There’s something about the evenings at the end of summer. They’re a little muggy, but there is a breeze and when the sun goes down and it gets below 85 it’s the most peaceful time of the day. Even though the bugs are swarming, the cicadas are louder than the cars on the highway, and you’re in a cemetery, it still is the most peaceful time of the day. Wait, wait… A cemetery you say? Yes, yep, a cemetery. All for the sake of history, Folks!
Last night I went on down to Columbia, SC. The capital of my beloved home state. Now, I hate to admit this but I don’t particularly travel to Columbia on a regular basis. I’ve probably been there about 4 or 5 times in my entire life.
I hate to say it, simply because it’s a really great place. Full of history. Not as much as Charleston but still, it has got a lot. Okay, but lets get back on track. I went to Columbia last night for the sake of history, in a cemetery, to learn about the iconology of gravestones, as well as the personal stories and facts of some people who were buried there.
That is not a flaming soul, it is the flame of one of the torches.
Not a lot of people know about what particular icons mean on gravestones. I sure didn’t. I actually got swayed into going to this on the basis that it might have ghost stories, might.
So we left around 5:00 and got to Columbia around 6:30ish. We were starving. I mean, I felt like I was having withdrawals, I was starving so bad. We went to the Lizards Thicket on Elmwood Avenue. It’s a southern, home cooking sort of a place. Full of your southern favorites such as fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. We stuffed our faces then headed on over to Elmwood Cemetery.
The road to death… I’m just kidding! It was the road we walked on during the tour.
Elmwood Cemetery was founded in 1854. It being an attraction for Columbia, people flock to it by the hundreds searching for the confederate cemetery and their genealogical family, or maybe some are just creeps in a bleeping cemetery. We went on 2 tours. One being mainly on iconology, the other on the history of the cemetery and its deceased. So here is a key to some tombstone icons:
This guy liked trains… That’s is literally all it meant, or that he worked on one.
Angels: usually meaning rebirth or resurrection.
Crown: The soul’s achievement and the glory of life after death.
Turned over torch: life extinguished.
Three steps: trinity.
Cut down trees: life cut short.
Lamb: usually meaning a child has died, them being the Lamb of God.
Cherubs: also could mean a child died.
Okay, so there are some. On the tour the guide kept reiterating that if we humans just took the time to read the tombstones of the dead we’d really find out who they were and what they did. On some of the stones they actually did tell the stories of the deceased life. One told the life of a young lady who died the day before her wedding. She was actually buried in her wedding dress too. Another actually said “Here lies a sorry bag of bones”. We never saw that one but I’d definitely like to have.
This lady was actually named “Wee-Wee”.
As the sun set and the cicadas lowered their twitching octaves the cemetery became more peaceful. In between speeches from the tour guide the wind would blow creating the flames on the torches to flicker. It all seemed okay and oddly enough that I felt that way in a cemetery. I just felt… Alright.
We all have some sort of history to ourselves and some of us are lucky for it to be told over time. It was odd feeling peaceful in a cemetery and to say I was reminded that life is short and miserable is far from the truth. I don’t know why but these tours just reminded me that life after death can just be as beautiful as the here and now.