I clearly remember while visiting my ouma and oupa in Pretoria as a young girl, how often we used to walk through cemeteries. Ouma gave us the freedom to wonder around, reading the names on the tombstones, when they passed and how old they were. I tried to find the youngest child, and the oldest date. She told us that there is nothing to fear amongst the dead.
My slightly over-active imagination played out scenery of beautiful gardens, picturesque homes, floral dresses, picnics by the lakes, old cars, dust roads leading to fields of wild flowers, visiting loved ones by candle light. I wondered who these people were, did they come from a big and loving family, did they have siblings, were they in love. And often I wondered how they died. I wasn’t saddened by these thoughts. It was more as if a sense of gratitude and self awareness settled over me. I felt calm.
I admired the tombstones more than anything else though. Some were so old you couldn’t read the inscriptions. Others were huge, looming over their neighbors like giants in a chest match. Then there were those graves who had a single cross, old, chipped with no name, no identity. This is the only thing that will sadden me; the thought that a family might not have been in a financial position to afford a significant tombstone to honor their loved one.
Today I wondered into our local rural town and decided to walk around the small cemetery. The one tombstone in particular caught my attention and as the grey clouds rolled in, bringing with it a cold snap, I stood in silence and solace admiring the life beneath my feet.