A sailboat and New York skyline, visible from Hart Island, New York's Potter's Field

S4E14: Hart Island: The History of New York’s Potter’s Field

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We’ve all head the term “potter’s field”, but what is the origin? What exactly is a potter’s field, and did you know we have a famous one in the USA? We talk about all this in this episode and more.

The Origin of a Potter’s Field

The term dates back to Biblical times, when the 30 pieces of silver that was paid to Judas was returned to the High Priests. They used it to buy a plot of land to bury “strangers” – likely unsuitable for farming because of its high clay content, but used for harvesting clay for pottery. The term has since been used for burial fields commonly used for unidentified or poor.

Some of the earliest known AIDS victims are buried on Hart Island in fear of contagion (Time Magazine)

The Largest Potter’s Field in America – Hart Island

New York City’s potter’s field is the largest one in America. It lies between the coast of the Bronx and Long Island, technically in the Long Island sound.

Unmarked pine boxes arrived regularly by ferry to Hart Island, New York City’s potter’s field, the largest one in America. City workers entomb the homeless, indigent and stillborn in trenches across the island. Its serious use for burials began after the Civil War and still over 1,100 bodies are still interned there every year. In 2020, New York was hit hard with the COVID pandemic, with 27,000 deaths overwhelming the morgues. Many bodies were sent to Hart Island in that period.

Listen to Charlie to learn more about the fascinating history of potter’s fields and Hart Island. Check the links below for more stories and pictures.


Digital Fragments After Death: a Spotify Playlist

We have been talking about Hanna Ingber’s article in the NYT about the digital fragments left behind after death. This week’s memory is from a woman whose father died and her discover of another side to him after she found a playlist he had created. Spoiler: he was a closet Dolly Parton fan!

What would your favorite music share about you to your loved ones?

What is Love?

What does Love mean to 4-8 year old kids? A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, ‘What does love mean?’ The answers they got were broader, deeper, and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined! Listen to our 3rd segment to hear all the cute quotes. You can read this Psychology Today article for more quotes and and conversation about what children think of love.

Recipe of the Week

This ginger and tumeric noodle soup, made with a base of coconut milk, is sure to be soothing! Check out the first link below for more ideas from Food and Wine

Coconut milk is a staple in much of the world, but have you discovered it yet? This page from Food and Wine has a run-down of several recipes that start with a can of coconut milk, including the one we featured – Restorative Ginger and Turmeric Noodle Soup. Give it a try!

We are also selected as one of the Top 50 Grief Blogs on the Web!

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Everyone Dies: and yes, it is normal!

Everyone Dies (and yes, it is normal) is a story about a young boy named Jax who finds something special on the beach where he and his grandpa Pops are enjoying a wonderful day. Pops helps Jax understand that death is a normal part of life. This book provides an age appropriate, non-scary, comfortable way to introduce the important topic of mortality to a preschool child. Its simple explanation will last a lifetime. Autographed copies for sale at: www.everyonediesthebook.com. Also available at Amazon

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