A Grave issue (first published August 2013)

A grave issue.

Some time ago I decided, together with grandchildren, 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 used to insist 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.

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26 Responses to “A Grave issue (first published August 2013)”

  1. catterel Says:

    “The cemetery has a view to die for” – that alone makes it a great place to RIP.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sandie Harvey Says:

    Here in Perth we have a local cemetery where kangaroos grow. Yes, plastic flowers are often placed but so are real flowers which the kangaroos love. Here is where I take visitors to see kangaroos that are not behind bars or fences.
    I have seen many cemeteries where the dead are revered. You mention one side of South America but the West side also have fabulous cemeteries.
    In Egypt, I believe they do a tour of some of theirs, although I did not think it a great place to wonder on one’s own but still again great places for the dead.
    Here’s to finding your final place of rest but hopefully a great many more years to come to enjoy this life before moving on. Xx

    Liked by 3 people

  3. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    I love Thomas’ brilliant plan! How cute and sweet and smart! 🙂 ❤️
    Jack’s question is wonderful, too! 🙂 ❤️
    It’s so interesting to hear about funerals, burials, cemeteries, customs, rituals, etc., from all over the world.
    I’ve visited cemeteries that date back to the 1700’s. The most interesting cemetery was one where all those buried there are “buried” above ground because of all the rain they get every year.
    May it be many many many many before we go…but it’s nice to be prepared for whenever. 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, we often thought back of how our grandsons came up with astute remarks. Thomas would just simply jump over that spot when dying came near. Very creative thinking.
      We had a grave on the farm that apparently held a baby that had drowned on the river around the 1890’s. It had a simple little picket fence and a cross.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Sandie Says:

    Yes I also like to visit cemeteries. One gets so much history. New Orleans have cemeteries above ground due to floods and rain.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    And we’re all nearly a decade older, Gez. Goodness me.

    I was at our sangha last evening. On Tuesdays we have a sit – meditating, a lesson and break into small discussion groups. I’m very fond of the two old order members who wrangle the beginners’ group. One is just a year older than me. The other is 83 – 14 years older than me. We sometimes talk about death at length. Not with a sense of foreboding. More to expose a natural curiosity and to let the sunlight in on our natural fears.

    I have been a member of this Buddhist community for six years now with many intimate friendships. Three of the men have died. The services have been beautiful events celebrating their lives in the community.

    We have these ceremonies called Pujas – offerings and prayers, which I find odd since Buddhists are not required to believe in a God and most don’t. I think – because everything is connected, prayers are sort of broadcasting. Who knows who might be listening ?

    As far as cemeteries go, I don’t mind having a wander around and reading headstones. Fascinating stories with usually just a sentence or two. The babies and little kids- so often in God’s care.

    I remember Pere Lachaise in Paris where some of the greats are buried – and the anglophone tourist-worn memorials to Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.

    “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the Lee.
    The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.”

    From ‘Elegy, written in a country churchyard’ by Thomas Gray.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      The Ballad of Reading Gaol is what I am reading again now that you mention the Pere Lachaise graveyard.
      We went to visit Buddhist meetings that were held somewhere in the Mangrove Mountains North of Sydney. During meditation I always fell asleep only to be nudged by Helvi.
      Elegy certainly hits the note there Therese.
      Yes, the bells are tolling, and I am 82, totally unexpected but who is counting?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I grew up next to an old graveyard, Gerard. Between fast growing Heavenly Trees and myrtle, it was a jungle where we spent many happy hours playing, during the day. At night, it was something else— scary— best to be avoided. My genealogical research took me to many graves across the US. The most interesting we visited were in Scotland, however. My thoughts on death now are to be cremated, hopefully followed by a party at some time afterwards. I’ve now scattered ashes of a few friends and relatives in places they loved. That would be my desire. Good post. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, cremation is for most the preferred way to go. I believe burial plots are so scarce and some actually buy them up as a form of speculation in the hope of selling them for profits. I can’t think of a more lugubrious way of money gathering.
      I have yet to scatter the ashes of my own family and somehow find it comforting they are still with me. It is hard to part.
      Thanks Curt.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dora Jahnes Says:

    This cemetery story rings a bell with me Gerard. Dieter and I often visit cemeteries thru the years, it began when we were living in Pitt Town at a time when old cemeteries were ignored. Hidden by weeds & long grass we found a lot of first fleeters graves, much more revered now, but nothing like some other countries. In Germany Sunday was set aside for picnics at the cemeteries lots of families with buckets and new plants for their dearly departed relos.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, In Russia too families might spread a blanket and have a picnic, often with a shifter of Vodka at the graveyard of the dearly departed.
      They were always nicely kept and no plastic flowers. I think I would not be too happy to have some faded plastic tulip on my grave. Of course, it all goes to dust eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. shoreacres Says:

    Since I prefer cremation, I have two places in which I could be buried. One is in Iowa, in a plot where my mother and father are. Since Mom decided on cremation, too, only half of her spot is taken, so to speak. I could be plunked in there at minimal cost.

    On the other hand, I also have a plot in Texas. It came to me through somewhat odd circumstances. It’s part of a family cemetery, out in the country, with large oaks all around. They had gotten to the point where only one plot was left, and it had to be sold before they could open a new section in the cemetery. They looked around for a single person, and voila! There I was. For a hundred bucks, I not only get the plot, I get perpetual care. Such a deal.

    I’ve been telling myself for a decade I need to make a decision and make plans, but I keep dallying. Maybe this time I’ll actually do it. I’m leaning toward that country plot in Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. auntyuta Says:

    Here you canread some interesting stories about graves from the 19th century:

    St Peters Church and Cemetery

    Liked by 1 person

  10. auntyuta Says:

    Reblogged this on AuntyUta.


  11. rangewriter Says:

    There’s a new fad trying to stick its toe in the casket around here. Composting bodies! I think I want to know more about that. By the time I croak, I will already have used up more than my share of the planet’s abundance. I don’t cotton to the environmental depredation caused by cremation or the foolish waste of space required of caskets buried in cemeteries.

    BTW, it finally cooled off enough in my neck of the woods that I could turn on the oven for a spell. I tried your Royal Indian Raan recipe and I’m hooked. It was delicious. I had a boneless leg of lamb and I think I slightly overcooked it, but it still turned out well. The slivered almonds make an amazing difference! Yum. Thanks for sharing that!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    I hope you are doing well!
    I’ve been so busy!
    But wanted to stop by with some ❤️ and (((HUGS))) 😊

    Liked by 2 people

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