I’ve been to many museums, but back in 2015, I had a particularly moving experience while visiting the National Roman Museum (Palazzo Massimo alle Terme) near Rome’s Centrale train station. In the basement area was a wing devoted to Roman tombstones.
On one particular tombstone, I found the following inscription:
For the souls departed. Alexander lived 3 years, 4 months, and 19 days. His father, Quintus Canuleius Alexander, and his mother Clarina, saw to the making of this tomb for their dear devoted and well-deserving son. He is buried here! I beg you, when you pass by to say, “May the earth not weigh upon your remains.”
I found that entry to be fascinating and I stood there for a long time, thinking about this. During the Roman era, medicine was primitive and life expectancy quite low. Many children died while still at a young age so it was prudent to have as many offspring as possible. But the fact that these grieving parents made sure that their own child was remembered shook my own world view to the core. Here it was, even in a time of pragmatism, could the love of a parent to their child be truly appreciated. It struck me that the people during those times were really not much different than the parents of today. Despite the fact that children easily succumbed to all sorts of illness in that distant past, they still made an effort to remember him.
To me, this is a perfect example that no matter what age or what part of the world one lived in, the love of a parent to that of a child will always be a universal, human trait, one that is constant through the annals of time.
Before I left that gallery, I made a silent prayer to 3-year old Alexander.
“May the earth not weigh upon your remains.”
Your parents did a wonderful job, for you have not been forgotten.