A grave issue

A grave issue.

 

Some time ago I decided, together with grand children, to have a closer look at the local cemetery here at Brayton, NSW. My grandkids at that time were dealing with death and dying and the prospect of Opa carking it as well, sooner or later. Thomas, who was 6 at the time and a bit of a thinker, pondered about Oma’s statement that, at some stage you arrive at a ‘spot’ in life when one would die. He thought deeply about this; when I get at that spot, I will jump over it, he said brilliantly. Oma answered by laughing; and what a clever boy you are. He slept like an angel that night.

The graveyard at Brayton is one of those lovely forgotten and forlorn bush places where in the past, swags could easily have been rolled out with bushies camped in between the contented and silent stones. It is surrounded by an old fence that leans higgledy piggledy now, but even so, were then hand hewn with posts and rails that survived fires and hungry ants, rammed in hand dug holes decades ago by men now buried there. It keeps out the curious cows but not the incorrigible wombats. Argyle eucalypts with leaves so silvery and fragrant keep guard and give shade to all those dearly departed country souls. The view from this burial place is so beautiful and to die for. The surrounding paddocks carry the black stumps of bushfires which wiped out the settlement many times over, including Post Office, Church and local single class school. The graveyard is all that Brayton now is. Someone carried the brick steps of the burned out church to this burial place as well. A small and modest reminder of big rural lives then.

Of course, the grandkids were overawed by this chance of seeing places where bodies of dead people were kept. One stone of simple concrete had moved ajar through erosion, unhurried time and drought, allowing the boys to squat down and peek inside. They looked, but darkness inside prevented any remnant of Joh.D with d o b 1912, passed 1986, to be shown.

Things became serious when I asked if they would prefer Opa to be burned (cremated) or buried and if buried what spot would be suitable? I mentioned this because a few weeks earlier their dad’s mum passed away. The funeral included the grand kids who viewed their daddy’s mum’s body in its resting casket for all to view before a big funeral with lots of kissing, singing and crying. After, the body was flown back to Croatia for another large burial. Some of the kids went for that funeral as well. A few years earlier when another old relative had passed away, little four year old Jack asked; who shot him? They grow so much faster now a days, don’t they?

Someone said; a country’s culture is defined by how they look after their dead. If true, then Argentina with Buenos Aires’ La Recoleta cemetery would have to be at the top, perhaps closely followed by Russia. The Argentine cemetery is amazing with vaults many stories high and a favourite for week-end visits by relatives and tourists alike. Thousands are crowding complete streets of Mausoleums and graves not unlike Mc Mansions here except much better build with marble surely outlasting brick veneer and hollow columns. Flowers on graves are real too with regular replacements and so are the urns and vases. No fading or windswept plastic petunias there. Some burial palaces are so large it would almost take a whole day just to take it all in. Of course, it depends on personal fondness of visiting grave yards in the first place.

Russians are also big on burials and cemeteries, with many making it a week-end family picnic.  Again some of the graves are magnificent and often surrounded by ornate cast iron fences. My better half insists that in Finland the graves are the best and the dead also most revered.

My query is; how do we deal with our temporary stay here? How are our young prepared for death? Or do we pretend it all goes on forever?  Rookwood cemetery in Sydney is vast but the abundance of all those dreadful plastic pretend flowers seems insulting to the dead. Then again, most people happily have those while alive, so……. C’est la vie or c’est la mort?

One Response to “A grave issue”

  1. Nick Ryan Says:

    Gerard, I too looked at the Brayton graveyard when I first arrived here, I saw the first five graves on the left were Ryan’s and immediately felt at home :)

    Like

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