November 02, 2012

On Hallowed Ground

On the day before the Day of the Dead, I decided to go visit the land of the dead: a cemetery.

Evergreen isn't just any cemetery: there are lots of people buried there in nameless graves, with no family to visit them. After all, Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory started out in 1877 as a potter's field, a mass grave for those too poor to buy their own plot of land (or headstone) as their final resting place.

Fifty years after its founding, Evergreen was full. They began cremating the poor to conserve space.

Nearly 50 years after that, its new private owners (having purchased it from the county) readied the plot of land for more burials by adding eight feet of soil on top of the existing unmarked graves, and burying the cremated remains of thousands of unclaimed dead.

I would visit them on Halloween.

Many early pioneers are buried there, and graves are marked by headstones which bear the recognizable names of some of our city's founding fathers - Bixby, Lankershim, Van Nuys...

But who visits these fathers, mothers, children and babies anymore?

There are flowers and decorations on some of the newer graves....

...but what about the cracked?

The split?

The crumbling?

The toppled...

...and broken?

The nameless?

Where are their families now? Would they even know where to find them?

What about those who are buried...underneath?

Do they notice?

Do I disturb them, as gingerly as I try to tiptoe amidst the stones?

Am I welcome?

Do they know?

What about when construction workers excavating nearby land uncover their remains?

What happens then?

There are plenty of new burials happening all the time at Evergreen Cemetery - including one procession during my visit - adding to the layers of mourning and loss that are already nearly a century and a half old.

What happens when this one fills up too?

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  1. Very nice, most of my fam is there at Evergreen, the Japanese section on west near main entrance. Love the old place; your shots captured it well.

    your LA Times pal,

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