Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Family Ties


Sometimes a photograph is about a story that you don’t know, but wish that you did.  Like this one.  I found this family plot in a Charleston cemetery.  All of the graves are from the same family (Ladson), obviously, and all date back to the early to mid 1800’s.  This in itself is not unusual here – there are many such plots scattered across town.  What affected me, however, was the gravestone on the far right.

In case you can’t read it, the stone contains 6 names.  It appears they are all siblings, although I can’t be sure of that.  Assuming that they are, they all died between 1828 and 1839.  The youngest was only 10 months old – the oldest was about 17.  Also of interest is the fact that they all died in May, June, or July.

It is the contrast between the lives that these people led and the lives that we lead today that intrigues me so much.  For them, death was never far away.  I can’t imagine the devastation of losing 6 children (2 within a month of one another).  How does one cope with that?  How do you survive that kind of grief?

And what killed these children?  Was it disease?  Was it disease brought on by the heat of summer?  If so, how many others from other families suffered the same fate?  I tried to find some answers by “googling” Charleston history and the family name.  So far, no luck.  I do know that James Ladson was a prominent citizen in Charleston during that period, but that’s about it.

Today we have a pill for just about everything (some of which do little more than make us sicker).  We can prolong life by connecting the ill and infirm to machines that take over “natural” functions.  We have ongoing debates about when life begins and when it ends.  We expect to live – death is unexpected.

I suspect that the people whose remains lie beneath these stones had a far different view of life.  Even the wealthy, who could afford plots like this one, knew that death might be no further away than the next injury or the next cold or the next fever.  Death was expected – life was a gift.


One Response to “Family Ties”

  1. Don

    It does make one wonder. My wife and I saw a plot like this a few years ago on the shore of the Great Sacandaga Lake where the children were very young.


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