I was looking for a garage sale, but I found the cemetery instead.
One thing I noticed about the cemetery is that based on last names, it seemed to be quite integrated. People with what seemed to me to be Anglo names were buried in close proximity to people with what seemed to me to be Latino/a names.
In addition to many professionally carved headstones, more than a few of the graves were marked by amateur endeavors. I liked the handmade crosses and handwritten signs. They seem more personal and loving than cold stone. Seeing people’s handwriting (sometimes messy, sometimes with letters ever-so-carefully written) made me recognize a real connection between the living and the dead. It’s easy for me to look at graves in a cemetery and think of the people buried there as in the abstract, but seeing the handwriting on grave markers as a connection between the living and their dead, made the dead seem more like real people.
I saw several things in the Ajo Cemetery that I’d never seen at other graveyards.
The first thing I saw was saguaros! In the cemetery! Saguaros in the cemetery! It wasn’t a huge shock, as the cemetery is in the Sonoran Desert and saguaros grow in the Sonoran Desert, but I was surprised to see the huge cacti. These were some seriously big saguaros, which means seriously old, saguaros. I’m glad they didn’t get pulled up or cut down to make room for the graveyard.
I’d never seen graves covered with painted gravel before, but I saw them at the Ajo Cemetery. I saw a couple of those, each with the gravel painted different, bright colors. I wonder why. Why gravel, I mean. I sort of understand people who think painted gravel looks prettier than plain gravel wanting to paint it, but why put gravel on a grave site in the first place? Maybe to try to keep the dust down?
When I visited the Old Kernville Cemetery (read about that experience here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/29/old-kernville-cemetery/), I encountered a couple of graves upon which an unopened Bud Light had been placed. In the Ajo Cemetery, I encountered grave sites upon which other beverages had been left. I saw bottles of water, Coca-Cola, and Jarritos. I wonder if this offering for the dead is particular to the dessert.
I saw several creepy things at the Ajo Cemetery.
The first creepy thing I saw was a rather disturbing inscription on the headstone marking a baby’s grave.
I’m not trying to be snarky or offensive about someone else’s grief or how that grief is expressed. I know that people mourn in different ways. Also, I give this family props for staying optimistic in the face of losing their baby. But I feel freaked out by this sentiment of “my baby’s dead, but God will send me a new baby, and I won’t even miss the old baby.” Let’s just say I don’t think this is the way I would grieve my lost child.
The second creepy thing I saw was a collapsing grave. Yes, I got as close as possible so I could look into the hole. Yes, I stepped gingerly, gauging my weight so I wouldn’t fall in. Yes, I experienced a mild fear of an arm reaching out and grabbing my ankle. No, I didn’t see a coffin or bones. No, nothing grabbed my ankle.
I hope someone comes along soon and repairs Donald P. Harrison’s grave.
The third creepy thing I saw harkens back to the DIY grave markers. It may be a bit difficult to believe that I actually encountered in a cemetery the grave represented in the next photo, but I promise you, the photo shows exactly what I saw.
I saw so many graves of children in this cemetery. It seemed like there were more children’s graves than I normally see in graveyards. Maybe Ajo was not only a town with families (as opposed to settlements populated with predominantly hard-living men), but a place where life was rough and survival was difficult. All of those graves of kids got to me, and I felt rather melancholy when I left.
I think cemeteries are making me sadder as I get older.
Ajo cemetery is located at 1181 Cedar Street in Ajo, Arizona.
I took all of the photos in this post.