Figure 1. Jackson mausoleum. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The simple but attractive gothic mausoleum of the Jackson family inhabits a plot sitting on a tongue of land between two forking streets at West Laurel Hill. Figure 1 shows it on a Saturday morning in early autumn. It offers a charming surprise inside, and a gloomy one, too.

Figure 2. Jackson mausoleum. Detail: stained glass window in rear. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

The window in figure 2 is the charming surprise. The pair of three white verticals is the unavoidable reflection of the front door. Otherwise, the window is engaging both in execution (presumably it’s painted inside the glass like those arts and crafts lampshades) and in what it tells us about the Jackson family—or its patriarch at any rate. If you scent just a bit of “the hunt” on top of “country” and “animals,” I do, too. It’s charming to find something so revealing instead of the sometimes excellent but almost always conventional religious themes.

But a grim and sad surprise awaits once one’s eyes have become accustomed to the dark interior. There is an inscription on a little “altar” against the rear wall beneath the window (figure 3).

Figure 3. Jackson mausoleum. Detail: “altar” with ash urn and inscription. West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, PA. Photo: author.

This is not the same person commemorated twice, but two babies Jackson who were expected to live so short a time they were not given names. The first lived just over a week; the second at most one day. And the grimmest part of all: the second baby Jackson was born nine months almost to the day after the first was born and died. How the parents must have felt hardly bears thinking about. That box on top of the altar is an ash urn.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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