Dec. 16, 1893
23 Yrs 11 Mos.
The Victorian Era lasted from about 1832 until Queen Victoria’s death in 1903. The era was an eclectic period in the decorative arts with several styles—Gothic, Tudor, Neoclassical—vying for dominance. The period was marked by ornamentation. This was true in architecture, furniture, and funerary arts. In cemeteries gravestones became taller, ornamented, and sentimental.
In Victorian times, flowers took on significance as a way to send coded messages; this was known as floriography from the Latin combining flora—“goddess of flowers” and graphein—“writing”. Each flower had a meaning that was conveyed to the viewer or receiver of the flower or bouquet of flowers—the lily of the valley represented humility, the coral rose represented desire and passion, the white lily represented purity, and so on.
Here on this gravestone in the Greenwood Cemetery at Phoenix, Arizona, lightly incised into the four sides are cattails. Cattails are found in marshes and at the pond’s edge. The cattail is a plain plant, a common plant that flourishes next to the water. In Christianity, the great prophet—the infant Moses—was found floating in a tiny basket woven of bulrushes and among the cattails. Cattails, therefore became connected to a place of Salvation. And because cattails only thrive with “wet feet” faithful Christians see it as a plant that is connected to the source of living waters—the teachings of the Church. Cattails are a metaphor for the humble servants of the Lord who live a life of humble obedience.
A common epitaph found on many gravestones uses the imagery of the water’s edge to describe the place where loved ones will meet in the hereafter, a place of Salvation:
Our darling one
Has gone before
To greet us
On the blissful shore.