Sunday, 11 December 2011

On a cheerful note, Cemeteries and Graves

Trying to think about something less gloomy than British politics, American politics, Russian politics ... I arrived at cemeteries and graves.

I am against them. Dead bodies should be burnt and the ashes scattered to the winds. By all means, choose where (off the top of my head, if I had to, I would choose Mount Caburn in Sussex but frankly think it would be an unreasonable imposition on the living to demand such a gesture).

I have never been back to the crematoria where the bodies of my parents were burnt and I have rarely visited the graves of people known to me: I can think of just one significant occasion and then I went at someone else's request.

True, I have visited Famous Graves.

In Paris, I once did the tourist visit to Père Lachaise and was moved by the narrative on the tomb of Héloise and Abelard, but merely curious in relation to Jim Morrison and all the rest.

Stuck with something to do when on business trips, I have sometimes strolled a local cemetery, often highly visible in Catholic countries. But they are awful places, combining ostentation and inevitable neglect - and creepy when there are photographs of the dead. And in Vienna, I went down into the vaults where the Emperors are boxed up. (The ritual surrounding this, in which the pall bearers have to knock for admittance strikes me as similar in intent to the ritual demanded by Wahabbi Islam - that rulers be buried in unmarked graves)

In Jerusalem, back in 1995, I made a very deliberate effort to visit the grave of Oskar Schindler, a hero to me (I don't have many heroes; Grace Darling is another). And I was prepared with a tiny bit of Sussex flint to place on the grave and I took photographs. I don't understand this aberration in my normal attitudes.

I suppose this is a companion piece to my Blog about Funerals.

1 comment:

  1. Yet there’s something beautifully sad about ancient gravestones with their minimal clues about lives cut short in their youth or, at the other end of the scale, parents who lived to a ripe old age. Where will future generations discover the past? On Google, of course. Now where’s the beauty in that?

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