Personalities abound in limited space. Because everyone is identified by his or her idiosyncrasies and since the personality of the deceased is reflected by what’s on their niche shelf, the importance of paraphernalia cannot be understated. Thus kind strangers often take pity on a barren shelf, donating flowers and small ornaments to help lift it out of its loneliness. And eager to provide amusement in the afterlife, families regularly add to their child’s afterlife toy collection, smothering the narrow shelf space to the point where the child’s nameplate is hidden from sight.
When visitors drop by, it’s the tomb decoration that provides conversational starting points. For instance a football pennant would get things off the ground – “You’re looking good today, Señor. Once a fan of Universidad de Chile, always a fan, I see. You’re lucky the sun hasn’t faded the pennant. God must be doing you some favours. You know they won the championship again this year. Maybe you interceded on their behalf?” The visitor might chuckle and a cordial – often transforming into bawdy – dialogue might ensue. The live visitor will kindly leave space in the conversation should the deceased desire to respond from the tomb. Thus as you wander the paths between the walls, you often see visitors looking up in long, silent pauses at a photo in the niche.
In death as in life, one’s home is one’s home, to be appreciated for its distinct character and charm, to be welcoming and hospitable, and above all to provoke pleasant memories that will leave all parties satisfied. The visitor is meant to return home full, as though having consumed a hearty meal, one that he can digest until it’s time to return for the next visit.
(excerpt from Hard Bed Hotel)