Unclaimed, Unforgotten

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Pouring rain this morning, as I set out for the Los Angeles County Crematory and Cemetery , next to Evergreen Cemetery in East L.A. for the annual ceremony honoring the unclaimed dead.  Some of the 1457 unclaimed have no names; others have family too poor to afford the mortuary fees. Some of them have no family. Veterans. Stillborn babies. Homeless women and homeless men. Elderly. Young.

I’d imagined  there would only be a few people at the ceremony, but it was crowded under the blue awning, and water came through the cracks. The crowd of some 200 Angelenos spilling out onto the muddy grass, the cold rain on their backs. Josh Andujo sang a blessing in Tongva, the indigenous language of this place, shaking rattles and sending the sweet acrid sent of sage through the damp air.   Roshi Wendy Egyoku and other members of the LA Zen Center sangha chanted and rang a gong to liberate suffering beings. Rabbi Janet Madden raised her melodious voice to sing the 23rd psalm, and while she sang, I saw the metaphorical table set before me. Poets recited: “Open our eyes so we may see more clearly their faces.” The Street Symphony sang Ubi Caritas, a Gregorian chant about loving from a sincere heart. Father Chris Ponnet lead us in the Lord’s Prayer, and the rain poured down on the muddy field to the east of us, where all the cremains of the 1457 were now interred.

Why did people come? One woman told me afterwards, she felt the need “to bring compassion back to the community, back into the world.” Another gentleman told me the ceremony gave him a feeling of hope, “that people care.” He wanted to show his respect to the unclaimed, to show they are not forgotten.

We are their people. We honor all the unclaimed throughout the world. We claim them. They were our neighbors.

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5 Responses to “Unclaimed, Unforgotten”

  1. Mark Durston Says:

    This is really a ray of light into a world that is increasingly becoming uncaring and self centered.

  2. Deidre Sklar Says:

    Thank you for this moving piece, Lulu. What an amazing event — who knew? And the rain, the rain! Much love, Dede ________________________________

  3. Susan Banyas Says:

    Thank you for this darling. I live above the Paupers Cemetery, and neighbors Anne and Rosetta and I have done some rituals, but I love that this became a community affair. With singing and chanting. Sacred ground. Lost souls. Found in our hearts. Inspiring as always to read your spirited reports from the soul of the streets. love you, susan

  4. Leanne Harrison Says:

    thanx so much dear Louise
    so moving, becuz indeed,
    we are their sisters & brothers on this green, suffering planet
    so appreciate you were there!!
    sending love & prayers out for all the unclaimed
    Lanny

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