I thought of You so often
That I completely became You.
Little but little You drew near
Slowly but slowly I passed away.
I saw this written on a gravestone in Putney Vale Cemetery this weekend. I have driven past this place many times in the last couple of years and have a curiosity (some would say of a slightly morbid nature) about cemeteries, especially old ones.
It was a lovely day and I didn’t feel like spending it amongst noisy hectic groups of people so went to the other extreme and convinced Jer to come for a walk round the cemetery with Munchkin and I. Luckily, Jer shares my somewhat odd interest and we had a really good time wandering about. Is that weird?
Putney Vale Cemetery covers an absolutely massive area of land and has graves dating back to the 19th century right up to the present day. We walked through the paths with graves that mostly dated from the turn the of 20th Century, drawn initially by the smattering of gorgeous Art Nouveau examples of stones. Each of us noticed something different as we walked along and pointed it out to the other. In some cases it was a beautiful statue of an angel, in others a touching epitaph. We came across one stone which details the deaths of a man, his wife, his baby son and the grandmother who all died within a week of each other in March 1920. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it was like for grandmother who died last to have seen the rest of family go before her. My assumption is that there may have been some kind of epidemic at that time, perhaps the end of the famous flu pandemic which started in 1918 and claimed more lives than the 1st world war. An estimated 50 million people died worldwide as a result.
Cemeteries like this are a snapshot of history. A few lines on a piece of stone can have huge amounts of history behind them and I think that is what fascinates me the most.
The inevitable many stones marking the graves of men who had died in the 1st and 2nd world war were there too. One struck both of us in particular which talked of a Captain in the RAF who died in June 1945 not long before the end of the war. He was a Captain but he was 18. How did we as a human race ever allow that to happen? That boys were given positions of responsibility and sent to their deaths?
After much wandering we stopped and sat down under a big tree, away from the stones. Munchkin, delighted to be free of his buggy, toddled around picking up twigs and tried his best not to fall over. Occasionally, he would come up to us to show something he was particularly pleased to have found and would giggle. It was extraordinarily peaceful and beautiful and for two tired, rushed off our feet individuals, gave us a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are.
I am sure we will go again and explore other areas. I looked up the great Google font of information and discovered that several famous people are buried there: Enid Blyton and Antony Blunt, amongst others.
This post was started with a quote. I saw it on one of the stones and thought it was beautiful. After checking I found out that it comes from Sufism and refers, not as I thought from one person to another, but to God. It made me think. Now there is a good reason to go wandering round a cemetery on a sunny day.