…on death

I wonder how important it is to have a gravestone, a place for people to visit and remember? I’ve always had some deep seated, primal horror of unmarked graves. How would anyone know who was buried there, that they had a life and loves and sorrows?

I once worked with an older woman. If I was a Christian/Catholic, she would have been my beacon of faith. Every morning she came to work, bedecked in her medals and her rosary, smiling. This might not seem strange unless you knew her story. She had been a child prodigy, playing the violin, hoping for a career in the symphony orchestra. To help her mother, at the tender age of 16, she was working in a laundry. Her hand was caught in the mangle (giant press) and she lost everything on one hand but her thumb. So much for music. And yet, she still found an amazing amount to be thankful for. I bought her a wool scarf for Christmas, you know, one of the Russian ones, soft and light, white with roses all over it. You would have thought I’d given her a million dollars. She wore it every day after that. In return, she bought me a year’s worth of masses for my soul, though it probably didn’t work. 😉

When she died, she was buried with her mother at the local Catholic cemetery. I would bring flowers and visit her tiny marker, cement, just a last name, more of a place holder, really. As it so often does, life interferes with what we want to do, and it was several years before I could get back to the cemetery. And her marker was gone. Covered over with grass in a wide expanse of green, hiding from view with many other markers. So I would estimate and put the flowers where I thought she might be, and I vowed that someday, if I ever had money, I’d buy her a proper marker.

So my uncle passed away a couple of years ago, and left me a bit of money. Not much, but enough to have a little in savings. And I went to the cemetery office and bought Helen and her mother a proper stone, with her Mary, Queen of the World, in the centre, and a proper vase for flowers. And now I know that, no matter what, she’ll be remembered. Perhaps they won’t know her story, but they’ll know she lived, and that’s important.

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