Cemetery tours provide an array of far-reaching information about those buried there, possible historical connections in an individual's story, information about the monuments, the evolution of the burial ground's landscape, the overall history of the land, and various words and images that mark a particular burial location.
On our tours, we are frequently asked about these words and images and their significance to a person's story.
The St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery site on Richmond Street in Sapperton has recently been undergoing major changes with new burial structures and amenities along with a statue of St. Peter, marking the highest point of the cemetery site.
This is a very striking image and a powerful symbol for the site, and we have spent some time considering how we will integrate it into our upcoming tours.
The observation of symbols - simple or complex - is a wonderful part of a cemetery visit. You know some of the things that you will find, but there are always some surprises.
In New Westminster's cemeteries you can see symbols on grave markers that are classic and others that are beautifully modern and quite descriptive.
Classics might include oak or ivy leaves for long life and rebirth, a thistle or fleur-de-lis for ancestry, fraternal insignias for Masons, Oddfellows, or Eagles noting associations, a Bible or rosary for religious themes, a lamb or small bird for a child's grave, clasped hands of welcome to heaven, and a draped urn, obelisk or perhaps a willow tree for mourning.
The more modern examples include many that speak clearly to the person's life.
There are train engines, tugboats and fishing boats, a fishing rod and reel, a poker hand showing a royal flush, a guitar, a needle and a spool of thread, skates and hockey sticks, scissors and a barber pole, a microphone, lacrosse sticks, and a Vancouver Canucks crest.
Some images are scenic in nature and probably mark special memories for the individual and family. One such example is an illustration with a lake, a stream, a cabin and a person fishing, while another shows a winter scene with a horse-drawn sleigh.
Also included in the list of images and symbols found in a graveyard are words, sayings and descriptions - not the epitaph or dates and names, but something altogether different. One says "killed by the fall of a tree," another "pioneer citizen," and another "accidentally killed, he bade no one farewell, he said goodbye to no one."
There is so much to see, to read and to think about.
We recently led a sizable tour on this theme and there were lots of questions.
Meanings gathered from such things often add to a family study.
For more on symbolism and the artwork found in a cemetery, watch for us as part of the New Westminster Cultural Crawl in August.