The Art of Death
edited: Sunday, December 09, 2007
By Birdie Jaworski
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, December 09, 2007
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My tiny town, the "original" Las Vegas in New Mexico, still carries the old traditions, including the ways in which we celebrate death.
The road to Mount Calvary Cemetery rolls two miles from the Las Vegas, New Mexico Plaza. It rolls into an acre, two acres, fifty acres of homegrown tobacco pain, of buried man, woman, and child. Pecos resident Lucia Martinez walked, a vase of dried sage in her left hand, from her cousin's home on Gonzales Street.
"I am an old woman now. Eighty-two years old, can you believe it? I buried my mother fifty years ago but the pain's still the same. I like to leave my mother something every few months. I can feel her watching over me. She was younger than me when she died." Martinez set the vase on a small cement kneeler. She looked past the simple wooden cross guarding her mother's grave toward the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue set into a sloping hill.
Mount Calvary's plots don't lay in elegant rows. They jockey for position, each facing the East, the symbolic rising Christ. Tiny iron windmills. Hand-carved river rock labeled with birth and death. Burned and etched slabs of pine. Dolls. Rosaries. Plastic Marys with deliberately tilted heads. A handmade garden of death, a small percentage of granite headstones in sea of a thousand, only a few memorials of Rich Person Passing. A baby's grave echoed the groan of time, of parents whose hearts died as their child took one last breath. Martinez made the sign of the cross, her third time in ten minutes.
"I'm glad my mother is buried in Las Vegas. The city cemeteries have no heart. She died in Santa Fe, but the grounds there are too well-kept. This place still has real soul. She was born here. Look at the headstones. They're art."
Martinez pointed at a cross. It stood sentry over a thirty-year-old grave, simply etched with the decedent's name and date of passing along with a few gentle touches - a broad leaf, a decorative swirl. Behind her a working windmill chugged in time to the relentless wind. Beneath the twist of metal against air sat two new flower pots, each filled with living, watered mums, one on each side of a polished marble stone.
"Where do I want to go when I die? I haven't lived in Las Vegas for many years, not since I was a little girl. I want to be remembered here, though. I want my grandchildren to find my grave and leave rosaries and flowers. What use is a cemetery if no one cares to visit?"
Martinez turned to walk back to her cousin's house. She passed a pile of new teddy bears, one stitched with the word "Sister." She paused.
"See? This is what I mean. It's good to remember where we came from. This place is real."
Web Site: All About Las Vegas, New Mexico
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|Reviewed by Ed Matlack
|I cannot believe there is actually a town smaller than my home town of Sea Isle City, NJ...we had but 400 people in the winter though that has changed with time and "progress"...it sounds a place to visit while I eventually do my cross-country trip...stay Happy there, Ed & Rufuz (W00F)|
|Reviewed by Ron (sketchman) Axelson
|I enjoyed your article here.