Greek grave stele

Grave stele

In a 5th-century Greek grave stele now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a young girl, no older than a decade, bids a final farewell to her winged pets. Her lips meet the smooth beak of the dove she holds in a loose, one-handed embrace. The action speaks louder than any words that have ever left her lips, for it is not simply a good-bye. She knows that soon her psyche will leave her body and flutter from her mouth. By this gentle yet complex gesture, the mistress silently reassures her pets—and herself—she will fly among them until she finds her place in the afterlife. Death is less horrifying with the knowledge she will be in the company of her feathered friends.

—Catherine Wilks