Memorials: An overview
Although a memorial need not be elaborate or costly, it must serve as a lasting and worthy remembrance. A grave with even a modest marker, because of sentiment shown, reflects the consideration to those whose memory is held dear.
This need to remember has been expressed throughout the ages in enduring form by placing of memorials by those who care. It is a choice that cannot be decided to carefully-- whether the monument is to be simple or impressive; it must be designed in good taste and made of everlasting materials.
At Young & Yaremchuck we have a memorial product to fit every budget, taste, preference, and style. Everything from granite urns, vases, flat grass markers, traditional upright memorials, custom monuments, unique personalized shapes and sculptures, elaborate family monuments, above ground family mausoleums, family ash columbarium's for 1 to 16 niches, community ash columbarium for 18 180 niches, to the most elaborate estate mausoleu ms.
Why are memorials made of granite?
The hardest material on earth, diamond, has a hardness of 10. It can not be scratched except by other diamonds. The softest materials have a hardness of 1 and are easily scratched. Few materials except precious stones are harder than 7. Memorial grade granite is very hard, 6-7, and very tough to break because its tightly-bonded Quartz and Feldspar grains are made of tightly-bonded atoms. No other natural stone used for commercial purposes is any harder or more difficult to break than granite.
Oakwood has a hardness of 2, Glass has a hardness of 5, and steel has a hardness of 6.
Where did granite come from?
Granite likely stared being created about 325 millions years ago as a large hot (1300 - 1400 degree F) mass of magma - molten rock. This magma originated when some of the earth's crust melted - probably at a depth of about 11 - 12 miles. The magma rose upward and came to rest at a depth of about 9 miles. At that depth it cooled very slowly - taking over a million years - and solidified into granite. That was over 300 million years ago. Since then, the granite has been pushed upward, and the land above it has been eroded. The result: Now the granite lies right at the surface where it can be easily, safely, and economically quarried.
Why is granite so heavy?
Granite weighs 160 - 220 pounds per cubic foot. That's about the same weight as marble, and only one-third as heavy as steel, but 2-3 times as heavy as concrete. Granite is heavy for much the same reason it is so hard - the minerals within it contain tightly-packed atoms. In addition, the mineral grains themselves are also tightly-packed.
Memorialization in Cremation
Memorialization is a permanent record and celebration of a life, and of those who loved that life. The practice of choosing cremation as an alternative to the traditional funeral and internment has not changed the public's desire to remember and honour life. This desire is still as strong as ever. Even with cremation ashes scattered from the tops of mountains, or in the sea, the family still needs to memorialize a life that was lived, to show the world of their love. More and more memorialists are challenged to design functional, unique memorials to individuals who have been cremated a monument not necessarily set in a cemetery. Whether it be a granite bench at a golf course, a sculpture in a park or a rustic boulder by a river or a lake, unique cremation memorials can fulfill our desire to remember.
Headstone Symbol Meanings
When choosing a headstone we often pick headstone symbols and emblems with little knowledge about the symbolism behind it. This glossary of cemetery symbolism has been assembled from various sources, which are credited at the bottom of this page, to help you understand the meaning of the various symbols.
Anchor- Early Christians used the anchor as a disguised cross, and as a marker to guide the way to secret meeting places. A Christian symbol of hope, it is found as funerary symbolism in the art of the catacombs. Often set amongst rocks. It can also be an occupational symbol in sea-faring areas or the attribute of Saint Nicholas, patron saint of seamen, symbolized hope and steadfastness. An anchor with a broken chain stands for the cessation of life.
Angels- The agent of God, often pointing towards heaven; guardians of the dead, symbolizing spirituality. Angels are shown in all types of poses with different symbolism. Two angels can be named, and are identified by the objects they carry: Michael, who bears a sword and Gabriel, who is depicted with a horn.
Books- Books remind us that tombstones are documents, bearing vital statistics and epitaphs concerning the deceased. Books may be open, possibly to signify that the stone is a kind of biography, or closed in recognition of the fact that the story of the dead is over. The book on a tombstone may be The Book or The Bible. This identification can be clinched by the presence of a citation (e.g. John 19:14) or an actual line of scripture. Arabic characters identify the book as the Koran.
Butterfly- The soul. It is symbolic of the resurrection of Christ. The meaning is derived from the three stages of the life of the butterfly-the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly. The three stages are symbols of life, death and resurrection. Short-life.
Candle- Candles stand for the spirit or the soul. In Christian contexts, candles can symbolize Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Catholics often leave candles on the grave to show that prayers have been said for the deceased.
Chains- Medieval thinkers sometimes held that a golden chain bound the soul to the body. Broken links on a headstone can mean the severance and subsequent release of the spirit from the body. Chains are also the insignia of the International Order of Odd Fellows, so called because of their dedication to giving the poor decent burials. This association can be clinched by the observation of the letters IOOF or FLT (Friendship, Love, Truth) either inside or near the chain.
Chalice- The chalice often appears in association with a white circle representing the consecrated Eucharist. The two items combine to signify the Catholic rite of Holy Communion. The headstones of priests often bear these objects.
Cross- Christianity. Usually mounted on three steps, signifying 'faith, hope and charity'. The most potent symbol of the Christian faith, the cross has been used for religious and ornamental purposes since time immemorial. To the Aztecs it symbolized the god of rain, the Scandinavians set them up as boundary markers, and two buns marked with a cross were found at the ancient Egyptian site of Herculaneum.
Daisy- Innocence of child, Jesus the Infant, youth, the Son of righteousness, gentleness, purity of thought.
Dog- Dogs often appear at the feet of medieval women, signifying the loyalty and inferior place of each in the chivalric order. Modern dogs only imply that the master was worth loving.
Dogwood- Christianity, divine sacrifice, triumph of eternal life, resurrection.
Dove- The little bird appears in both Christian (usually Catholic) and Jewish cemeteries, representing some of the same things and some different things in each. Catholics usually see the dove (which makes its first Biblical appearance in Genesis carrying an olive branch for Noah) as the Holy Spirit. Jews interpret the dove as a peace symbol. The biblical allusion to the dove also suggests a connectedness with the earth and its color, white, represents for Europeans, purity and spirituality.
Dragon- For the Chinese, the dragon is an emblem of Imperial Power, which has brought the universe into its thrall. It also stands for the Universe itself, a chaotic force which none of us can truly master.
Draperies/Curtains- In the days when the body lay in state in the parlor, it was the custom to cover everything in black. Draperies, with their fancy frills and tassels, are more elaborate than a simple shroud. They allow the expression of mourning to linger long after the body has been taken out the front door and the accoutrements have been stowed for the next death in the family. Curtains can also set the stage. Parted, they reveal a telling excerpt. What is important in such displays is the main actor or central object of the stone.
Heart- Stylized hearts stand for the affection of the living for the dead. Two joined hearts on a stone mark a marriage.
Holly- People used to believe that holly bushes protected tombs and other monuments from lightning strikes.
Ivy- Ivy springs up naturally to cover English tombs, but Americans who transplanted it to their graveyards decided that it meant friendship and, like most cemetery plants, also immortality.
Lamb- Usually marks the grave of a child, especially in a Catholic cemetery. The lamb always stands for innocence. Christians go a little further and associate it with the Lamb of God, meaning Jesus.
Lily- Chastity, innocence and purity. A favored funeral flower of the Victorians. Joseph is often depicted holding a lily branch to indicate that his wife Mary was a virgin. In tradition, the first lily sprang forth from the repentant tears of Eve as she went forth from Paradise. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.
Lion- Symbolizes the power of God and guards the tomb against evil spirits. Like other guardians, the lion's watch is as eternal as the stone of which it is depicted. The lion also recalls the courage and determination of the souls, which they guard; they manifest the spirit of the departed.
Marigold- A large variety, called cempasuchitl, enjoys a special association with Mexico's Day of the Dead; mostly because of its availability in that season. Marigolds not only decorate the graves in the form of crosses and arches, but also form trails to lead the souls of the dead to a home altar set with their favorite foods, photos, and other pleasantries hard to obtain in the afterlife.
Mistletoe- The marvelous ability of this parasite to sustain itself far above the ground lent to the Druidic belief that it was a sacred plant and an ingredient of immortality. The "golden bough" was used in animal sacrifices. The Norse God Balder lost his immortality when he was pierced by a mistletoe-tipped spear.
Oak tree- Hospitality, stability, strength, honor, eternity, endurance, liberty. It is believed to have been the tree from which Jesus Christ's cross was made. In smaller pioneer cemeteries, it is common to place children's graves near oak trees. The oak tree was the tree of life in pre-Christian times. The Druids worshipped the oak. The oak, oak leaves and acorn can stand for power, authority or victory. Often seen on military tombs.
Palm- Spiritual victory, success, eternal peace, a symbol of Christ's victory of death as associated with Easter.
Pine- Intimations of immortality ooze from the very sap of the pine tree. The cone, for example, ensures the perpetuity of life's renewal. Pine boxes were used as coffins in the Wild West, however, simply because the wood was so plentiful.
Rose- Love, beauty, hope, unfailing love, associated with the Virgin Mary, the "rose without thorns." A red rose symbolizes martyrdom and a white rose symbolizes purity and virginity. Whether the rose is a bud, flower or somewhere in between indicates how old the person was at the time of death:
Just a bud - normally a child 12 or under
Sacred Heart of Jesus- An image unique to Catholics. The Sacred Heart is shown containing wounds to which Crist points and it is surrounded by a crown of thorns. The heart represents the suffering of Jesus for our sins. Prayers to the Sacred Heart are said to be efficacious for the release of souls from Purgatory.
Scroll- A symbol of life and time. Both ends rolled up indicates a life that is unfolding like a scroll of uncertain length and the past and future hidden. Often held by a hand representing life being recorded by angels. Can also suggest honor and commemoration.
Star of David- Six-pointed star or Star of David, also known as Magen David (Hebrew for shield of David), it is typically used as a symbol of Judaism. The star is actually made of two triangles. It signifies divine protection as epitomized by the alchemistic signs for fire and water, which are an upward and downward apexed triangle. The star is a very ancient symbol, used by several Asia Minor cultures, as well as some Greek city-states. For Judaism, the Star of David came into widespread use at the beginning of the 20th century. Theodore Hertzel, a Jewish activist, adopted the symbol in his writings promoting Palestine as a Jewish homeland.
Torch- Until the church banned such things, most people were buried at night. Torches furnished the light which both allowed the gravediggers to see and the bearers to scare off evil spirits and nocturnal scavengers.
Wheat- Wheat, like barley, was associated with the Egyptian cult of Osiris. The death of a grain crop is followed, after a period of stillness, by the re-sowing and germination of the seeds. Though no corpses have produced new people, tombstone carvers still employ the ear of wheat as a symbol of rebirth. Convent bakers use wheat flour to make communion wafers, making it a holy plant, of sorts, fit to grace the tombstone of a priest
This area has been created to help consumers understand the phrases that are commonly used in the memorial industry. We have made links to our styles page as many definitions given here have pictures shown on the styles page.
Base - This is always made of granite and sits atop the foundation and under the monument. The base can be a grey color, or can match the color of the monument. Usually with a matching base the top of the base will be polished. Other options are to have a 2 all polished margin on the base, or have the base all polished, and lastly to have a bevel front polished face on the base to accommodate additional inscriptions. We do not recommend a base that is all polished as bases are low to the ground and are susceptible to damages such as chips and scratches caused by lawnmowers and other devices.
BRP Stands for Balance Rock Pitched which means that after the amount of sides that are polished on the monument is determined the remaining sides must be described as having another type of finish. The BRP will usually follow the indicators for the amount of polish as in this sample P2 BRP means Polished 2 sides with the balance of 3 sides being rocked. This other type of finish is commonly to be rough or rocked. Other types of finish can be BS (Balance Sawn).
Columbarium - A vault with niches for cremated remains.
Companion This is a memorial that is used to memorialize 2 people.
Crypt This is a term that we do not care for, however when used in our trading area it usually refers to an above ground burial vault constructed of all granite and is usually for 2 people but can be for 1 person, or for more than 2 people.
Die We have made every effort to not use this term, however many people may come across this. We do not feel that this term shows very much respect or empathy for what the purchaser may be going through. This term should be used only within the industry and not with potential clients. It simply refers to the upright type of monument that sits on a base. We prefer using the term tablet, memorial or monument.
Epitaph The last line or phrase on a monument. This can be a very personal message or remembrance. General words of comfort.
Foundation These can be concrete or granite and are usually about 4 thick and are installed about 3 deep so that it may be at flush level with the surrounding grass environment. These foundations are used to place the marker, pillow marker, or combination of granite base and memorial. Many cemeteries have instituted the use of long beams of concrete that will hold many monuments; this is the very best situation to have. If you are in a situation that requires your own foundation we recommend the slightly more expensive granite alternative. You may pay a little more for granite, but the granite itself is created by the elements, whereas concrete will deteriorated by the elements after several years. Also, you should ask your monument company about how much gravel is used under the concrete or granite foundation, at Winnipeg Memorials we use a minimum of 6 deep of crushed gravel to help reduce the likelihood that the foundation we become unstable with our harsh climates. You should accept nothing less than a 6 base of gravel.
Niche We have 2 known meanings for niche. In a columbarium each unit that contains the urn is called a niche. On a monument a niche is generally referred to as an area that is sculpted out of the monument for the placing of a statue within the monument. The monument niche is usually arch shaped and houses a religious figure.
P1, P2, P3, or P5 These references describe how many sides oh the monument will be polished. P1 indicates only one side (front) polished; P2 indicates that 2 sides (front and back) will be polished. It is highly unlikely to ever have a P4 traditional monument.
Pinning We strongly recommend that all upright monuments have a pin drilled throughout the 3 pieces (foundation, base, and monument). This is called pinning and helps prevent the memorials from being toppled or falling off from the ground becoming uneven.
S1, S2, S3, S4, or S5 These references describe how many sides oh the monument will be sawn smooth, but not polished. S1 indicates only one side (front) sawn, P2 indicates that 2 sides (front and back) will be sawn. A flat grass marker is usually described as S2 - BRP meaning sawn smooth on 2 sides with the balance of 4 sides being rocked.
Sandblasting This is the process used to engrave the lettering into the granite. A rubber stencil is created with the desired inscriptions. The stencil is attached to the face of the monument. The sand bounces off the rubber and cuts into the granite. Sandblasting requires about 120 pounds of air pressure that creates the cutting force of the abrasive (sand).
Serp Top This is the shape of the top of most traditional monuments. It describes the gentle S shaped curve.
Shape Carving This is a sandblasting process for monument design elements which gives the design a three dimensional look and feel. As opposed to flat carving, a rose for example takes on a realistic appearance. Shape carving is generally very deep and because it takes much longer to do it is becoming a lost art.
Single This is a memorial that is used to memorialize 1 person.
Urn A container used for cremated remains of loved ones.
Where do I start I've never had to do this before?
You are no different than most people. Below we have listed some things that you may want to consider before you visit your local monument builder. Take a tape measure and a note pad with you.
● Visit your cemetery and look to see what types of memorials are in your area.
● Check out the designs …. Are the designs carved into the face of the memorial or left flat?
● Draw a sketch of the memorial and indicate the measurements on the sketch or if you have a camera feel free to take a photograph.
How long do I have to wait before ordering a memorial ?
Wait until you are comfortable talking about the memorial. Most people wait about 3 months until they know their financial position and when most of the shock has past.
Will the foundation that goes under the upright memorial interfere with the burial ?
NO . All cemeteries have adequate space built into the graves to allow for the burial and a memorial foundation.
Can I have an upright memorial on my lot?
Check with your local monument builder - they should know all the rules for cemeteries in his area.
Can my memorial be as big as I want it to be?
Most (if not all) cemeteries have rules regarding the sizes of memorials. Some have very tight rules others have very relaxed rules. Check with your monument builder he should know.
My cemetery will only allow me to have a flat bronze marker. Why is this?
Some cemeteries will only allow flat bronze markers, most of the are Memorial Gardens type cemeteries. The thinking was that cemeteries with a park-like setting would be easier to maintain. Most of these cemeteries are now planning upright memorials sections because people found it difficult to find graves in the winter time when the ground was covered with snow and people preferred upright memorials.
Can I have any shape or colour of memorial that I want?
Yes, as long as the memorial conforms to the sizes allowed by the cemetery. Some cemeteries have a rule that the base stone must be the same material as the die stone. Check with your local monument builder he will know the rules.
Why can't I letter the back or ends of my memorial?
Some cemeteries have rules, which state that lettering on memorials must only face the grave space, and not face other people's cemetery property.
Will my memorial fade in time?
Most memorials today are made from granite and good granite will not fade or discolour in time. All granites are not created equal. Some are better than others. Check an older section in your cemetery and see how well the memorials have stood up over time.
How long will my monument or marker last?
If your memorial is made from a good quality granite it will last for many hundreds of years probably even thousands of years.
Why aren't all granites the same price?
There are a number of reasons why granites differ in price. When a block of granite is removed from the ground there is a certain amount that is normal waste. With some granites the waste factor is much larger and obtaining good clear pieces becomes a problem so the price is higher. Sometimes granites that are imported from other countries are more expensive because of high freight costs and dollar fluctuations. Some granites are harder to polish than others hence a higher price.
Why does it take so long to complete my memorial?
There are a number of factors that control the time it takes to complete and install your memorial. The first would be the availability of the granite. The second would be the time it takes to have drawings done and approved. Remember the old saying about having things etched in stone. Once the memorial is lettered it is permanent and it is very expensive to change. Always ask for either a scaled computer drawing or a full size drawing, which you can approve. Mistakes can happen always double-check the spelling and dates. The last reason it can take so long to compete your memorial is the foundation. Some cemeteries install their own foundations and sometimes only once or twice a year. Sometimes due to bad weather it can take longer to have the foundation installed. Once your memorial is installed it will be there forever a few extra days or weeks should not even be a consideration.
Why can't cemeteries pour foundations in the winter?
In most climates freezing is a major consideration for not installing foundations in the winter. Concrete does not set well if the temperature is below freezing.
Will moss grow on the top of my memorial if it is not polished ?
Moss growing on memorials seems to be a problem in some areas more than other areas. It has a lot to do with the climate and ground moisture and as well the proximity to certain trees and shrubs. Having the top polished simply makes the memorial easier to clean and the slippery surface hinders moss growth. In most cases moss or most other stains can be removed by pressure washing and professional cleaning. Ask your local monument builder about this.
Why should you add the wife's maiden name to the memorial nobody around here knew her by that name anyway ?
Consider your memorial to be the only permanent piece of history that there is. Family bibles can get lost or destroyed so can other family records
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