Monday, November 26, 2012

Bronswood Cemetery

I belong to a special category of nerd that has an affinity for cemeteries and gravestone art. No, the word you're looking for isn't "goth." Don't let my predilections fool you, I'm far too much of a Poindexter to belong to that subculture. In my case the correct term would be a "taphophile."

The appeal of a cemetery to a taphophile has nothing to do with image, being morbid, or the idea of a burial ground as Spooksville USA. I don't visit them to lie around on top of graves in tragic poses or commune with the spirits of the departed. As fascinating as I do find ghost stories, I mostly go for the same reasons I would go to a museum. For the art, history and a large helping of philosophical reflection. Cemeteries do not make me feel the least bit morbid. In fact, I find them soothing and inspiring. I feel connected to something bigger while walking among the dead. Take from that what you will.

Today I'm looking back on an afternoon I spent at Bronswood Cemetery in Oak Brook, Illinois. I remember doing so because I got out of a work-related presentation early and didn't have to return to the library. Yes, this is the kind of thing I do -for fun- to take advantage of a couple hours of free time. Remember what I said above about being a nerd?

These first photos are of a family headstone that had an interesting justified alignment to the text inscribed upon it. It gives the stone a very modern look, although the members of the Wood family buried here all died in the earlier decades of the 20th century.

This piece of sculpture is part of the Murray family's plot. Tree stumps can often symbolize the cutting short of a life, in this case there are two stumps; one for each of the individuals buried. While I can't make out the birth and death dates in this photograph, the lambs at the bottom of each stump also indicate to me that these must have been young children who passed.

This carving is from a Sawe family headstone, which just looked very elegant to me. The winged cherubs are worth pointing out, as I believe they would be a late descendant of the winged death's head appearing in my logo. There was also an individual stone on the plot for Ella, with an intricate rose sculpted onto the surface.

The Rohmer headstone has a wonderful, unique scene sculpted into it. While not visible in the photo, there is also a large bird, likely a dove, placed on top of the stone. The sharp detail and style are very nice, although I don't know if this was an original creation or perhaps based on someone else's artwork in another medium.

This is the Bronswood Mausoleum, which caught my eye not only because of the size but the figures carved into scenes along the sides and on top. On each side of this entrance there is one of these scenes along with a quote. One is "Thou wilt not leave us in the dust" which is from an Alfred Lord Tennyson poem called "In Memoriam." The other is "Hearts are dust, Hearts loves remain" from the poem "Threnody" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both quotes were clearly hand-picked to express the longevity of memory and love which goes far beyond the existence of the body. That even though we may pass on, we never truly leave the hearts of those who cared for us and in a sense, live on and remain.

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