Friday, August 23, 2013

Love in the time of Cholera

"He was still too young to know 
that the heart's memory eliminates the bad 
and magnifies the good,
and that thanks to this artifice 
we manage to endure 
the burden of the past."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Cemetery statue 8-23-13

Cemetery statue (2) 8-23-13

One of my favorite places to look for faces is in cemeteries. Often, among the headstones, obelisks, monuments and memorials, there are statues standing sentinel over the lost lives beneath their feet.

This statue towers over the grave of the Wilber family in a cemetery near Vermilion, Ohio.

According to the engravings, the Wilber's lost four children in a span of  seven days, between January13th and 19th, 1893. Their names were Jess, May, Roy and Ruby. Jess was 11, May was 9, and the twins, Ruby and Roy, just three months shy of their 3rd birthday.

At the feet of the statue is a separate plot with the four children's individual headstones, under an arch that says "Our Darlings."

I don't know what claimed the lives of these children, but I'd guess they were victims of the Cholera pandemic of 1881-1896.

This face really got to me.
I love how the way time, the weather and the elements have eroded the lines through the surface so that it looks, even on a bright sunny day, as if this woman, this mother, is weeping eternally for her lost "darlings." The tear tracks are etching away at the stone, rivulets carving ever deeper, slowly, pooling over her heart before running away.

She is holding, barely, a little book that simply says "Memory." The letters aren't engraved, but raised. To me it looks as though this woman is intentionally tipping the book to let the letters tumble to the earth as if she might rid herself of the terrible memories. Of course, she can't, because the words are trapped forever in stone. That breaks my heart.

I see strength and serenity in this face, the face of grief holding on, barely, to a thin volume of what was, and what was lost.