Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: The Forgotten Few

Yesterday, on my other blog, I mentioned my visit to our local cemetery.  I don't have any relatives lying there myself, I was there in pursuit of my war memorial project.  My visit was fairly brief - the dog was with me and she was for some reason spooked - but it did get me thinking about the whole business of graves and remembrance.

I am tempted to say that I am ashamed to say that I have never visited the grave of a relative.  However, we moved away from my home town when I was sixteen, so I was never in a position to go off on graveyard visits on my own.  Indeed, I didn't know where my grandparents, aunt or family were buried.  My parents came from a generation who had grown up with parents who were essentially Edwardian.  Death was still a highly ritualised occasion and mourning was formal.  In my view, my parents and their generation rejected their parents' stiff attitudes to life and death, rushing through mourning and quickly moving on.  Hence, no formal mourning period and no graveyard visits.  Personally, I think the modern attitude to "quick" mourning, coupled (thankfully) with far fewer infant mortalities, makes us shy away from death and has given rise to a society that shuns its dead.  And, of course, we move around a lot and leave our family graves behind, as I have done.

My visit on Sunday to the graveyard went some way to confirm this view.  Barely any of the graves were tended by relatives.  The town council workmen had ensured that the cemetery was presentable, the grass was cut, fallen grave markers stacked neatly, but where was the love?  Admittedly these were old graves, but it still made me sad.

I found several of the graves I was looking for, including the graves of five crew who were killed in a torpedo attack on their ship just off  Newquay in 1918  (you can read about them here).  One of these graves was for James Cunningham Mann, the 17 year old cabin boy.  It turned out that Sunday was the anniversary of his death and I desperately wanted to lay flowers for him and his shipmates - unfortunately when I got home my daughter was ill and I couldn't make it back to the graveyard.  But I will next weekend - these forgotten few are forgotten no longer. 


TCasteel said...

I was raised the same way. My brothers & I had never been to a funeral growing up. Death was not part of our lives. My parents are still like that in that they havn't made a will and are not willing to discuss end of life care. (They are in their 70's). We definately live in a different culture than our past ancestors did.
Theresa (Tangled Trees)

The Treehouse said...

Oh, don't get me started on wills! My mother died some years ago without having made one - apparently she and my father hadn't imagined that she would die first, despite her being ten years older than him and in poor health! Consequently, because of the inheritance laws in Louisiana, my brother and I automatically inherited half her estate - understandably very inconvenient for my father. So, two days after her death we had to go to an attorney to formally withdraw our claim on her estate. Not the best time to be making rational decisions! And my father has still not made his own will, although he is now remarried, so I can see another awkward situation inevitably arising in the future. Far better and less emotive to make a will when you are young.

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