The most poignant and tender gravestones are those for children. When one wanders through pilgrim and pioneer cemeteries, you notice just how many children’s graves there are. Infant mortality rates were extremely high.
In the 1850s, the mortality rates for children under one year, were estimated at over 200 deaths per thousand, with much higher mortality rates for children under 5. I have heard it said that it was less of a feat to live past 70 than it was to live past 5.
This monument in the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, shows a sleeping Eva Whipple, aged five days old, nestled into a pillow tucked into a sea shell. This gravestone very well could be a metaphor for the shell that contains a pearl, the shell that opens and reveals a precious jewel, in this case, this tiny baby girl. The shell is also a symbol of baptism because of its obvious association to water. In fact, a shell is often used to scoop up and sprinkle water during the baptismal ceremony.