This little boy–not so little, actually–died at ten years old. Who knows how this happened; this cemetery in Lompoc is overrun with tragic stories like this one. I don’t know what it must feel like as a parent to lose a child. I wandered about this place, and all I could see were stories, not ghosts; only partial stories at that, hinting at what might have transpired 30, 40, 100 years ago. If one believes in the soul, most assuredly nothing is haunting this patch of land. It feels bereft, lost in time, a place where lives ended without testimony, history gradually erasing all traces of personal identity.
No wonder the Virgin Mary, Jesus and various saints are carefully placed in and around the headstones. God will give these lost souls meaning and permanence, even if not apparent to the casual tourist or photographer. The cemetery is largely Hispanic, and if you know Spanish or Latin American culture, then you take the Virgin very seriously. Not only does she protect and guide you, she keeps your memory alive within her downcast eyes. No matter how much the modern citizen, Latino or not, pretends that all of this is superstition or ancient dogma from the abuelos, somehow I think we all share the same hope.
When we’re gone, someone needs to watch over what remains of us. Someone needs to remember who we were, what we did, the small drama of our lives . . . and Mary, with her perpetual tears of loss, feels like she belongs to us all. Believe or not, when you need solace, when there is the lurking danger of oblivion playing across your subconscious mind, you will pray.
And she will listen.