Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Memento Mori

Today, I walked to Melbourne General Cemetery.
Throughout my life, cemeteries have been a place of refuge. Taking the phrase 'final resting place' to heart, I find peace and uninterrupted quiet in them.
I've studied the rituals of burial and commemoration of the dead in various cultures but I've rarely taken much notice of those in my own. And yet, here, among the old, weather-worn stone tombstones I noticed for the first time newer, more elaborate vault-like structures, some almost like Thai spirit houses, shaped from polished marble and granite. Their surfaces were polished smooth and engraved with gold-leafed lettering.
On some, statues of Christ, the Virgin Mary, lesser saints and cherubs, as well as plastic flowers, urns, and photographs of the deceased were padlocked behind leaded or steel-framed glass shutters. On others, open books carved in marble sat atop grave slabs, bookmarked with natural flowers in various stages of decay. On a few graves of children, there were less formal, makeshift shrines featuring stuffed teddy bears, small dolls , toys, even a lollipop.
We live in groups so maybe it's only to be expected that we're buried in groups when we're dead. But I can't help but think of tombs and vaults as prisons in which our earthly remains have to be sealed while our souls await salvation. (Never mind that our burial places will probably dug over first, in land reclamations engineered by future real estate developers.)
When I think of my own death, I rarely consider what will happen to my corpse. I think I'd like my ashes to be scattered randomly or buried. Having striven all my life for a sense of freedom, I'd want whatever's left of me after death to be uncontained.


hazel colditz said...

g'day hazel-
death is always present, just as rebirth. every moment we have choices as to what our path holds...karma can come around that corner and....
thoughtful post.
will be posting a little surprise for you my dear! keep a watchful eye....
on the road....hazel

b/rood said...

F---ing great photo. You look like a Buddhist monk lost in contemplation at the graveside (and superimposed above Christ's head).

Mona said...

Nice and a great photo, one of my fave places here in melbourne as long as i avoid the Elvis grotto!

Dimitrios said...

It's amazing that even on that sacred spot, there needs to be a padlock to safeguard the small statue - one of Christ at that!

C said...

Hi Hazel,

Consider having your ashes scattered at a particular point that can be visited, rather than randomly.

Of course it's your remains, but its the people left behind that will get the most out of a burial/ash scattering ceremony.

Keep up the good work!

Mona said...

It seems to me that you are up too early...but go to the cemetry now while it is dark of yr other places and chill.
having said that someone mentioned the lights @ Fed Sq - beautiful but full of wankers!

Rachel Marsden said...

I feel most at peace in cemeteries. I enjoy visiting the Toowong cemetery in Brisbane. It's close to my home.
I also don't like the idea of being in an enclosed box when I die. It seems... unnatural.