06 September 2011

Wednesday's Child: Ruby Lee Overton

Ruby Lee Overton (1910-1914) has a pretty marble gravestone beneath a tree in Sharp Cemetery, with a bench alongside it. It's a pleasant and peaceful spot.

Her stone is engraved with a dove carrying an olive branch, imagery reminiscent of the Noah's Ark story.

The allusion is particularly evocative combined with her epitaph, which reads, "Our darling one hath gone / before to greet us on the / blissful shore."

Reading that verse and looking at the image of the dove, I thought of the story of the dove being sent out from Ark to seek dry land- shore- and returning with an olive branch as proof of its presence; compare this to the idea of a little child going before her parents to a metaphysical "shore"; the image of the dove and its assurance that something was there waiting must have been spiritually comforting in that context.

Dau. of
J.A. & M.A.
OCT. 22, 1910
JULY 11, 1914
Our darling one hath gone
before to greet us on the
blissful shore.

The sources I have read on gravestone iconography describe the lamb as a symbol of innocence primarily used on children's gravestones, but in my wanderings through local cemeteries, I have so far noticed that doves seem to be as common a symbol on children's graves as lambs, though neither doves nor lambs seem to be exclusively children's symbols, as I have mentioned before.

I am in the process of collecting some data on this to try to determine whether a pattern of age or gender distribution in the use of either of these symbols actually exists, at least in my area.

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