A Fitting Resting Place for Abbie Mills in Sleepy Hollow

soul effigy
The Soul Effigy on a colonial headstone indicates the ascension of the soul after death

It’s been a week since Abbie Mills died and I’m still uncomfortable with the ending. That scene with Ichabod in front of her tombstone with the missing first name “Grace” – a name that has so much significance to her family history. And the simple epitaph that said what she did, but not who she was, or what she meant to others.

Even though Tom Mison stood in a cemetery somewhere in Georgia, I would like to imagine that Abbie’s casket is buried in the Old Dutch Burial ground near the church that Captain Crane would have known when he visited, back in the day, as an officer in the Continental Army with General George Washington on July 2, 1781. In his diary, General Washington makes note of stopping here, allowing his army to rest amongst the headstones and shade trees, out of the afternoon sun before continuing their march to Valentine Hill in Yonkers.

The residents of our cemetery span generations. Some are lucky to be remembered by carved headstones. For others, their wooden markers have long disappeared and the field stones that marked older graves have been moved or re-purposed. It’s a very peaceful feeling sitting in the Old Dutch Church on summer Sundays looking out the window at our church ancestors, our spiritual neighbors, many of whom sport a waving flag planted on their graves by the Daughters of the American Revolution in honour of their service – no matter which war.

If I could have carved Abbie’s headstone, I would have started with the red sandstone of the colonial era. Abbie was familiar with this time as a visitor and partner to a man who stepped out of that time.  Like a”Bridge Over Troubled Waters” – her actions spanned the centuries to save the known future from demonic forces threatening to alter the past.

I would have added a soul effigy. But the theology of Sleepy Hollow is a little fuzzy. We are Christians at the Old Dutch and the thought of giving up one’s eternal soul is the kind of thing that would land a person in Hell and that’s another show (@LuciferonFox). And combining elements from the Book of Revelation with the doctrine of the transmigration of souls sounds like the kind of thing that could have gotten you burned at the stake back in day of Solomon Kent. So, since it appears we can believe anything we like, I’m believing that her eternal soul is intact and it will ascend. Or something like that.

Next, I would have made sure her whole name was on the headstone along with her birth and death dates. But the dates are fuzzy too, because we are told while Abbie is dead, her eternal soul lives on and someone who isn’t Abbie may come back. Or something like that. It all too confusing.

Now – the important part, the epitaph. I would have spent more than a 60 sec commercial break to come up with words that would make me miss her every time I stood in front of her stone to cry snot-tears into my lillies. I would have channeled Ichabod, the most lettered of the bunch, and perhaps pulled a sonnet out of his eidetic filing cabinet.

Katrina
Catriena Van Tessel wife of Petrus Van Tessel

There are some lovely epitaphs at the Old Dutch, and one of my favourites is Catriena Van Tessel’s. Yes, that Katrina. Most likely the inspiration for the name Irving used for his country coquette. In truth,  she was married to Petrus Van Tessel, who was brother to Cornelius Van Tessel, who has a connection to the Legend of the Headless Horseman, but that’s another story.

Catriena’s sandstone has lost its grip over time, but here are the words her husband chose for her:

Who can grieve too much!

What time shall end,

Our mourning for

So dear a friend.

It kind of grabs you, doesn’t it?

One of the most poignant headstones at the Old Dutch is the triple-arched stone of three Couenhoven children, who, following a period of illness, perished within days of eachother:

couenhoven
Triple gravestone for the Couenhoven children

At the bottom of the headstone, buried by the grass are the words:

How lovely & pleasant were they in their

Lives; & in their Deaths they were 

Not divided.

Remind you of anyone we know?

As I think about the passing of our heroine, I can’t help but think that Grace Abigail Mills has now become a part of the Legend and Lore of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. Nichole Beharie gave Abbie such life that the memory of this character can not be extinguished. So, when we start our summer Sundays back at the Old Dutch, I will remember her when I look out amongst these historic head stones because Abbie was always strong, and true, and she brought out the best in people.

And in my imagination, the Red, White, and Blue, will be flying over her grave to mark her solidarity with the colonial boys who surround her.

Martlings

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