Figure 1. Mendenhall monument, 1955. St. James Catholic Cemetery, Falls Church, VA. Photo: author.

If you follow my work, you know that I find the markers of children and especially babies very sad, even when they are worthy of artistic or cultural note, and the monument of little Cecilia Mendenhall in Falls Church’s Saint James Catholic Cemetery is so very sad.

It tells us the whole story in five words:

CECILIA
MENDENHALL
JUNE 25, 1955

Like you, I knew the sad story even before I read this simple anagraphic epitaph. The obvious baby shoes made the story plain at well over fifty paces.

Figure 2. Mendenhall monument. Side view. St. James Catholic Cemetery, Falls Church, VA. Photo: author.

This brings to mind the famous six-word short story attributed to Hemingway which is repeated in full as the title of this post. People don’t think he wrote it anymore, but faute de mieux, I’ll keep him. Those six short words encapsulate a sense of heartbreak, blasted hopes, and lost potential.

Yet the Mendenhalls got there first, both with the evocative baby shoes as a synecdoche for the baby, and with an even shorter story on the baby’s stone. But then, circumstances forced them to a lapidary brevity.

Appendix I. Joseph Del Vecchio monument, 1961.

Figure 3. Del Vecchio monument. Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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