Monday, 9 July 2007

“Hier ruhet in Gott”

Working through my list of things to do on a cold and busy weekend, I have decided where I want to be buried. It wasn’t originally on the “to do” list, but death, or at least the commemoration of it, inserted itself.

We had a weekend house guest – a graduate school friend of mine who is now in Hong Kong. I think he had a significant degree of culture shock coming to Marburg. He couldn’t believe the size of our house (which is rather small by local standards) or the open space around the house. He thinks that about 3000 people would live on a similar area in Hong Kong. And to live in a house surrounded by gardens requires trillionaire status there.

He wanted to know what my children do in their holidays: “Do they go to holiday camp? Or some classes perhaps?” My children read, play, run around, squabble, dig holes, play horses, make gardens, create sand sculptures, have friends over, play in the cubby house, laze in the hammock, come shopping with me, eat a lot, walk, watch television, colour in, make elaborate paper creations…the list goes on. Did I mention squabbling? It takes up a lot of time and energy.

Since we moved here I have planned to visit the Tallegalla cemetery but as always, it took having a visitor to make the effort. High on the hills between Marburg and Rosewood it is a spectacular site. Old tombstones mix with new plaques. Mown grass with newly installed gardens. The backdrop is the sweeping hills of the Little Liverpool range, the Marburg valley and the distant D’Aguilar Ranges.

The ten acres of land were donated by the Freemans for use as a cemetery in 1876. Several of the early tombstones are entirely in German. The names on the headstones are those of families I encounter in my everyday life, many of whom have streets named after them. Organisation seems to be by family rather than date. One corner is entirely dominated by generations of one family, other families cluster across the hillside. The saddest grave was that of two little boys. One died in 1891 at six months of age. The other died aged six, within a year of his brother.

Many of the tombstones were difficult to read. Weather has worn away inscriptions, lichen grows on some. On others, covered domes of wax flowers grow their own crop of exotic lichens. Some domes are broken and stones cracked. My daughter couldn’t work out why several graves were covered in bones. Closer examination revealed it to be a layer of white coral gruesomely resembling bones.

I think that I would like to be buried there. I know that I won’t be appreciating the view, the breezes, the sunshine and quiet, but I like to think that people visiting the grave would have this benediction.

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