Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Beautiful and the Dead Rest (Cont.): The Platypus Reads Part LX

 One of the Shelton plots that are ubiquitous in the town that bears their name as well as across the water in Derby.  The central monument is a modified obelisk with funerary urn and laurel wreath, signifying the race well run.  Below the laurel wreath is the Masonic compass and square indicating that Lewis Shelton (d. 1875 ae. 79 years) was a member of that society.  He is buried with his wife, Minerva Pierce Shelton, who also lived a full life for the time period (d. 1866 ae. 66 years).  From a distance, this monument exudes quiet, and genteel affluence, position, respect.  Now let us look to the right.

This is the grave of Nancy M. Shelton, daughter of Lewis and Minerva.  She died in 1859 at age fifteen.  The lily over her name symbolizes purity.  There is an inscription at the bottom of the stone, but I can't read it or find a transcription in the cemetery database.  How did she die?  During this period, Consumption killed up to a quarter of the population.  Nancy was too young for childbirth to be a likely cause of death.  The number one killer of women aged over twelve years in this period was cooking accidents.  Fifty percent of all children failed to live past their twelfth year.  Whatever the case may be, Nancy's stone reminds us that wealth and position are not bulwarks against tragedy in this or any age.  What were Nancy's hopes and dreams?  Did her parents have an eye on a young Wheeler, Clark, Hurd, or Hubble as a suitable match for their daughter?

This isn't the end of the story, however.  Step around Nancy's stone yo your left.

Here we find that Nancy's death wasn't the only tragedy to strike Lewis and Minerva's family.  They lost at least two more children in infancy, Mary and one too young to even have a name.  The death dates are recorded under the words "Our Children."

All the works of men may lie, but there is truth in tombstones.  They remind us that we aren't guaranteed anything.  That as T.S. Eliot said we are all dying -with a little patience.

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