As the old saying goes, everyone dies twice. The first time is your physical death, the second is the last time anyone utters your name.
If the old saying is true, then Caitlin Abrams is giving dozens of people a second life by cleaning their tombstones and allowing their names to be heard once again. Abrams volunteers at four cemeteries and cleans the tombstones of people who died between the 1700s to the early 1900s.
Most of the tombstones she cleans are hard to read, but after a good scrubbing and dousing with D2, hundreds of years of dirt and grime disappear, revealing their original inscriptions.
Abrams' tombstone videos have attracted over 25 million views on TikTok. In addition to the cleansing, she adds a bit of history about the deceased and the era in which they lived.
Most of the tombstones Abrams cleans are those of women and children. She focuses on them to remind people just how common death was before the advent of modern medicine.
"Over the last few decades especially, death moved from something that everyone experienced on a daily basis in their own home to something that happens primarily to the elderly and far away in a hospital or nursing home," she told Buzzfeed.
"Of course it is absolutely incredible, the progress that modern medicine has made, and we should all be thankful for it, but it does mean that we, especially younger generations, keep death at something of a distance," she continued.
The graves are a window into a time long gone when children routinely died of diseases that are survivable today.
Here are some of Abrams' most popular videos.
David James Carter and David James Carter
The older David died at the age of 12 from scarlet fever. After his passing, his parents named their next boy David James Carer as well. He would die of diptheria at a very young age. The boys also had a sister named Sarah who Abrams covers in the next video.
David James and David James ❤️💔 #gravetok #gravestonecleaning #cemetery
Sarah died in 1865 of typhoid fever, a bacterial infection that killed a lot of people in the U.S. prior to antibiotics. The grave has a tragic inscription: "Our happy hopes are buried here." The Carters buried three children in the same decade.
#gravetok #gravestonecleaning #taphophile
Silas and Freddie Reed
Poor Silas died at the young age of 11 months of what's described as "lung fever," which was most likely pneumonia. His brother, Freddie, died almost a year after at the age of eight, due to typhoid fever. This cleansing is especially satisfying to watch because the tombstone goes from unreadable to readable in just a few minutes.
Will definitely provide updates on Silas’s stone 🥰 #gravetok #gravestonecleaning #medicalhistory
Fannie died at the young age of 21 due to tuberculosis. Her headstone brightened up beautifully after the cleaning.
Fannie Blackmer ❤️ #gravetok #gravestonecleaning
Olive died at 21 in 1807 from what's believed to be tuberculosis. The stone has a beautiful inscription:
See how she sleeps beneath the stone
In death's cold shade her body lies while her triumphant soul is gone to join the songs above the skies
Methinks her shade appears to say "behold my relics lifeless clay"
The hour my fate, your oh maybe
Prepare dear youth to follow me
Olive ❤️ #gravetok #gravestonecleaning
Rachel Burton "The Manchester Vampire"
Burton died in 1790 at the age of 21. Three years after her death, her husband Isaac's second wife, Holda, came down with tuberculosis as well. Back then, people believed that tuberculosis was caused by deceased people who come back from the grave to curse family members with the disease.
Isaac believed that Rachel placed a curse on his current wife, so he had 500 people come to the cemetery where her body was exhumed. Her heart and liver were burned and Holda breathed in the ashes to be cured of the disease.
Sadly, Holda died anyway.
Rachel Burton, the Manchester Vampire. #gravetok #gravestonecleaning #newenglandhistory
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