To celebrate Valentines Day, Mr D & I went for a walk. We got for a lot of walks together, and a walk is a nice way to celebrate what the holiday is supposed to be about, while avoiding all the commercial rubbish and stress.
For this time, we picked a favourite walking spot: Otari Wilton’s Bush, but settled on a combination of routes we don’t often take, to give us a full 3 hour walk.
Because we were taking paths we don’t usually take, I got slightly confused, and we took a wrong turn, and ended up somewhere quite amazing: amongst the gravestones in an older, quite overgrown portion of Old Karori Cemetery.
Old Karori Cemetery is one of the biggest in NZ (over 4o hectares) and I’ve only ever seen the extremely tidy, well kept portions near the entrance, so it took me a moment to realise where we were.
It was quite a fascinating place to end up, particularly if you didn’t expect it: an old cemetery, overgrown and looking as if it was almost forgotten, returning to nature.
The section we wandered into was from the 1920s, and I spent some time reading the gravestones, and imagining the the lives of the people buried there.
I know some people find cemeteries creepy, but I don’t. Death happens to all of us, and the memorial stones focus on the best of a persons life; how much good they did, and how much they were loved. It’s comforting and restful to know that whatever someone went through in life, they aren’t suffering anymore, and all that is remembered of them is that they were beloved.
I found it particularly restful that this graveyard was so overgrown. I’ve since found out that some people are very unhappy about the trees, but I loved the whole space: it felt so peaceful. The graves really were resting in peace, undisturbed by lawn mowers and hedge trimmers and the usual trappings off pristine cemeteries.
As we walked further in amongst the graves, we travelled back in time from the ’20s to the ‘teens, with rows and rows of headstones from November of 1918, reminders of the toll the Spanish Flu took on the otherwise young and healthy in New Zealand.
In amongst the overgrown graves were the occasional newer headstones, where people had chosen to be buried with the family members they had lost decades before.
It may have seemed an odd way to spend Valentines afternoon, and it certainly wasn’t planned, but it felt very appropriate: being with someone I loved, looking at all these commemorations of how much other people were loved and missed.
As we left the cemetery, and the memories of those who had shared their life and were now together forever in death, I squeezed Mr D’s hand and told him how glad I was to be spending my life with him.