Graveyards

Graveyard

I was in a graveyard or cemetery this week attending a funeral.

According to Wikipedia, cemetery means sleeping place. How’s that for optimism?

On the way home from the funeral, my son asked me how many funerals did I reckon I’d attended.

I’ve been to three in the last twelve months but I started going to funerals as an altar boy, more than fifty years ago. It was one way of skipping a half day of school. So the first funerals I attended were of people I didn’t know.

The first family funeral I remember attending was my grandmother’s. I was thirteen. I went with my father. In fact, we had driven all day to get to the hospital before it was too late. She died twenty minutes after we arrived at her bedside. It was as if she had held on until her favourite son arrived. That ended up being a week away from home – a holiday with my cousins. Don’t know why my father took only me and not any of my brothers. Can’t ask him, because I’ve been to his funeral as well.

To be honest, I’ve been to so many funerals over the last forty or fifty years that I have lost count. Some have been harder to attend than others. I think one of the more difficult was that of my name-sake cousin. I can tell you, it’s a strange feeling standing next to a casket with your name on it.

I’ve witnessed a range of emotions on display at the graveside – from stoic acceptance right up to hysterical wailing as the casket is lowered. It’s just as well we are understanding of expressions of grief, even if we feel uncomfortable when someone totally loses it.

I’ve been to some good family wakes over the years. Something Irish families in the diaspora do pretty well. I’ve been to a lot of somber Italian funerals too – they seem to have a different take on death and dying.

On reflection, I’ve noticed something else. I don’t visit graves. I go to the funeral but I never go back, unless we are slipping another casket into the same grave. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over when I leave the cemetery.

Why do some people visit the grave every week? Why do some spend a fortune on tombstones?

If you wander around a cemetery and look at tombstones, it’s like there is a competition to see who can erect the biggest memorial. Personally, I think there are better things you can do with the money.

From my perspective, cemeteries are places we use to dispose of bodies that are no longer required. We are returning the components to the earth. For the process to be completely natural you’d think we would bury bodies in caskets that breakdown easily once in the ground or rely on cremation and simply scatter or bury the ashes.

I’ve been to funerals where the body was buried in a stainless steel, fibreglass covered, vacuum sealed casket in a cement lined grave. How quickly do you think a body buried like that would be reabsorbed back into the natural cycle? And we thought the Egyptians were crazy with their pyramids and mummies.

It’s all a matter of perspective. What’s yours?

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.

Living alone

Living Alone

Doing those things she used to do for you

Sometimes it feels like life happens to you, especially when your journey intersects with death, divorce or desertion; or you find yourself temporarily separated from the woman who had been taking care of business at your place.

It happened to me. Around five years ago, my wife, who had been looking after me in Adelaide, Australia, for thirty something years at that point, decided she wanted to broaden her horizons by becoming an educational consultant in New York. Yeah, you got it, the one in the United States of America. That’s a tad more than a cut lunch and a water bottle trip from my place – by 747.

For reasons associated with financial commitments (the bank still wanted its money) and maximising my retirement savings plan, I chose to stay at my job in Australia.

No need to feel sorry, it’s working out fine. We’re still married and we get to spend time together in two different cities, in two different parts of the world, in two different time zones, and I found out about Skype.

But, I found myself living on my own again, for up to four or five months at a time.

There’s only so much stuff a woman can leave behind in the freezer, and if she’s left for good, she may not have left you anything in the freezer, and she’s certainly not going to be on Skype, telling you how to cook whatever it is you want to try this week.

In a way, I was lucky.  Being a country boy, I’d had some experience looking after myself when I was at university. We country kids had to leave home and come down to the city to study, and I ended up living in an apartment with a couple of my brothers. So, I had some basic cooking skills I could fall back on. And, having been one of those collaborative husbands, who shared the housework while we were raising our kids, I knew how things about the house worked.

My wife would say that I was well trained. I might not have mastered much in the kitchen, but at least I’d done some sort of an apprenticeship over the years. I might not make the bed the way she wants it made, but at least I know how to make a bed, and which end of the vacuum cleaner is the business end.

Having looked after myself successfully for a while, I thought it might be useful to share what I know, so that anyone finding himself in a similar situation, would have access to a basic survival guide written by a fellow traveller, one who had survived by acquiring the basic skills required to look after himself.

Disclaimer: I’m no expert, I’m simply a practitioner who has relied on the ideas discussed in this book, and lived to tell you about them.

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That’s the introduction to After She’s Gone, the first book in my Living Alone series.

What do you think? Do you now anyone who might need this sort of survival guide?

Thanks for dropping by,

Peter