The Saddest Headstone I've Ever Seen


One of the reasons I like Salt Lake is that it's great for talking walks, which is one of my favorite forms of exercise--I do it often enough, quickly enough and for long enough that it actually constitutes real exercise. The U of Utah, City Creek Park, Liberty Park, even downtown: these are all interesting places to walk. Plus the whole grid for the layout of the city and the use of coordinates as addresses make it really easy to know where you are and how far you've gone.

But one of my favorite places to walk is the city cemetery, on the northeast side of the city. I was walking there not long ago, when I saw the saddest headstone I've ever seen in my life. I realize that gravestones aren't exactly cheery--as Morrissey sings in "Cemetery Gates,"

so we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All these people, all those lives, where are they now?
With loves, and hates, and passions just like mine.
They were born and then they lived and then they died.
Seems so unfair, I want to cry.

But this one, there's so much tragedy and loss and suffering conveyed by just a few lines one stone--provided you read both sides of it. Here's the front:


And here's the back:


It freakin' breaks my heart to read that list of dates.


That's awful! I wonder if they had any children that lived.

My great-grandparents lost five or six children in infancy or early childhood around the same time (coincidentally, between 1914 and 1919, like the Baumgartners). I think the sad thing about this headstone is that there are three sons who weren't even they count?

I wonder if they had any children that lived


I think the sad thing about this headstone is that there are three sons who weren't even they count?

Questions like these occurred to me, too, hm-uk & Juti. I also think it's significant that the parents aren't buried anywhere near these five children. Did they move away to escape the tragedy of Salt Lake? Did they have no one to carry out their wishes and bury them where they wanted to be? What the hell happened? Part of why I find the headstone so heartbreaking isn't just that it lists five children who died in early infancy; it's that it tells nothing else. It's just the barest outline of a long-lasting tragedy.

fyi--I was walking through this cemetery a few days ago, and this headstone was bedecked with a wreath of holly and pine, a silver foil Christmas tree, and other things. I can't know, of course, if they were put there by relatives of the Baumgartners or just someone like me, who was struck and moved by the loss the headstone commemorates. But I thought people would like to know that someone continues to memorialize these short lives.

This is a neat entry. I recently discovered the Mt. Olivet cemetery near the U just south of the stadium and was blown away. I saw no less than three dozen deer lounging about, rolling hills, lots of trees, and found these stunningly beautiful old mausoleums complete with front doors, locks, and stained glass windows. More thought and design went into these than many of the building built today. I did a blog post on it here if you're interested.

thanks for the link to your blog. I've noticed Mt. Olivet on my way to my doctor's office or Red Butte Gardens, but I haven't stopped to explore it. I will make a point of doing that soon.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on November 15, 2008 5:36 PM.

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