My Unexpected Day with the Dead – Oakland, CA
This post was contributed by Reed Flores.
You can check out his Tumblr “The Escape Artist” here.
So, like, I don’t usually like to frequent cemeteries or mausoleums. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the purpose and the beauty of having a place you can visit loved ones who have passed on. But, upfront, here are the superstitions that preceded my day:
- Don’t talk or laugh in a cemetery, Death will find you.
- Careful where you walk in a cemetery, do not disrespect the ancestors by stepping on their grave.
- Don’t compliment the beauty of the day or of the grounds; Death will think you want to live there forever.
- Ghosts. So many ghosts. Or worse, demons. Oh God.
That said, you can understand my apprehension and anxiety upon finding that Mountain View Cemetery was on every list of things to do in Oakland, CA. I also lucked out to find that the Chapel of the Chimes mausoleum was recommended by locals. “So f*cking creepy,” I thought, as I walked up Piedmont Ave toward the cemetery.
Upon first passing the gates into the cemetery, I got a lightheaded feeling and initially wanted to turn around. “Don’t be a punk, Reed, Sophie needs a draft in three days” was the mantra I repeated for the first five minutes. But, five minutes passed, and the view I was left with was actually very pleasant. Green grass, lots of sun, and a nice wind. I noticed some of the graves dated back into the early 1800s; some of these people were around for the settlement of the first San Francisco Bay Area towns (even the first senator from CA!). Even the architecture of the site was something to see; an Art Deco mausoleum (I’m a slut for a good 1930s building), Gothic Churches, etc.
I walked up the hill, to the largest (richest) graves, and found out why this cemetery was on so many of those “things to do” lists. The view was so amazing; you could see from the north bay in Vallejo down to East Oakland, including the skyline of San Francisco in the distance.
After leaving the cemetery, I made a stop by Chapel of the Chimes (open Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm.), which is right in front of the gates. And let me tell you, I was scared sh*tless. This place was gothic revival, and empty. But it was redesigned by Julia Morgan (Hearst Castle Architect), so being the architecture nerd I am, I went in.
And I was not let down.
When you go up the stairs to the encasements of urns, your breath will be taken away by the sheer beauty of the place. It was like a gothic library, something out of a fairytale. Aside from the reality that there are indeed ashes in these cases, it was peaceful and lovely. Natural light poured in every room, with only the sound of fountains echoing.
I thought, if/when I die, I want to be laid to rest in a place like this, where my family can be at peace as they visit me.
I’ve never been one to visit cemeteries. I think of them as places of reverence, respect, and, to be frank, grief and sadness. But, this trip in Oakland brought up something more positive for me: cemeteries and mausoleums, although housing the dead, are for the living. So that we may get the chance to visit the loved ones who have gone. There’s something very beautiful about being able to say “hello” to those have said goodbye.
I’ll leave you with this quick tip: Don’t be a d*ck. Be respectful and quiet in a cemetery/mausoleum. There are people there for sightseeing, but more often than not, they’re there to pay respects.
What are some of your favourite things to do in Oakland? Are you a fan of visiting cemeteries & mausoleums? Or is it just too creepy for you? Let us know your thought in the comments below!