The Willow and Two Hearts

Crown Hill Cemetery, Salem, Indiana

Crown Hill Cemetery, Salem, Indiana


to the memory of


Born in Jefferson County, Ky

May 15th, 1813

and parted this life

November 4th, 1845,

aged 32 years 5 months &

20 days

I never shall return to thee

Don’t let this grieve thy heart

But you shall shortly come to me,

Where we will never part.


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.

In both examples of today’s blog, the willow is combined with two hearts. Usually, the willow motif is by itself, or often with a lamb, a mourning figure, an urn, or an obelisk. The willow with two hearts is an unusual expression of both grief and love combined into one motif.

The gravestone of William H. Malott in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Salem, Indiana, above, depicts two hearts at the base of the willow. The sentimentality of this symbol combined with the epitaph is touching. The hearts are twining around a traditional symbol of grief, yet, the epitaph written from the perspective of the deceased is telling his wife not to grieve because they would be together soon enough. William married Leah Patterson McKeown, with whom he had five children: Volney, Minerva, Ellen, Mary Catherine, and Eli. His widow, however, remarried two years later on January 19, 1847 in Washington County, Indiana, to John F. Ramsey. Leah (1816-1904) lived nearly 60 more years after William died. She is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana.

The symbol of two hearts on the tomb in the Cypress Grove Cemetery at New Orleans represents love, as well.  The white marble 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.

Cypress Grove Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana

Cypress Grove Cemetery, New Orleans, Louisiana

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 un-named 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.”


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