Church of England refuses to allow foreign language on a gravestone, calling it a "political statement"

Margaret Keane was born in Westmeath, in the Republic of Ireland, and later moved to Coventry in the United Kingdom, where her and her husband raised six children. Throughout her life, Margaret remained active in the Gaelic Athletic Association, and after she passed away in 2018 at the age 73, her family wanted a gravestone that paid tribute to her proud Irish heritage.

Margaret belonged to the Church of England, and was to be buried at St. Giles Church in Exhall. But her family received some pushback when they proposed a plot with a Celtic cross, which the diocesan advisory committee denied for being too large. The committee suggested that the family simply add an inscription of a Celtic cross to the headstone.

The Keane family agreed to the compromise. But the Church of England pushed back again when they saw the planned inscription on the cross: "In ár gcroíthe go deo," which means, "In our hearts forever" in the Irish language. This didn't seem particularly radical, especially as there are already Welsh inscriptions in the same cemetery. But once again, the diocesan advisory committee denied the family's headstone proposal. "Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic," said a Church judge who is also a local government judge, "There is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement."

After yet another appeal, the judge agreed to allow the Irish words only if they're accompanied by an English translation. Read the rest

What happens when climate change ravages graveyards?

I spend more time than I probably should wondering when the luxury condo trend will finally come for the dead. Real estate is expensive, and there's lots of valuable land in urban areas that could be used for yet-another fancy steel-and-glass skyscraper used to hide foreign money—if it wasn't for the cemeteries that currently take up all that space. I even have a half-finished short story in a notebook somewhere riffing on the classic Stephen King scenario of towns built on Native American burial grounds, except it's just luxury condos built up on the corpses of, well, everyone.

But I was thinking too far ahead. Because I didn't stop to think about what happens to those graveyards now, as flooding and earthquakes and more extreme weather disturb the soil under which our loved ones have been laid to their eternal rests. As a recent article in Scientific American gruesomely details, coffins are already body-surfing through the streets of Louisiana during storms:

The caskets and their surface vaults are sealed airtight, so pressure builds inside them when a hurricane or flash flood covers them in water. Moisture weakens the vault seal, and eventually the water begins to bubble with dead air—the tell-tale sign a casket is ready to pop out of its grave, Hunter said.

“You hear the bubbles, you see the bubbles, and you know that seal is weakening because of that immense amount of pressure. And then the lid comes off,” he said.

The visual of bubbling coffins popping out of the ground is scary enough. Read the rest

The Tombstone House was built with 2200 discarded gravestones

I bet this Petersburg, Virginia home is the last place local trick-or-treating children want to hit up for candy on Halloween.

The Tombstone House" was built in 1934 using the lower half of marble tombstones procured from Poplar Grove, the nearby Civil War cemetery. There are 2,200 discarded headstones in total, all from Union soldiers.

Atlas Obscura shares the house's story:

The soldiers all died in the siege of Petersburg, which lasted for nine months at the end of the Civil War... After their original wooden grave markers rotted away, the government installed upright marble headstones to take their place.

However, during the Great Depression, maintaining the cemetery and the headstones suffered because of scant funding. The city decided to cut the tombstones in half and lay the top halves, which were engraved with the soldiers’ details, on the ground so they no longer stood erect. These makeshift flat graves saved money on mowing and maintenance costs.

The bottom halves of 2,200 slain tombstones were then sold for the princely sum of $45. Their new owner, Oswald Young, used them to build his house, chimney, and walkway...

The house is located at 1736 Youngs Road in Petersburg, Virginia.

Thanks, Greg Wright! Read the rest