|Virginia Woolf's mother|
|Albrecht Dürer's mother|
According to her nephew Waldo, for some years Mary Emerson slept in a coffin-shaped bed and regularly wore death-shrouds as outfits, replacing them with newer shrouds as they wore out and death “refus[ed] to come.” Images of death and death-longing filled her writing and emerged as one of her most significant and striking tropes. Emerson acknowledged this, stating that “Destitution and Death” were the “Muse[s] of her genius” (Emerson Lectures 428, 404). She reflected, "The humblest example of meekness will shine in light when the meteors are gone [….] Good night. Oh for that ‘long and moonless night’ to shadow my dust, tho’ I have nothing to leave but my carcase to fatten the earth—it is for my own sake I long to go" (Barish “Angel” 232).
In 1863, at almost ninety years old, Mary Emerson at last found her “moonless night.” Buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, Mary’s body—her “tedious tabernacle”—was finally placed into a “cool, sweet grave,” freeing her soul to ascend to Heaven. Worms, those “most valuable companions,” finally would “gnaw[…] away the meshes” that had trapped her soul on earth, a place where she felt she never truly belonged.
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