101 ways to say “died”

Posted on September 8, 2008. Filed under: Puritans | Tags: , , |

Vast Public Indifference is in the middle of a wonderful series on the many ways old gravestones describe death. Check it out! It helps destroy the myth that the Puritans (many of the stones are from their time) were dour and ungrieving of their dead–or didn’t know how to tell a good story in a few words!

I put all the epitaphs from my town’s old burying ground into a Word document, and it was hard not to choke up over the extremely sad epitaphs of children. It’s hard for the people living today in the Puritans’ old villages to comprehend how common it was to lose children to disease.

The average 25 year-old in 1700 would have been married, and probably already experienced the loss of one or two of their own children. They would have lost a handful of siblings as they grew up, and probably as many friends, relatives, and neighbors.

But they were never hardened to death. It hit them hard, every time, over and over again, and the gravestones they stood over the graves of their children will break your heart.

But don’t be afraid to go over to VPI–it’s a great site and will provide as many laughs as tears (see also her great ongoing series on odd names from the Puritan past (just one example: Orange Wedge).

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One Response to “101 ways to say “died””

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Thanks for the link!
I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the series.
I think your point about Puritan (and later colonial-era) families’ grief is spot-on. Here’s a verse from the epitaph of Timothy Stearns (Billerica, MA), who died in 1795 at age 2:

Thrice of this cup we drank our fill,
Wormwood & gall we tast it still;
O who can tell that never felt
What Parents feel for children’s death.


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