death and the soldier and the Virgin

I thought I’d seen it all in the “angel statue” genre. From the “angels pushing children” to the female Archangel Gabriel, I’ve looked at all of them, admired some, laughed at many, and spent too much money to count. And then I saw this one.

En route to a furniture store, I saw it from the road. Standing high in a cemetery, it was an angel holding a man’s body, kneeling before the Virgin Mary in full Queen of Heaven regalia.

If you’ve read Seven Archangels: Annihilation, you know I don’t really go for “Queen of Heaven” robes and a crown. I’d rather imagine Mary in a sweater and jeans, baking bread and with a pot of coffee brewing for anyone who wanted to come talk to her. But the statue had me wondering. Who was the man? What scene was that supposed to be?

My first thought was the angel was holding the body of Jesus, but that made no sense with the Queen of Heaven regalia.

My second thought was that this was the guardian angel of a soul, and the angel was praying for the soul and asking Mary for help. Or maybe the angel of death delivering a soul. But I couldn’t prove either theory. I googled the cemetery and couldn’t find anything about the statue.

Well, providence struck. We needed to go back to the furniture store, so this time I brought my camera. You can click all these pictures to make them bigger if you like.

It’s a war memorial. The graves immediately in front of the statue are all veterans. The man in the statue is wearing a uniform. The statue bears the inscription “In honor of our beloved servicemen, Gift of William W. Gunn 19*8” (that part isn’t clear on my picture) and the back is inscribed “Knowles Co. Dorchester.”

In her arms, Mary is holding the child Jesus. That’s his “Prince of Peace” iconography if you’re not familiar with the various ways Jesus gets rendered in religious art. And they both have a tender, welcoming expression on their faces. Her hand is extended as if to say, “Come.” 

Then there’s the angel. I don’t have as good a vantage on this as I should have gotten, but he looks concerned. His wings aren’t just planted there on his back (as in so much angel statuary) but they’re raised a little as if he’s startled. His body is curved forward, pleading, and although the soldier is in his lap, he’s looking at Mary and Jesus, not at the man.

I’m still not sure whether the angel is the man’s guardian or the angel of death. But either way, you can see the care. There’s gentility in the way his hands rest on the man. I’m leaning toward guardian here, just because he looks a little surprised, as if he’s caught off-guard in the moment and he’s just looking up as Mary approaches with her son.

And there’s also the double-meaning of the guardian of American freedom having his own guardian.

Overall, it’s quite impressive, and I’m glad we ended up going back so I could spend a little time by the graves of the soldiers who were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our country. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine on them. May they rest in peace. Amen.


  1. Lee Ann Doerflinger

    Thank you for going back and looking more carefully. Soldiers in war die suddenly–perhaps the angel was surprised to find this one in his arms so soon. My own son died this way and I sometimes indulge the hope that his guardian angel whisked him off the field of battle before he could know what had happened.

    I am glad for these small, unsung memorials.

    Lee Ann
    mother of SPC Thomas Doerflinger, KIA 11/11/2004, Mosul, Iraq

  2. DottyG

    What a touching memorial, Tabris. That brought tears to my eyes (as did the comment posted by Lee Ann above as well).

    Lee Ann, I’m sorry for your loss. And, thank you for raising a son who gave all he had to secure my own freedom. I know it doesn’t seem fair. But, do know that someone appreciates Thomas and all he did.

  3. Jason Block

    Lee Ann…thank you for your son’s service. My dad is ex-Air Force.

  4. **Truly Blessed**

    This is an absolutely amazing statue and photograph. Wow. I am so touched by this memorial… it is just exquisite and holds so much meaning. Thank you for taking photos of this masterpiece and sharing it!! 🙂

  5. peteonthewater

    I can believe the Lord coming for the one who gave his life for his country…on his last night with His friends Jesus said; “I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.”

  6. philangelus

    And precious indeed to the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. :'(

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