Here lies Frank Ellis, ‘Who Died As He Lived: With Dignity.’ And not too far away is Gertrude Bishop, ‘The Devoted Wife Of Walter. A Long Life Of Loving And Giving.’
The town cemetery is full of these kinds of sentiments. It’s one of the main reasons I spend so much of my time here. Almost every day, I have my faith in humanity restored.
On the other hand, my religious faith, what little I had, has withered. One has only to walk around the Baby Memorial Garden to sense that a truly loving deity would not allow such tragedy. Such pain; such unnecessary pain.
I sense that most people these days feel the same. You don’t see much of this kind of thing in the newer plots: ‘His death is but a shadow cast across the walkway to the Lord.’
No, you’re more likely to find a simple commemoration like, ‘Irene Murdoch: A Genuine Lady. A Loving Mother And Good Friend To All.’
Bless you, Irene, though I never knew you in life. I hope I’ll be remembered in such a temporal and kind way. It saddens me though, to see that none of your loved ones lay flowers on your grave anymore. Everyone eventually becomes forgotten, I suppose. Time passes and the dead cannot mourn the dead. But don’t worry for now Love, I’ve brought you daffodils today. Sheila, your neighbour, is getting pansies. Sheila who was, ‘The Heart And Soul Of Her Family. She Filled Every Room With Warmth And Laughter.’ Ah, each time I read that, it tugs at my heart strings and brings tears to my eyes.
Of course, the cemetery can make you laugh as well as cry. That’s another good reason for coming. Check these out:
‘I Was Hoping For A Pyramid.’
‘Here Lies An Atheist. All Dressed Up And No Place To Go.’
‘Thanks For Visiting. Pardon Me For Not Rising.’
What a lark, eh? Cheeky devils!
However, my favourite headstone is one that poetically reminds us that there will come a day when leaving the cemetery will not be an option:
‘Remember Me As You Pass By
As You Are Now
So Once Was I
As I Am Now
So You Will Be
Prepare Your Way
To Follow Me.’
Nice. I do like a piece of verse. The ones in birthday cards are delightful but it’s hard to beat rhymes of remembrance.
All this talk of the life eternal might make you think I’m the morbid type; but no, not me. Not like Albert, over there, who visits his plot-to-be twice a week. No, I’m all for the here and now. I enjoy visiting my family and friends; and every Sunday an old acquaintance of mine comes round to the bungalow and we make merry, or whatever you want to call it, for an hour or two.
It’s just that the cemetery helps to keep me happy in the meantime. The positivity of the dead improves my daily living.
john e.c. is the editor for Flash Fiction North, which is devoted to publishing shorter fiction and poetry.
Find more of john’s work here on Ink Pantry.