Joe AND Bessie
June 17, 1900
Nov. 22, 1907
A light from our household has gone
A voice we loved is stilled
A place is vacant in our hearts
That never can be filled.
The white marble gravestone of Aneta Harris in the BPOE 216 (Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, is imbued with an abundance of symbolism. First of all, it is topped with a chubby baby girl nestled against a pillow and asleep on top of a cushion.
These gravestones for children, for me, are the most poignant. The mortality rates for children were very high. In the 1850s, for example, 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. It would have been far more comforting to think of a young child sleeping rather than the alternative. The sentiment is tender and terribly sad.
On the face of the gravestone, barely visible in an incised carving above her name, are two angles holding a crown as if they are ready to place it on the little girls head as she ascends to Heaven. The crown is a fairly common symbol found in American cemeteries. Sometimes it can be found as an incised carving at the top of the gravestone—often in conjunction with other symbolism such as palm leaves. The crown is a symbol of glory and reward and victory over death. The reward comes after life and the hard-fought battle on Earth against the wages of sin and the temptations of the flesh. The reward awaits in Heaven where the victor will receive a crown of victory. The crown also represents the sovereign authority of the Lord.
Above the crown is a five-point star. The star can represent the life of Christ and the Five Holy Wounds of Christ–one wound in each hand, a wound in each foot, and one in His side where Jesus was pierced to check to make sure He was dead.
Marking the grave is a long curbing outlining the burial plot which would have been planted with blooming flowers.