’s strong hand
A loving son, strong and brave,
Lies buried in a soldier’s grave.

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Image Source: thebignote.com

No one knows the silent heartache,
Only those can tell
Who have lost their loved ones
Without saying one farewell.
We pictured him safely returning,
We longed to clasp his hand,
But God has postponed the meeting,
Till we meet in a better land.

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Image Source: thebignote.com

No one knows the silent heartache, 
only those that have lost can tell
Of the grief that’s borne in silence
For the one we loved so well. 

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Image Source: the bignote.com

And when he gets to Heaven,
To Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir.
I’ve served my time in Hell.’ Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

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Do not ask us if we miss him,
There is such a vacant place;
Can we e’er forget that footstep,
And that dear familiar face.

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Image Source: thebignote.com

No loved one stood beside him to bid a last farewell,
No word of comfort could he leave to those he loved so well.
We little thought his time so short in this world to remain,
Nor that from when his home he went he would never return again.

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He marched away so bravely, His young head proudly held;
His footsteps never faltered, His courage never failed,
There on the field of battle, He calmly took his place,
He fought for King and Country, And the honour of his race.

…And decades later, the men and women who served are still remembered and accorded the same burial.

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