Our deepest emotions are felt in our hearts. The heart shape, which, by the way, looks nothing like the real human heart, is a symbol of many emotions including joy, courage, and sorrow, but most especially love. Millions of cards are exchanged every Valentine’s Day with red-heart shapes printed on them, expressions of romance and love.
The symbol of two hearts on the tomb above represents love, as well. The New Orleans tomb displays the willow, a traditional symbol of sorrow. In this carving the willow branches shelter two hearts on the tomb hinting at grief and a tragic story.
In 1869, J. Pinkney Smith’s young nineteen-year old wife, Katie McIlheny Smith, died in childbirth. One heart has Katie’s name carved into it. The other heart is left nameless in honor of the unamed baby that died as it was born and as its Mother died. Together their hearts are intertwined in marble. Desolate and broken, J. Pinkney Smith, husband to Katie, wrote his wife’s epitaph, “Soon as she found the key of life, it opened the gates of death.”
Now that one is really a “heart breaker”….poor guy…. definitely a good choice for Valentine’s Day.
How sad-She was able to experience great joy and great sadness is such a short time.
I think the epitaph that her husband wrote tells the story of how very happy the young mother-to-be must have been to be pregnant. She experienced such great joy carrying her baby only to die on delivery. In 1869, childbirth was such a risk. Even today the joy of having a child is dampened by the fear of the multitude of things that can go horribly wrong. I think it is truly why birth is described aptly as a miracle.