Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tree Shaped Tombstones - On The Bench, Part One

I had seen one or two pictures of benches in the style of "tree shaped tombstones", so one day when I was playing around with Google Maps I was not particularly surprised to spot, from orbit, an example in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in St. Paul Minnesota. Actually, it looked like there were several of them.

It took a while for me to be in the area with time to spare for a side trip, but one sunny afternoon I drove on over.

As it happens, this cemetery is another of those odd places where tree shaped tombstones are common....and it has a remarkable number of tree-benches.

Here is one typical specimen:

And here in one view are three, with a tree shaped planter to boot.

Forest Lawn Cemetery is full of these things.  Without visiting every nook and cranny I am just estimating, but there are probably forty or fifty of them on the grounds.

They are all similar, although there is enough variation in the pattern of the stumps and limbs to show that the sides of these were hand carved.  And after a while you start to notice smaller differences. Here are a couple of examples with small odd flourishes....left by the stone carvers for no reason I can fathom...

Here is one with a more elaborate back piece, giving names and dates of the departed.  I assume the death date of the first to go is the approximate age of these memorials.

Here is another bit of ornamentation, a Masonic emblem on the back piece.

All in all rather nice memorials.  I can easily imagine putting one of these up on the family plot, then sitting there in a contemplative mood imagining that a beloved one who had passed on was sitting next to me in spirit.  So why are these so rare?  I will spin a few theories in my next posting, but the first clue was this:

I had thought that this number, carved into the seat of one of these tree shaped benches, was just a bit of petty vandalism.  But then I found two other examples...a #2 and a #17.  Too specific for vandals, especially when this well kept establishment had no other evidence of such misbehaviour.

So, what does it mean?  Why so many benches there?  Why so few elsewhere?  And....numbers on the benches?  I will be back tomorrow with more pictures and thoughts on Tree Shaped Bench memorials.

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