Saturday, September 11, 2004

My mother, Rhoda McCoy

Rhoda McCoy
Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
I came across this tombstone as I was walking the dog and he meandered through the graveyard at Old Swedes Church here in South Philly. Something about it made me stop in my tracks and after reading the inscription, her name and her lifespan, I decided to photograph it.

Rhoda was born in 1777 and lived 88 years until 1865 when she was buried, presumably by her only child. Her life began during the Revolutionary War and ended after the Civil War. Imagine what she must have seen in her time.

The ghosts of Philadelphia are all around. Tiny little graveyards are everywhere, their ancient tombstones obscured by moss and decay. They say 5,000 dead soldiers from the Revolutionary War are buried beneath Washington Square. People sunbathe there on blankets and towels, blissfully unaware--or maybe aware--of the bodies below them. There's an Italian Catholic church nearby where the first pastor's tomb is right there at the front entrance, practically on the sidewalk.

These ghosts seem benign, often noble. At least none of them have given me any trouble.


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