Well all right, there are probably countless oddities in any graveyard. For example this cherub. It has a head of short curls of course, but at the back its hair is shoulder length. Presumably this serves to strengthen the figure’s neck. The unfortunate result though is an angel with a mullet, sure sign that heaven has gone to the dogs.
But not far from my own father’s grave – which we are here to tend – is a tiny new one, less I think than two feet long. On the simple wooden marker, not one name but two. And they are Dutch – Henk and Aukje Fase.
Dramatic explanations like an unnamed child – or even a pet – leap to mind, but either would be in breach of some basic Christian graveyard ideas. A more sober theory is that the tiny grave contains an urn of ashes; an unusual arrangement here but one I believe is allowed now. Two names though. You sense a story – and hope it’s not that they died together. That’s rarely good.
Perhaps it had been their wish, once they were both gone, for their ashes to be mingled and interred here. I wouldn’t blame them, it is a beautiful place. The grounds of a monastery founded by Saint Brendan the Navigator, a man who in the Sixth Century set out on a voyage to Paradise. Or possibly America. Intriguingly, there is a very old Dutch version of the legend., and in it he specifically leaves from here in Galway.
But there’s too much death altogether this week. My girlfriend just lost a cousin who was only my age. And a cousin of my mother’s mother has just died. That’s my cousin twice removed I think. Ok, fairly distant; sitting in this graveyard I’m probably surrounded by people I’m more closely related to than that. I wouldn’t have remarked on her at all were it not for the fact that she lived to be one hundred and five.
That’s a proper go.