The common fate of all mankind does not much bother me as I make my way through cemeteries. But I do get resentful when I come across tombstones made of a material that was destined never to stand up to the elements: marble, literally melting under the attack of acidic rain (figure 2); Victorian red stones rotting and spalling (figure 3); and slate monuments which also peel away in layers under the attacks of frost and water. There are also the terrible results of destructive cleaning methods, but that’s not my subject here.
Have a close look at the stone in figure 2: there were hundreds of characters on that stone, a veritable bonanza of idiosyncrasy, now hopelessly illegible to me, at any rate. There are the remnants of ten headings falling into two columns: do you see the traces of the large Roman numerals? Were these the ten commandments? The Bill of Rights? I’m betting on the commandments with expository material, but Agh!
Still, a fresh marble monument can be very beautiful (figure 4),
and the red stone, when crisp, has a very rich, even velvety feel (figure 5).
And as figure 1 shows, the slate slabs were, when fresh, quite crisp and beautiful, with appropriately somber coloring. One sees why the folks chose them. It was only after a few generations, when they saw how fragile the slate turned out to be, that they went to other materials.
But kudos to Anna Wills Baugh Brewster White (or her commemorators) for the choice of slate, the olde timey, elegant script, and the convallaria maialis, Lily of the Valley!