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We, who are students of art and design and the application of their beauty to life and living, believe that the day of the cemetery as a place for the glorification of sorrow is gone forever.
Is not death, in fact, but an incident of living?
America—particularly on her Western Coast so full of new opportunities, is showing to the world that a place of burial can be, even has a mission to be—a field of beauty, of restfulness, and of comfort, both physical and spiritual.
On a recent study tour of Europe, the speaker was shocked by the gloom, the lugubriousness, of every famous cemetery. Outstanding features are arches draped in black, slimy pools, statues of weeping women, figures of tragedy, trees all deciduous, generally weeping, or dark evergreens of the saddest type.
No less gloomy are many burying grounds of older America. Why, there are still sections of this country where it would be considered sacrilege to send any flowers but dead white to a funeral. Many a man has stayed away from a burial for lack of dead black suit.
On the other hand there was buried the other day, in the old Episcopal cemetery under the Pepper Trees at San Gabriel, a dear little old lady who had spent her life in deeds of love for others. She had smilingly announced that when she was planted she wanted bright red roses on her grave; and bright red roses there were from her friends, piled up by the thousand, to celebrate her joy in going to an easier life.
Consider the famous and beautiful forested cemetery at Marshalltown, Iowa, where the young people go for their outings, in the one great beauty spot of the region.
Consider "Graceland" at Chicago, where one wanders far along tranquil lakes and strolls through masses of flowering shrubs before catching even a glimpse of a tombstone.
Consider "Forest Lawn Memorial Park" on the edge of Los Angeles, where whole hillsides are being planted to the gayest semi-tropic flowering trees of every color, and where the American Legion section is landscaped in trees and shrubs to bloom in patriotic masses of red, white and blue flowers.
Go back a hundred years, and consider the exquisite walled garden of the Old Mission of Santa Barbara, with its riot of color and its music of mocking birds; and see how for ahead of us those brave old Padres learned the lesson of beauty, when you find that that old garden was then, and still is, but a cemetery for the burial of priests and friars.
It is life that a cemetery should show, life and the joy of life, and the sweetness of passing to a new life. Sorrow is only for those who are left behind; so let the resting place of their dear ones, I say, be a bright scene to ease that sorrow and to hasten its passing.
Let there, then, be happy trees in the cemeteries, trees of glossy foliage and brilliant inflorescence; gay shrubbery, evergreen as far as the region and climate will allow, flowers in abundance, of every color; sparkling waters, running, if possible; statues that depict life and hope and love, not sorrow; live pigeons, white and colored, in the air; bright water fowls upon the pools; peacocks (with vocal organs painlessly removed) strutting upon the lawns.
Thus will the joy of life be increased, thus will the sting of the loss of loved ones be softened and comforted.
Only then will the Cemetery fill its brightest mission.
From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
September 3, 4, 5 and 6, 1929