Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thoughts of immortality

The photo above is of my Great Grandparents grave in England. My parents visited it last week for the first time in about forty years. I have heard a lot about my Great Grandparents and feel I know them even though they died years before I was born.

For various reasons my Mum was raised by them and lived with them until the age of fourteen. I have listened to my Mum's tales of climbing mountains and the gentleness and kindness shown to her during her childhood. Which I think explains why my childhood was so idyllic.

When my parents visited the grave last week they were shocked to see that my Great Grandmothers name was not on the stone. It appears she was buried there but no one had got the name engraved. 

This, obviously was very upsetting and no one has any idea why this was not done. So my parents are going to get the stone cleaned up and my Great Grandmothers name added.

You are probably wondering why I am writing about this in an expat blog. Well, it prompted me to start think about mortality and how we would all like to be remembered and the fact that I am unable to visit the graves of people I love as we live so far away now. Does this matter? How should we remember people?

I have given this a lot of thought over the past few years. Unfortunately my Grandmother passed away last year and obviously I was unable to attend her funeral. The cost and practicalities of travelling back to the other side of the world were just too prohibitive. This was a very difficult time. My Nan meant a lot to me and played a huge part in my life. My daughter is named after her. 

I have come to terms with her passing by reminding myself of the ways in which she is still with us. I can see her in the face of my children when they are stubborn and refuse to give in when faced with something frightening or challenging. Her hand made quilt is on my bed and the kids still take the pink teddy and dog she gave them to bed each night. The advice she gave me when I rang her in tears when my eldest cried continually for six hours, will be treasured and passed onto my own kids. I think this is the way loved ones should be remembered. 

So although I am unable to visit my Nans grave, I have not forgotten her and she is still with us in so many ways. I still carry the guilt of not being able to attend her funeral but I believe that Nan understood. After all she was the one who told us to move to New Zealand. 

So getting back to my Great Grandmothers grave. Although her name is not yet on the gravestone and has not been for over forty years, she has by no means been forgotten. Her actions in life created currents and repercussions that are still being felt two generations on. Because she gave my Mum a loving and secure childhood, my Mum was able to give that to me and my siblings. And the values and beliefs she passed on are still being passed on to my children today. 

I think that is the way people should be remembered, by their actions and the people they loved, not by what is written on a gravestone.

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