The Lumberjack student newspaper

Grave Thoughts

Headstone cleaners wanted

Grave cleaning is a lost art. When the professor of Death, Dying and The Afterlife, a religious studies class that invites students to contemplate their own mortality, suggested it as an extra credit opportunity, I initially worried that the groundskeepers would get upset with me for doing their job. But, according to Professor Hart, they rarely clean the cemetery themselves.

At first sight, the cemetery appears well-maintained. Artificial flowers adorn most graves, even older ones from the 1920’s. Headstones don’t look dirty, they just look like stone. But upon touching one, my hand comes away with streaks of dirt.

I set out with an unused white sponge, a box of baking soda, and a bowl of water, with two water bottles to supplant it if necessary. You don’t want to bring in any cleaning chemicals that would damage the stone.

My first grave belongs to Silva Henry Genzoli, a private in the US army during WW1. They lived from 1894 to 1976, dying at 82.

It’s interesting, out of all aspects of life, Silva chose to commemorate their service in the army. Why did they define themself by the military? Googling their name comes up with nothing but family trees and the burial directory. So this is really all that is left of poor, dead, Silva.

The sponge comes away grey, and turns the water dark. The stone itself is dark with water, the inscription a bit clearer.

My next grave is a bit fancier, a cross standing up, rather than a standard plaque. It reads “ths” in between the arms of the cross. The bottom reads “Maria Soares, 1904-1929, Rest In Peace.” There is now a battered white circle where presumably a photo once was. She was 25. I’m 22. I’m going to die someday.

Her name is still a common one today, with links coming up for various social media profiles, and the website of a producer who came to NYC from San Paolo with no English speaking ability. Nothing about our dead Maria of the 1920’s.

Graves are futile. Sure, we have names, birth dates, death dates, a photo if you’re rich and lucky, maybe something about acts of service, relationships, or where they were born. (There’s a lot of “natives of Italy” inscriptions.) But what really remains of the person? Wouldn’t you prefer to have stories told about you, have people 100 years from now read your writings, or walk through a forest you dedicated yourself to preserving?

The next grave belonged to a child. George Roberts Simmons was born Feb 7, 1921 and died April 29 of that year. He has a small standing headstone, with the inscription “There are no partings in Heaven.”

His grave is fancier than most adult graves that only have a plaque. Were his parents super rich? Was he an only child and his parents felt the need to be the best parents they could be for the final time? Or did he perhaps have siblings, and his parents felt that having this dedication would help them process his death?

I genuinely don’t understand the desire to do toxic things to your loved one’s body and cramming it into a small stone room. Cemeteries are cool, relaxing places to just take a walk in and contemplate mortality. But despite the serenity and open air, embalming fluid is leaking out beneath your feet, endangering the local groundwater.

This is a topic that recently came up in death class, and while eco-friendly ways to process your body were brought up, some had the dissenting opinion that this is a chance to pour your love into the final memory of your loved one, with a carefully wrought description, photographs or artwork.

The post-death process is expensive and leaves people vulnerable. The casket shop will offer you a menu of expensive options that often lead to debt. But for some, this is a symbol of devotion.

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination