Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gone But Not Forgotten

Is it our wish that we might not be forgotten once we are gone? Or is it not ?
It is somehow my wish, that someone will still love my memory when I have left this life. 
Given the fact, that I can make something of my life that is memorable. 
I visited a place, that has been on my mind since a while, and that I had seen only from the outside through an iron fence when driving by in my car. 

I came to look at one of the oldest cemetery's of East London with graves and tombstones, that are as old as the history of this part of the country where I live, the Eastern Cape.

Many of the first settlers that came to the tip of the African continent from Europe and started their lives here, have found their last resting place on this beautiful but now deserted cemetary under old trees and bushes where you can see the blue of the sea from many points. Long alleys lined by ancient pine trees lead the visitor through it. 

Except, that nobody walks anymore these alleys because it is said to be very dangerous, and that it is a place where you get stabbed, mugged, robbed, raped and attacked.
I have been waiting for someone to go with me for a long time, but did not succeed. One morning then, having become impatient, I drove there by myself. 

The gate was open and I went in. The area seemed deserted and isolated and had a strange aura. Graveyards do not intimidate or disturb me but here I did feel something else. I felt I was not safe. But the scenery was of utmost, romantic and idyllic beauty and tempted me to walk in a little. 

Some of the tombstones and sculptures on the graves were as large as human beings. 
The fate of many of them was and is to be vandalized, abused and ravaged at night when their heads and limbs are beaten off and fire is made on them. 

But still even without a head they serve their purpose: to remind us of something. They remind us of something, that we mostly forget, but that is important to remember to keep us empowered and challenged and motivated in life.

MOMENTO MORI. Remember you must die. Remember the moment comes you must die.

The graves are sunken in and I walked over them in deep grass, that was partly illuminated by the sun when looking at the inscriptions on the tombstones.

Why should we remember that the moment comes we die?
I think that it must be remembered, not with fear in your heart, but just as a personal due date by which we should have done something good and may be great as well.
A reminder to be passionate and joyful. Not to waste your life is the message. 

May be it was simply my imagination, but it seemed to me that the children's graves where the ones, that were mostly untouched. Little angels were still praying.

Most of the time.

A great number of the tomb stones had German names and engravings on them like this one, on which was written in German, that a woman named Elizabeth came in the year 1825 from DEUTSCHLAND ( Germany) and died in East London in 1904. 
Most of the graves date back to the 1800's as early as 1807. 
Many of the inscriptions showed that they carry remains of people who have died before 1900. 

But there are also those who came from other far-away places to Africa. And died young. 
To come from Glasgow in Scotland in the year 1866 to South-Africa is a very long way to die at the age of 33 years.

Many died young. In our perception of today they died terribly young.

Like Baby Enis.

There was an amazing variety of absolutely beautiful sculptures and grave ornaments, and by the detail and the work of them you could see, that they had cost a fortune, even at the time when they were commissioned and when money was still spent on art and detail.

Carved, shaped and engraved in stone a century ago by truly skilled hands.

To tell us they are gone, but not forgotten.
The depth of this statement is incredible. The essence of it is not only symbolic and religious but it show us that art and an artists hand's have made it possible for these names to endure the weather and history of centuries. Through art they are not forgotten. 
And I can look at them. Me and others can look at them. You can look at  them.
Should they not be better protected and taken care of then? 

And what the ones, that stayed behind wished for the ones that left them is still the same what is wished for today.


And it does not matter, that there are the ones that cannot be traced anymore because their names have disappeared.

They are gone, but not forgotten.

But it would be nice if the descendants could still visit this graveyard peaceful and without fear of being attacked and stabbed.

This graveyard could be like a little famous Pere Lachaise in Paris. It could be a historical monument. 
A place of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city reminding you of a strong part of this country's history.

And while I linger with these thoughts I get shouted at from a distance.
A friendly but upset man who turns out to be the manager tells me to come out of there.
" Don't you know that is one of the most dangerous places in town ? " he asks, " have you not seen the signboard  at the entrance?  Where is your car ? I am gonna walk you to your car? What are you doing here in anyway? When did u get in ?
 A battery of question.
" Nothing, I said, I am just taking pictures of the graves, looking at the inscriptions"."
" Are you doing research'?" 
" No not really", I said " I am just interested ".
" But you can not be here alone, promise me you won't come here anymore alone ? " 
I promised.  AND THEN I SAW MY NAME.

My name is not so common. And I have never seen it on a tombstone.
But there it was.
Isabella died at the age of 29 years in the 1895 five years after her daughter Rose aged 2,5 years.


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