A Visit, 2004
Last night, after darkness descended upon the city, I visited the cemetery of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. At first all I saw looked to me like an empty field. I opened the gate along with my eyes… and what I saw I could not believe.
It appeared as horrifying to me… Before my eyes I had a battlefield. Since as many as 1511 patients rest there, the ground is misshapen, as though a great battle took place there… It seems as though year after year, the ground was dug into. There were numerous holes in the ground. The vast majority of the tombstones are hidden deeply in the ground. It was obvious to me as an observer that it was absolutely impossible that such great number of people could be buried in such a small area... and yet they are.
I was afraid to walk, as I knew that with every single step I made I put my feet on the remains of long dead and forgotten human beings. The place made me really sad, and I deeply regretted not having brought any flowers or candles to honour the memory of the patients. I felt like an intruder… How dare I disturb their peace, if they indeed rest in peace.
It makes me think… Who buried them? Were they put into the ground by the other patients? Did they know they would rest there, whether they wanted it or not? Did their family attend their funeral? Did they have a funeral at all?
And I could smell the stench of death and I wondered how it could be.
Even though I could hear the traffic of the nearby highway and the intersection, I paid no attention to it. Being in the cemetery was like being in another world; the noise of the traffic simply was in another dimension...
But I felt something different, too. I sensed the sadness and the anger of the dead patients. But I also felt as though they were grateful that I came.
I wish they could rise and tell me their story.
I want to go to the cemetery again soon, but this time with flowers. And maybe if I listen carefully, they will whisper their story to me.
Asylum by the Lake acknowledges the kind permission of the author for the reprint of her work.