This Civil War period image of child in death is a memento mori, a final remembrance of the departed. Although viewed as morbid by today’s cultural norms, these images were the ultimate expression of love and respect in the past. To fully appreciate these images, consider that the deceased most likely died at home surrounded by loved ones. Moreover, that the family participated in the washing, dressing, and preparation of the body for burial—an intimate and emotional ritual that helped the grieving process on its natural course. The photograph would be taken at the end of this ritual and before the remains were closed inside a coffin. This is in stark contrast to today’s dying process, which most often occurs in a hospital or elder care facility followed by the professional services of a funeral home.
The headline here is taken from a nineteenth century hymn:
Weep not for me, my parents dear,
Since I must go and leave you here;
With Jesus I shall happy be,
O parents, do not weep for me!