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Benji Chang’s Graveyard Evaluations

Benji Chang | bchang20@dtechhs.org | May 24, 2019

Holy Cross Cemetery. Photo by Benjamen Chang

Death is not usually a topic that comes up in most day to day conversations as most people do not enjoy the thought of dying. Bringing up death and destruction can instantly change the mood of any conversation from jovial to somber and awkward, but why? Why is death so uncomfortable to talk about? Perhaps, it is not the fear of death itself, but rather the fear of the unknown. With death there are many unknown factors and many unanswerable questions, but one question that is possible to answer before death is the question of burial. If people know where they’ll be buried, perhaps that can help resolve at least some of the unknowns about death. That is why I, Benji Chang, embarked on a noble quest, for your benefit, in order to review graveyards so you know where to shove both your worthless cadaver and your pet’s when you die.

What better a place to review graveyards than Colma, California? This city, south of SF, is colloquially known as the “city of souls”. That’s because it plays host to over a dozen graveyards that have over 1.5 million cadavers between them. It became the relocation spot for many of San Francisco’s corpses when the city expanded in the early part of the last century. This means that Colma has almost a thousand dead people for every living person. If the zombie apocalypse starts, the living residents of Colma are almost certainly goners.

In order to fairly review the graveyards, I created a rubric, a lá d.tech, with five categories. The first category, notable gravestones and landmarks, rates the cemetery based on famous people buried there as well as the expensiveness of the monuments to the dead. After all, if you haven’t paid exorbitant amounts of money to be put in dirt are you really even dead? Second, was the state of repair and cleanliness of the grounds. Third, respect shown to the dead — because if your relatives don’t leave piles of flowers on your grave, they never really loved you. Fourth, diversity of cultures buried, represented by the names on the gravestones, and the types of gravestones, because variety is the spice of life – and death. And finally, the overall serenity of the graveyard is important, as the environment must be peaceful in order to properly mourn.

I decided to begin my reviewing at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, one of the largest cemeteries in Colma. Cypress Lawn had many large, spotless, shiny tombs that were quite grand and pleasing to the eye, and it was clear that many people had spent the big bucks to be buried here. William Randolph Hearst, newspaper scion and codesigner of Hearst Castle, was buried here in a large mausoleum modeled after the Parthenon. However, the centerpiece of Cypress Lawn was the ginormous obelisk that dominated the landscape and filled me with a craving for Egypt. However, there was also plenty of room for the poorer people of the Bay Area as there were numerous smaller graves. Many of the graves also had flowers on them, proving that the dead are still remembered at Cypress Lawn.

Speaking of remembering the dead, who’s better at remembering the dead than Christians? For my second cemetery I visited the Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery of Colma, another large cemetery, mainly for those Catholic folks. The Holy Cross Cemetery may not have a large obelisk of death like Cypress Lawn but it does have many large monuments and mausoleums. I was confused when I first saw these grand, and obviously expensive cadaver storage units as the Bible says, “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” but c’est la vie I suppose. The Catholics of the Bay Area do seem to respect their relatives to a certain extent as there were plenty of flowers but I did not see as many weeping widows as I would have hoped to. Also, the diversity of gravestones was good but the diversity of cultures was not as good. However, I consider the Holy Cross Cemetery’s ultimate quality to be its serenity. It was so peaceful when I was there I felt like I had been murdered and gone to heaven. But let’s face it, humans are overrated and we are destroying the world, so I decided to visit Pet’s Rest Cemetery to get some inspiration from our furry friends.

Pet’s Rest Cemetery is the premiere pet cemetery on the Peninsula and is home to 14,000 graves of perished furry friends. However, besides the cute nature of dead animals this cemetery had few redeeming qualities. It is the final resting place for Tina Turner’s dog and the resting place for quite a few cats, hamsters, birds, rabbits and more. However, the cemetery felt cramped, with graves almost right on top of each other and tall grass growing in what little space there was between graves. Also, the cemetery is right next to a busy road with loud cars passing by all the time, making it extremely hard to get into the spirit where you want to bawl your eyes out. Finally, there were few flowers and almost no people to mourn their pets at the cemetery suggesting that people only bury the pets here in order to feel less guilty about the horrible way they treated their pets in real life.

After my traumatic experience at Pet’s Rest Cemetery I decided I needed to end my tour on a comfortable, homey experience so I decided to visit my local cemetery, the Menlo Park Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. Holy Cross Cemetery of Menlo Park is much smaller than the cemeteries of Colma but it makes up for it with its cozy feel. The cemetery also has its fair share of impressive tombs as it is near the privileged little town of Atherton. It’s also quite peaceful with large oak trees and a decent sized lawn.

Perhaps most important of all, the cemetery is the sight of a Pokemon gym in Pokemon Go so you can distract yourself from your never ending sadness! Sadly, the time has come for the article to end, and it will soon be buried in the The Dragon archives. But never fear, for you will always be able to visit the Dragon archives until the school inevitably destroys itself and becomes a veritable post apocalyptic Mad Max hellscape after the Big One hits. But never fear, for as Albus Dumbledore says, “To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.”

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