I’d like to tell you a story that my mother told me a week or two ago. When she was a young child, her grandfather and aunt would often bring her to the cemetery where her grandmother, whom she’d barely known, was buried. For my mother, visiting the cemetery was not a sad affair, but rather a day she looked forward to. When they visited, they would begin by sweeping the large, white tombstone before washing it and placing some flowers on top. And every time, after caring for her grandmother’s grave, my mother would go to another grave that was not tended to like all the others. There, she would perform the same rituals of cleaning because she felt that the person buried there deserved the same care as any other.
This cemetery was filled with trees, and different wild plants grew among the tombstones – row upon row of coffin-sized white stone boxes, each inscribed in Gujarati with the name of the deceased. In this way, it was both a place of death and a place of life, representing the cycle of death and rebirth. But as she grew older, the wild plants were uprooted and the trees were cut down, and the cemetery became a place of solely cement and stone. It had become cold and was no longer tranquil, and these changes saddened her greatly.
Which brings us to today. We stand here, in this beautiful meadow rather than any other cemetery, in part because of that story. In her last few weeks and days, my mother talked of her life having often been full of struggle, and she said that she was now ready to be at peace. All through her time on earth, she worked hard to overcome life’s obstacles, but near the end she wanted a peaceful passage to whatever lay ahead. And so, she sought out this wonderful meadow to be buried in. She wanted an eco-burial so that her body could return to the earth naturally and help nourish new life. The knowledge that she would come to rest in this place, where the trees will not be cut down, and where the wild plants will not be uprooted, gave her a sense of tranquility in her final days, and for that I’m glad.
But though we stand in this serene meadow, I cannot say I am as yet at peace with her passing. Her disease grew worse slowly, but then all at once, and just like that, she was gone. Her passing is something I will continue to grapple with – for how long, I don’t know. Just as she struggled through much of her life, I may struggle to make sense of her death for some time. But I hope that this day and this place will put me on the path to being at peace, just as she now is.
Anonymous. Cobourg, Ontario