Cemetery Reflections

Non-Fiction - Art/Photography
206 Pages
Reviewed on 07/09/2022
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

"Step Softly, Here lies a dream.” This epitaph on a child’s gravestone in an historic cemetery in Canada sparked an interest in cemeteries that has led to the book Cemetery Reflections. For the last 10 years Jane Hopkins has photographed over 200 cemeteries in the eastern US and Canada. She finds cemeteries a treasure trove of art created from stone by the carver's tools. These sacred places represent the essence of someone's life on earth and the loving memories of those left behind.

Jane lives with her husband Tom in Webster, NY on the shore of Lake Ontario . To her surprise she has found kindred souls among all age groups as she wanders among the tombstones. She enjoys sharing these experiences as a member of the Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY, and the Association of Gravestone Studies in Greenfield, MA. Jane's educational background includes degrees in Psychology and Social Work, augmented by several years of coursework in digital photography at Rochester Institute of Technology. Her fine art photographs have been exhibited and sold since 2002.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Philip Van Heusen for Readers' Favorite

Many will think this is just a coffee table book, but it is much more. Death has been sanitized in modern society. As a result, very few people alive today have been with a loved one at the point of death. We have tried to remove death as far away from us as possible. However, Jane Hopkins in Cemetery Reflections brings the reader face-to-face with mortality. One thing all humanity has in common is death. We all die at some point. This book is full of photographs of headstones from various cemeteries. In this book, one will see that death comes to the old and the young. As I viewed the photos, I felt at peace with death. The prose and verses that provide the text for this book give a sobering look at death. Reading this book will put you in a reflective mood and provide peace for the future.

Author Jane Hopkins allows us to walk beside her as she visits various cemeteries. On these walks, we are given a glimpse of how death has been viewed over the centuries. While reading the epitaphs, one can see that the loved ones grieved but also accepted the inevitable. Put this book on the coffee table, but pick it up now and then to remember that life is short, and we need to live it to the fullest. I was amazed by the similarities between tombstones at New England’s cemeteries and those in Georgia and South Carolina. It shows that death is a common factor of life, no matter where you live.

Lois Henderson

Cemetery Reflections, by Jane Hopkins, explores the styles of architecture and epitaphs in graveyards over three centuries. The book is divided into two, with the first part presenting an overview of such cemetery features, largely from the East Coast of the United States, and ranging from memorial parks to columbariums for the cremated. The second part of Cemetery Reflections focuses on a more intimate expression of grief and the experience of death and dying. The importance of setting, whether part of a broader landscape or in close-ups, is shown throughout. The loss of the young in military conflict is also a key element of this text.

I found the full-color and black-and-white photographs that accompany the epitaphs in Jane Hopkins’ Cemetery Reflections especially poignant in their illustration of children and animals. The overwhelming nature of death is made apparent in those cases where a number of deaths are recorded as occurring in close conjunction with one another, and the reader can only imagine what grief and heartbreak was involved. The photographs that are taken from Hopkins’ family archives, and the instances of her own writing, make this work, at least in part, a personal tribute to her own kith and kin. The blending of public and private make Cemetery Reflections a memorable volume that serves as a fitting tribute to those who have gone before us and who have left their mark on the landscape, whether domestic or embedded within a wider realm.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

There is peace and solitude in these vast spaces where stones mark the final resting place of so many. There are also countless stories of dreams shared, some achieved and some lost; stories of love, war, famine, and disease that took so many so soon and so unexpectedly. Cemeteries are chapters in our history, for that’s what stories tell. They represent those fortunate enough to have been loved enough that they are remembered and honored with fitting effigies and epitaphs of profound affection. “A cemetery is a public acknowledgment of lives lived, wishes and dreams fulfilled and lost.” as Hopkins’ book concludes.

I frequently wander around local cemeteries, paying my own personal tribute to those I never had the privilege of meeting, wondering about the lives of those honored by a marked stone, a mausoleum, or a carving of angels. I want to hear the stories that lie beneath my feet and capture their lives in my mind for all time. “Each headstone represents a personal story of someone’s journey here on earth and its connection to a larger web of human history.” After three years of suffering through a pandemic, unable to visit loved ones, watching so many die and be buried without the usual fanfare of a public funeral, we need to witness these stories in a quiet way, ponder the lives of others as we ponder our own inevitable mortality.

Of similar mind, Jane Hopkins approached her project, Cemetery Reflections, a book of photographic and poetic mementoes of lives past. She visited countless cemeteries in the Eastern United States and made a photographic record of their fascinating tombstones and the inscriptions on many. Her photographs are spectacular, effigies in their own visual records. Each image is accompanied by a poem or a script, either from the writing on specific tombstones, or from famous authors through the ages. With a fascinating and intuitive preface and introduction, the reader is left to peruse these timeless records of humanity and the honor we pass on to those who went before us. This is a great book to study at one’s leisure, to reflect on the infinite wonders of life, and to come to terms with one’s own grief over losing a loved one.