HILLS OF ETERNITY MEMORIAL PARK
1301 El Camino Real
Colma, CA 94014
Having already spent a full day exploring the cemeteries of Colma, we unexpectedly arrived at the gates of Eternity (that's Hills of Eternity, of course) past closing time. We were in the City of the Silent, though, and plenty of other cemeteries still beckoned, their gates not set to close for some time yet. Whereas that gave us pleasure, the fact we had a late morning flight back home the following day did not. There was still so much left to see! Alas, we spent as much time as possible exploring that evening and, when morning came, rushed back to Hills of Eternity, our packed bags hastily thrown into the trunk of our rental car.
To anyone observing, we must have seemed a bit mad (not that we aren't, of course). Given our limited time, we decided the best course of action was to divide and conquer...or, more to the point, divide and photograph. With one camera between us, however, this was a feat more easily hypothesized than executed, particularly as Hills of Eternity has much to offer in the way of photographic fodder. The brief time we had went something like this... One of us would spot a target and set up the shot while the other frantically called from behind a nearby tombstone, "I need the camera!" As the minutes were ticking by all too quickly, we soon abandoned the foot trek and started driving through the Hills, jumping out often to capture another shot.
And did we mention there was a community mausoleum to investigate as well?
Whereas we won't go so far as to say our efforts were in vain, we will say that our explorations were far from thorough and our photographs certainly not expressive of all this burying ground has to offer.
We did not, for instance, capture the magnificent terraces of tombs lining the cemetery slope in the older section, and we didn't even find the tomb of the legendary Wyatt Earp, let alone photograph it. We did, however, manage to take in more than might be expected, given the fact we had a flight to catch (thank goodness Colma lies in the shadow of San Francisco International - visitors take note!)
Incidentally, for those of you scratching your heads over the fact that Wyatt Earp would end up buried in a Jewish cemetery in California rather than, say, Tombstone, Arizona or Dodge City's Boot Hill, it is due to the fact that his wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus, was Jewish. Since she and Wyatt lived in California at the time of his demise -- and, since she outlived him by fifteen years -- she got to pick the place he got planted...uh...buried.
A curious aside... Wyatt and Josephine now share their quite plot of earth with someone named Max Weiss (1870 - 1947)...but no one seems to know who Max is. Curious, indeed...
Hills of Eternity, like many turn-of-the-century cemeteries, is divided into an older and a newer section. What makes this cemetery stand out from many of its contemporaries, however, is the fact that the newer section has not succumbed to the blight of the flat grave marker. The management here have sacrificed the ease and convenience of the mega-riding mower, which quickly sweeps over the top of ground markers, in favour of allowing the expression of individuality through large, upright monuments. And the patrons of Hills of Eternity are taking full advantage of the opportunity! The newer sections are filled with uniquely designed memorials which feature photographs, quotes, religious symbols and sculptures. Visiting the area is rather like walking through a family album of sorts.
The older sections of the cemetery are captivating as well, filled as they are with personal family mausoleums and rows of beautiful upright monuments. One of the most fascinating memorials in this area is inscribed simply with the name "Naphtaly." The monument consists of an enormous stone arch surmounted by an Egyptian winged sun disc -- symbol of the God Horus -- and two Uraeus snakes -- symbolic of deity. [This symbol, often seen in funerary memorialization from the late 1800's to the mid 1900's, was common to the temples of Egypt as a symbol of protection]. The large Naphtaly crypts, rising from ground to sky, are stacked one on top the other, four to each side of the mammoth arch. All are safely ensconced behind soaring bronze gates which terminate in lotus blossoms.
Although we were not able to visit due to time constraints, we'd love to have gone next door to Home of Peace, Hills of Eternity's sister cemetery (they even share a drive). Entombed at Home of Peace are Levi Strauss and millionaire philanthropist Adolf Sutro.
Guess we'll just have to make another visit in the future to cover the ground we missed.