A grieving angel statue casts her gaze down, clutching flowers close to her. Trees and other plants in the background seem to swirl around her menacingly. Delve into the tangled thickets of your subconscious with this black and white poster.
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In Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery, this beautiful angel graces the gravestone of Joseph Pearce Wheless (Jan. 1, 1867 - Aug. 28, 1944) and his wife, Beaulah Bliss Wheless (Nov. 4, 1866 - Oct. 11, 1945).
Their epitaph reads:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
The collection of flowers that the angel haphazardly clutches include roses, daisies, and an iris, all of which are associated with the Virgin Mary.
The iris has additional symbolism that I think is pertinent to the statue. According to Douglas Keister in Stories in Stone: A Field Gude to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography:
In ancient mythology, Iris was a messenger of the gods. She carried their messages over a rainbow that connected heaven and earth. Iris also guides the souls of girls and women into the otherworld.
To me, the angel’s expression also hints at this journey beyond the veil, conveying not just sadness but fear.
I’m reminded of this quote from Hamlet:
.... Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Basically, Hamlet is saying that when things feel too difficult to bear, the reason we don’t end it all is because we’re more afraid of the unknown.
The unknown is represented in this photo by the background of swirling trees and plants – disorienting and unnerving.
The angel is like a hapless fairy tale character, lost in a dark, frightening forest.
In fairy tales, though, the journey is not through death but through one’s own psyche.
It’s only by facing our own darkness and moving through it that we can emerge stronger on the other side.