I have been in my new place for 6 weeks now, that went very quickly. All is going well and the children (young adults) and I are happy (they have mentioned that specifically!).
I have done some gardening (even though it’s a rental), explored the suburb (I like it) and get some joy every day by walking through Perths main cemetery to and from work. I think the world is divided into two kinds of people, those who like graveyards and those who don’t, I am definitely in the former category. I have been fascinated by cemeteries, funerals and grave goods for years, ever since going to Gin Gin cemetery as a teenager and seeing the devastation an epidemic can wield over a small community (Gin Gin ).
Studying Anthropology both at university and informally has only deepened my liking for the fascinating subject of the customs associated with death in different cultures.
Karrakatta Cemetery is the biggest in Western Australia, it is HUGE. I thought it would be full, but there is a load of space for everybody once they leave this life. The amount of money that families spend on honouring their dead loved-ones is truly eye watering. The size of the monument doesn’t seem to have any relationship to the status of the person for whom it was erected, (although a number of famous Perthites of the past seem to be well-represented by large monuments). There is an ordinary gentleman who has been honoured with (I presume) a life-size statue of him, there he is looking benevolent, leaning one hand on a tree stump, all carved beautifully in marble.
The relatively-new Mausoleum is pretty fancy and is the final resting place of mainly Italians, a throwback to the way people are buried back in the old country. I don’t understand mausoleums, I suppose like most things, they have come about because of necessity (though what the reason is I don’t know), but I don’t really warm to the idea of a body not being disposed of, merely “kept” in its place (for the future???).
There are plenty of pretty ordinary areas in the cemetery, but there are also some really beautiful parts. Ferns, rose gardens, lawn areas, open-air chapels etc etc, it is really a place to relax in and collect ones thoughts (especially after a challenging day at work).
One of my work colleagues is mystified by my affection for graveyards. She finds them scary and very unappealing, my son will walk though the bushland adjacent to Karrakatta, but avoids the actual cemetery saying he thinks it smells strange (does it really?). As an ex-Palliative Care Nurse, death involves many emotions for me, but fear is not one of them.
The place is full of Little Ravens. I don’t know why they live there (there doesn’t seem to be anything edible for them), except that they are largely undisturbed and can do what they want. With gay abandon, they pull the flowers left at the graves, out of their receptacles and seem to scatter them about. Real or fake ,it doesn’t seem to bother the ravens what sort they are, the birds just seem to enjoy playing with them.
Really the only off-putting thing I find about the place is its poor signposting and the ability for sensible people to get hopelessly lost (yes, I regard myself as sensible), even the map is only marginally helpful at getting one on the right path. When I mentioned the organisation (or lack thereof) of the place to one of the multitude of gardeners, he rolled his eyes and told me I should talk to the designers who dreamt it up 100 years ago! He implied that working there didn’t necessarily mean he found navigating his way around any easier than the general public.
My Mother is nearly 88 and in very good health, I hope she stays around for a few more years; we have discussed what to do when she (as she puts it), “Pops her clogs”! She hasn’t dealt with Dads ashes at all, they are sitting in a box in her wardrobe and my brother and I have been told to get rid of them when she dies (thanks Mum!). Since I now live close to the so-called “dead centre” of Perth, I have been talking about a double plaque for her and Dad in one of the rose gardens (as they were/are their favourite flower). This suggestion seems to have some approval (both from Mum and my brother), so that is probably going to be what happens. I think it would be nice to go and sit by them and bring them both up to speed about what’s happening with the family. I know of course, that the ashes are not them and will be just a memento of the two people who gave me and my brothers life, but still….
What do you think of funerary rites, graveyards and death, do they give you the creeps like my work colleague, or are you more like me with a fascination for all of it?