This is about a day that dawned somber in May and an event seven months earlier and it concerns someone people nearly knew, but not quite (for some, certainly not as well as they believed).
In November last year I learned that a man I nearly knew had died suddenly and unexpectedly (to those of us left, that is – he may have realised it was time to go). It saddened me, of course, as this type of news does – this time around even more so as I wasn’t able to be there for the funeral. That, in itself, was odd as I’m normally relieved to have an excuse not to go to such events, finding them strained and unrepresentative of the person I remember.
In any case, when I was eventually able to do so in May, I visited people who also nearly knew this man and we talked of his death and his funeral until I felt I’d found out all I could. There then came a Thursday which dawned somber, humid and overcast and which found me in reflective mood. I decided ‘Today’s the day’ and set off, on foot, for the cemetery. I’d been offered lifts but wanted to go alone. I’d been given specific instructions on how to find the grave, how hard could it be?
I cut my summer-soft feet up as I walked there in flip-flops but lost my irritation when I arrived at the cemetery. I’d forgotten the sense of community and amount of everyday activity there. I wandered around and marvelled at the personal, yet uniform, touches to the graves and tombs. There were names I recognised and tombs which stood out in design and sheer size. One such was prominent for all the wrong reasons – it was hideous and also huge in its hideousness. When I saw and recognised the name on it, I was saddened. I remember her living vividly as a glossy, glamorous survivor.
After trying (and failing miserably) to locate the grave I was looking for (one of the few times in my life I’ve really wanted to see a dead person but couldn’t), I spoke to a priest who directed me to ‘the man who knew’ in the front office. Both men were kind, helpful and efficient. ‘The man who knew’ did indeed know, and instantly, who I was looking for and where he could be found. He marched me at a cracking pace through the cemetery to ‘Zone 26’. Once there, it took a few minutes of searching before I happened across the exact ‘In Loving Memory’ on a headstone. A marker notable for the information it didn’t give – an exact date of death. I think he’d have enjoyed that subtle difference. A very private man to the last, even right up to his last week in October.
I then felt I should ‘look busy’ like all the other visitors, so did some plastic flower tidying and left my lucky bracelet hanging on one of the synthetic twigs at the head of the grave. I liked that there was the sound of children in the playground just over one wall of the cemetery, the noise of speeding cars over another and, in the background, the sound of the sea on the nearby beach. I liked, too, that the cemetery was quite the hive of activity for the living – tending, tidying, visiting, shouting, driving and riding around. Layers of life and death surrounding that someone I nearly knew.