Several historic homes we visited in New England offered reminders of the omnipresence of death in earlier times.
In one house, a large marble bust of a young man stood in the corner of the living room, the likeness of a son, age 19, who had gone upstairs after dinner and died. The same family had lost a 26-year-old daughter to colitis, sitting up with her in her bedroom in the final weeks of her life.
Loss and the possibility of loss dogged the everyday, making people perhaps more comfortable with death than we. On the grounds of the home of the sculptor Daniel Chester French, I encountered this funerary sculpture of a boy, with an arched path leading up to a bench for meditation nearby. I can imagine the husband and wife sitting on this bench, recalling their dead child, and pondering God’s nature and human love.
Each summer contemporary sculpture is installed in the park, and this summer a modern sculpture resembling a pregnant woman has been placed in between the bench and the boy.