Provo City Cemetery dedicates area for infants

2008-05-11T23:00:00Z Provo City Cemetery dedicates area for infantsAce Stryker - DAILY HERALD Daily Herald
May 11, 2008 11:00 pm  • 

The messenger watches over the six little ones, her arms extended to the hundreds more that will inevitably come with time.

Her face is serene, kind, silent. She wears a gentle smile, but her eyes are closed, as if in blind deference to the lives of those over whom she perpetually tends.

"With the hands reaching out, it has a welcoming feel to it," said Gary Price, who modeled the statue after his deceased mother. "I just hope it creates a positive, warm experience as much as being in a cemetery could be -- a place of death, but also a place of comfort."

A little girl is among those laid to rest in sight of the statue. She died about a month ago, having spent less than 24 hours with her family before departing again. The wound in the ground is so fresh that the grass has not yet grown in around her simple, flat headstone.

She and the others are the first residents of Angel Garden, the newest addition to the Provo City Cemetery. The area opened in February after all 640 plots in the first infant section, Babyland, had been filled, said Brenda Brown, who works in the cemetery office as an assistant.

"It's an extra-special place," she said. "Everybody just has a soft spot for the babies."

The garden's environment mirrors the lives of those who populate it. While the rest of the cemetery is wrought with tall, dark trees that spread shade across the lawns with their needled arms, the garden is absent of any large growth. It's just a flat expanse of grass in the corner of the yard, unmarred by any of the foliage that takes years to develop.

Brown said infants' graves are the most frequently visited. On Easter, groups decorate each site with eggs. On Memorial Day, others bring roses.

"To know that the child hasn't been forgotten is a comfort," she said. "It's hard for these parents to lose these little ones. It's neat to know that they're there with other babies."

The garden's statue -- named "The Messenger" by Price, whose mother died when he was 6 -- was chosen to offer comfort to parents as they spend time with their children, Brown said.

"You'll often see just little mothers kneeling out there," she said. "That's why we kind of wanted something special in this area."

There are 540 new plots for infants in the garden. At a rate of about 20 moving in per year, it should be a while before the area is full, Brown said. But cemetery operators are still looking ahead, planning for an expansion to the west where land has already been purchased.

For Price, seeing the 50-inch statue in the garden was a moving experience. He never really got to know his mother, but he said the process of crafting the statue four years ago helped him reconnect with her. He said that while the process took a couple hundred hours, he had been preparing for it his entire life.

"When I sculpted the piece, I put a lot of photos of her around in my studio," he said. "It was really quite a spiritual experience. It's all of my experiences rolled up in that thing."

Another 8-foot-tall version of the statue stands in Iceland, marking the spot where LDS pioneers left the country to come to North America -- ostensibly marking the beginning of a different kind of journey.

"I wanted to create a messenger of whatever it is we need to continue our journey in life," Price said. "It's symbolic of that whole idea of assistance from the unseen world."

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