If, as the poet Kahlil Gibran said, “Remembrance is a form of meeting,” then the Seacliff Memorial Wall is a place where we again meet men, women, children, and even a few family pets. Like most sacred places, no one seems to know how it came to be. Tucked away behind seven leafy olive trees, it is easy to miss. Unless you have walked north on the sidewalk all the way to the private house, you might not be aware of its existence.
The rock wall has inscriptions such as “In Memory of Quincy who loved all people 2008.” There are many photographs — one of a beautiful young woman holding a brown and white spaniel next to the words “In Loving Memory of Karen 1964-2012.” Nearby, a big white dog with a dark head peers whimsically at us. A little further we read, “In memory of our two favorite boys, we love and miss you” near a photo of a big man with a dog on his lap. Further on “Louis” is thanking “Gloria” for 50 happy years of marriage and wishes for 50 more!
The wall is strewn with many more such memorials of beloved people and animals. Beautiful ceramic plates as well as simple metal plaques with loving messages adorn the wall. Who are these deeply loved people and animals and how did this wall come about? We set off to find out.
We spotted a young man wheeling an ice cream cart toward us. Before he could ask us to buy an ice cream bar, we asked him what he knew about the memorial wall. He said, “I’ve lived in Aptos my whole life and have never seen it or heard of it.” We pointed him to it.
The park ranger at the Visitors Center had seen it, of course, but said it is out of their jurisdiction since it is the wall of a private home and not a part of the park system. He did not know how it became a memorial wall.
A vacationing Sacramento-area couple that has been coming here in their camper for more than twenty-five years said they remember the beginnings of the writing on the wall. “It was a sort of “Kilroy was here” thing at first — people wrote their names and the date they visited Seacliff on the rock face.” As time went on though, they said, it became a place where people started to write the names of their loved ones in remembrance.
A lot of the inscriptions tell about people who loved Seacliff Beach and used to walk here regularly with their dogs. The memorial wall is a phenomenon that naturally and voluntarily evolved over time as a place mostly in remembrance of loved ones, human and otherwise, gone to eternity. Many of the names have been inscribed poignantly and with reverence. Especially touching is the out-stretched hand in bronze with the plaque that says, “To life, to love, to health and to all the loving stories on the wall — ‘High Five!’”