Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catherine’s coffin

In 1809, Catherine G. Richardson (b. 1787, d. 1809) was laid to rest under a coffin-shaped grave marker. Such markers are not common in these parts, so yesterday I visited Groveport Cemetery in Franklin County, Ohio to see it for myself.

The original inscription is no longer fully legible—just a word here and there—but it is recorded on a newer marker placed at the foot of the coffin.




SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
CATHERINE G. CONSORT OF JOHN G. RICHARDSON M.D.
AND DAUGHTER OF CAPTAIN ISAAC BOWMAN
ALL NATIVES OF SHENANDOAH COUNTY, VIRGINIA
BORN DECEMBER 23, 1787
DEPARTED THIS LIFE JANUARY 19, 1809 AGED 22 YEARS

Normally cemeteries do not spook me, and Groveport was no exception. It feels like a park, perhaps because it is adjacent to a city park.

But Catherine’s coffin marker spooked me just a bit. Must have been the scary, Halloween-y images that an old-fashioned coffin shape evokes. That and the dark, thunder-threatening skies adding to the atmosphere gave me the slightest of chills.

Then I paused to read her epitaph carefully. Catherine, like any other young wife who died too early, had been loved and mourned. No one can feel fright of any sort in the presence of such a strong symbol of love, grief, and hope.

OH FAIREST FLOWER, THY FAILING BREATH IS GONE, THE SENSE TO PLEASE NO MORE.
THE ICY WITHERING HAND OF DEATH HAS RIFLED ALL THY FRAGRANT STORE.
CALM BE THY REST, SWEET AS THE SLUMBERS OF A SAINT
AND MILD AS THE OPENING GLEAMS OF PROMISED HEAVEN.


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