I’ve been snooping, peering in the windows of the house at the cemetery gates.
Nice wallpaper, and a distinctively retro kitchen.
The cemetery is an interesting context for these thoughts, though. Bodies are buried and given a headstone with a carefully chosen message, a public declaration for anyone to read.
But these public messages can be quite personal. I read about Mavis Throstle, much loved wife, mum and nana, or Martin Swift, husband, dad and pap.
These words, nan or nana, gramps, pappy or pops for example, seem to me to be private words, intimate family coinages. They jar for me. Children’s talk caught up in the very adult business of carved stone that deals with death and grief. I feel they don’t belong there.
But perhaps they are just too revealing for me. They salt the grief, bringing its true character to the fore. Someone young was bereaved. And what were they told? How did they react? How did they try to make sense of the death? These are uncomfortable questions to think about.
Here is an older headstone. It’s very formal, very restrained, and very attractive in its own way. Even here, though, Jane Elizabeth’s name is supplemented by the one I presume people actually used, Jeannie. ‘Wife of the above’ returns us to officialese (though surely Henry is actually below Jeannie), but ‘reunited’ – and after thirty years – humanises it again.
The public and the private, the conventional and the original: I suppose we are always between them.