The sickle and the scythe are ancient farm hand tools dating back thousands of years that were used to harvest cereal grains such as wheat.
Wheat’s origins are unknown but is the basis of basic food and a staple in many cultures. Because of wheat’s exalted position as a mainstay foodstuff, it is viewed as a gift from Heaven. Wheat symbolizes immortality and resurrection. But, like many symbols found on gravestones, they can have more than one meaning. For instance, because wheat is the main ingredient of bread, the sheaf of wheat can represent the Body of Christ. Wheat can also represent a long life, usually more than three score and ten, or seventy years.
Coupled with the epitaph, “Gathered Home,” the wheat, in this case, suggests that the sheafs of wheat are gathered together like Christian souls on their way to Heaven.
The sickle and scythe implements to gather the wheat are used in funerary symbolism to represent a “harvesting of souls.” The tools can be shown alone or coupled with another object—such as a sheaf of wheat or with the Grim Reaper, himself!
The “grim” reaper is aptly named. Usually depicted as a male, the reaper is a personification of Death and is in the nasty business of collecting a deceased person’s soul. Some mythologies hold that the Specter severs the soul from the deceased and helps to guide the soul to the afterlife making the journey from the Earthly Realm to the Heavenly Realm. Like other tools displayed on gravestones, such as gravediggers tools and coffins, the sickle and scythe are reminders the of the ephemeral nature of life itself.