Places to Go

Cemeteries…

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Cemeteries… Overwhelmingly sad and intricately beautiful at the same time.

 

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When I first travelled to Italy I learned to spot the graveyards from miles away by scanning the horizon for the march of cypress sentries planted all around the perimeters to shade and guard their charges within.

 

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The rituals we have for our dead are fascinating because of their deeply emotional associations with love and loss, because of our human curiosity about (or ignorance of) life beyond our own earthly experience, and also because of the creative and artistic skills involved in making the tributes beautiful.

 

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My husband’s family has buried many generations of extended relatives in one tiny cemetery in a little town in a very small corner of Europe which gives it great significance for us…

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We have the opportunity to visit the memorial place of many relatives at once and to revisit decades of family history in an instant.  

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Just opening the old iron gate to the church yard brings out my tears – I always have the sense that I am coming into a great party already well under way. 

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I can’t forget that many of the people now  residing in graves here were alive and laughing with us on other visits.

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Every stone here has a story. Every grave was a relative or a neighbor and every life was connected. Our daily visits here can never be short – the stories are like a meandering walk through time – and the names are repeated in a poetic pattern of cousins, uncles, godparents, nonnas…

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Today we found an old headstone dated from the late 1700s. I explained to my children that it is older than the country they were born in!  These monuments are powerful reminders of historical significance and human insignificance all wrapped up together with the artistic presentation of theatrical sculpture…

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And through it all the silent cypress trees stand vigilantly guarding each marked place, and protect for us the private peace we need to honour the memories of our history…

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My husband’s maternal grandparents, while not born in this town like his father, died and are buried here together.  This is our first visit to Nonna in the cemetery, and it is an emotional experience for us all.  Zia has arranged a special Mass, and has spent hours preparing the flowers and polishing the marble grave stones until they shine to her specifications. 

 

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At twilight we make our pilgrimage – the children carry candles for their Nonni, with a kind of genuine reflection that only the very young are capable of…

 

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…we follow the cultural traditions and honour the family that gave up so much for us to live the life we do today…  we give in to the feelings of love and loss… and add our candles to light the way…

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One thought on “Cemeteries…

  1. Pingback: Light | Mimi's Blog

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