Sunday, September 7, 2014

Greg visits a cemetery and thinks deeply about it

We live in Colma, a sleepy suburb south of San Francisco, famous for its many cemeteries. There are 1,000 times as many dead people as alive people here (really), inspiring the slogan "It's Great to Be Alive in Colma."

I had some time to kill today, so I headed across the street to Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.

I saw a surprising amount of gravestones intended for couples, yet the second person is missing.

Adeline Marsh here died in 1956, so it's highly unlikely that her husband is still living. What could be the possible reasons that he's missing? Maybe Adeline's beloved moved on, remarried, and was buried with his new wife, leaving the First Mrs. Marsh to rest eternally alone. Maybe it's something boring, like the second half is reserved for a still-alive child. Or maybe by the time the husband died, no one was around who cared enough to make sure they were buried together.

It seems like people with Asian-sounding names lived much longer than those with Hispanic-sounding names.

The cemetery is sort of segmented into rough eras of death. I always am intrigued by the died-in-the-1800s crowd. When someone dies, people visit them for a while as long as the memory is still fresh, then on their birthdays, and then eventually everyone who ever knew or loved them is also gone. If you are in the middle of one of these ancient sections, it's likely that years have passed since anyone has so much as read your headstone, much less known who you were. Many of the headstones lack critical details like names and dates, seemingly destined to obscurity. Take the one below (there's no writing on the back).

Some of the gravestones were literally covered in shit, presumably from the Canadian geese that I saw loitering around.

To set yourself apart, it pays to have a Google-able name.

I was wondering why Miss Qaqish met her demise at age 17, and I was able to find out.

This got me to wondering whether millennial graves will be graffiti-ed with URLs or QR codes, so that passers-by can easily get details beyond the names and dates. But sadly, URLs and QR codes will someday be obsolete, and eventually the content linked to them will no longer be maintained (I'm betting against and the like existing in 500 years). Not many of us can keep pace with an ever-spinning world and changing technology.

After about an hour, I found myself deep into the cemetery and surrounded by graves as far as the eye could see.

This is just an inconsequential subset of the dead: people who have died in my metropolitan area in the last hundred years or so. Many throughout history were not so lucky, and you even see famous people on Wikipedia who have unknown exact birth year or places.

If this has you depressed, I'll leave you with a guy not worth writing home about ...

... and an aptronym.

1 comment:

  1. New blog name suggestion: Sharon and Greg's San Francisco Bonzana OF DEATH