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Their Own Private Language

Hi, Heidi

. . . There was a time when there was an almost universal language in the memorial industry concerning the meaning of different objects. But now because of untrained people joining the field the language is lost. So people are creating their own language of symbols partially because we [monument salespeople] have failed to give them the key to the symbolism [of the images] that exist. That is, the tractor is not a tractor as much as a means to summon up the feelings of the farm and of seeing her husband coming in after all day on the planter. And each person's imagery is their own. The flowers now are more than likely what she grew in her garden or liked as a bouquet [rather than having religious significance]. I suspect that people think using writing is not getting their money's worth. So they want something like guitar, windmill, and truck rather than the phrase musician, rancher, and trucker.

Granite monument with pictures of a toolbox, an eagle, and a tractor
In describing this triple-monument (for a young son who died at 14 and his parents), Lou Ann wrote that it is an example of "the best of what is being done in memorialization" because of its incorporation of words and images, both secular and religious. This photo is of the back of the monument. Click on the photo for a larger image.

As far as intent, I will say that most people actually do state that this monument is for us and it doesn't matter what other people think of it . . . [T]hey can have their own private language; if it makes sense to them then that is as far as the meaning needs to go. Speaking to the generations to come [with religious epitaphs, for example], let alone the general public is not really considered by most people.

--Lou Ann (11/10/2000)


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