In the cemetery, much of the iconography represents a life ended—the winged death’s head, the hanging bud, the broken wheel, the incomplete circle, the column that is broken. The broken link of a chain, too, represents the life that was ended. This symbolism dates back to Medieval times when people believed that the soul could be held to the body by a golden chain. Once the chain was broken, the soul took flight and rose from the body leaving Earth and ascended to Heaven.
After the tragic Challenger explosion when seven crew members were lost, President Ronald Reagan eloquently addressed a saddened nation using language to express a similar sentiment, “We shall never forget them nor the last time we saw them, as they prepared for their mission and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God.”
During that speech, President Reagan was quoting the words, “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” from the poem “High Flight” by aviator and poet John Gillespie Magee, Jr. to memorialize their tragic deaths. The chain had been broken.