I was looking for a garage sale, but I found the cemetery instead.
I didn’t need more stuff, so I decided to walk through the cemetery instead of browsing through the discards of someone’s life. I ended up spending almost two hour there.
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.
I don’t know the fascination with cemeteries, but I was bitten by that bug years ago. I rarey pass by a cemetery, I find them so interesting.
My brother once said that if you don’t believe America is a melting pot, visit a cemetery. It’s true! One of the larger cemeteries in my area has a Chinese section and one also for Koreans and a Latino section that overflows with colorful items and many solar lights. It’s the most beautiful section and perhaps most real portrayal of love and grief. In any cemetery in America you can find a Wise next to a Wysocki beside a Ludwig, a Van Dal and a Romanov. This is equally true in Jewish cemeteries. The names have many origins from Russian to Spanish to English French and German etc etc
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Do you know why there are so many concrete grave slabs and grave curbs in Ajo Cemetery? I haven’t seen this as much in other Arizona cemeteries.
HI Kate. Thanks for reading my blog. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the answer to your question. I don’t know why there are concrete grave slabs and grave curbs in Ajo Cemetery. Maybe you could contact the folks who run/maintain the cemetery. Or maybe if Ajo has a historical society, that group could help. Maybe the people at the Ajo museum could tell you.
Here’s some contact info for the Ajo Historical Society
Address 160 South Mission Road
Ajo, Arizona, 85321
Hours Open Daily 12:00 PM-4:00 PM
Unfortunately, a quick internet search gave me no information on who runs the cemetery. If you have more time, you could do more searching. Good luck! If you find the answer to your question, I’d love for you to share the information here.
Thank you! I haven’t had time to check around but will do so soon and let you know what I find.