Fransisco Jalque 1910 (2014)

Consider for a moment Señor Fransisco Jalque, whose corporeal remains are buried in the cemetery of Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in Oceanside, California. What does this weathered stone cross, illuminated by the late-afternoon sun, tell us about him? Besides his name, there is only “1910.”

Did he die in 1910? Or might he have been a baby, stillborn that year or succumbed to one of the many causes of infant mortality? Neither the simple marker nor its inscription seem the work of a skilled professional craftsman. That, along with the unusual spelling of “Fransisco,” suggest that Señor Jalque and his family were of modest means and limited education.

Regardless, Fransisco Jalque can still faintly whisper, from across more than a century, to anyone willing to listen: “I was here, and I invite you to ponder the circumstances of my life and death.” But the visible weathering and cracks in the stone are reminders that a whispering afterlife— like everything else— is transient.

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