Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Gift from the Dead.

Hello ! I`m glad you`re here !

I am starting this blog not knowing where my thoughts will lead me. I have an idea to talk about graves and graveyards and to think about why we should honour our deceased loved ones. Let`s see where we get to................

A cousin of mine recently was doing some work on the family tree. This stirred up a lot of things and I ended up going to a churchyard to put flowers on the grave of my great grandfather and great grandmother. There was no headstone and so I tried to ascertain the exact location of the grave from the Church Warden. Sadly there were only incomplete records: those with headstones were recorded, those without were not.

I found this very upsetting, not least that a church would have such little respect or caring for our loved ones that they would not keep proper records, yet more upsetting still that graves would have status if those who were buried had position or money enough to afford a headstone.

I immediately thought about hierarchy in the church, G`d and clergy, landed gentry and peasants, all assuming their place within the social scheme of things.. and, of course, the most lowly having unmarked graves. I thought how significant it is that the church reflects social division and has supported it through the centuries, whatever its religious posture might be. Even whether one`s burial spot is recorded, boils down to hierarchy !

When I question whether this is typical of the Church of England throughout the country, I am told that it is.

I was minded to try to put flowers on the grave of my great greats as well....(It`s funny how our actions so readily expose the wrongs around us!) My grandmother talked of them such a lot and they had been long-since neglected. So I approached a second church to try to see a grave plan here as well !(Glutton for punishment!) My second attempt was worse, this time even devoid of kindness, for I encountered at this church an, how shall I put it?..... an indifference that was plain obstructive. Yes, they had many of my ancestors buried on this plot of land and they didn`t give a TOSS about them or me or the churches` responsibilities.Not a toss. We might have been talking about carcasses from an abattoir for all the value my enquiry had! (Please see my blog "Animals, Why Should we Care?" for more examination of how we compartmentalise our consciences.)

I find this quite extraordinary, don`t you? Perhaps you`ll even say, typical of the church, I don`t know. Vicars in the past lived with these people, baptised them, married them, and in the end buried them.. and dumped them in the ground without a care for the recording of their resting place. Do I hear a, "perhaps the records have been lost?" OK., let`s be kind, they forgot to write down where the poor people are buried or they accidentally lost all these records all over England.... and now they say "sorry", like the Pope and everybody else these days. Does this wash with you? Well, it doesn`t with me. There is just something revealing about a church that is comfortable with operating on the basis of hierarchy, isn`t there?

How could they EVER have lived with people and cared so little? Could it be that the church was something for THEM, yet pretended to be "for the people"? Personally, I have a very low opinion of the church for just this reason: it`s all about them.

But why isn`t this all over the headlines? I suppose when immediate family have departed this life no-one much cares anymore. No-one fights for them; they are too busy fighting for their own lives, families, jobs, money. What does it say about us, though, that we bury our dead with flowing tears and then cease to care so many years down the line? And what does it do to us as human beings to leave our loved ones behind in a churchyard where there is no-one to protect their resting place or their memory? I`d really like to think next time about what we gain by honouring our dead and why I think we should care with an energy we`d usually apply to our lives and the living.

This thrilling blog continues next time when I reveal, wow this is so much like Hollywood movies, I reveal what I gained from a graveyard... Tune in next time!

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