Digby’s back with his new column, Brief Encounters
I HAVE told my story at length in these pages and I welcome this return, a chance to uncover and relate some of yours. Beginning, naturally, in a graveyard.
A new puppy demands to be walked, which is how we discovered Mullumbimby cemetery, a place we return to eagerly.
Minutes from a town bustling with people and thick with traffic, here striving, stress, all forms of busyness are forgotten, unthinkable. The feeling of peace is unsurpassed.
Coming here is literally a walk in the park, with metaphysical musings an unavoidable extra.
We examine the graves of children – a day-old baby’s – and find a friend’s young son; it’s sad but there’s nothing morbid in it.
Indeed, the cemetery is brimming with signs of life – of heartbreak and loss, certainly, but even more powerfully of love. It looks and feels loved, and it is.
Council employee John Fitzgerald has devotedly maintained this and other shire cemeteries for 15 years and still supervises every burial in the district.
Born and bred in Mullum, he’s a friendly face in a delicate situation – which could include helping choose a site with people whose spouse may be dying, or who are themselves terminally ill.
He has a personal attachment to the place: his parents are just “over there”.
“I can say gidday to mum and dad every day if I want to. It keeps them with me.”
They are in the Garden Section, at the end of which is a cool, tree-sheltered area cared for by a local gardening society. This place has deep roots in the community.
John’s grandparents are here, friends, an aunt and uncle; a shadow only falls over his cheerfulness when he talks about the “too many” young people in his care, their lives cut short by car accidents.
There are plenty of tragic stories but discretion is part of his character, and John leaves the dead in peace.
He maintains perspective through a simple decency, a dedication to service, and an ever-so-slightly black sense of humour. Plus, he loves his work and its various “offices”.
“Clunes has a lovely little cemetery. Beautiful rural views there.”
He takes pride in looking after these sacred grounds and enjoys the quietness, the solitude, the opportunity to think. Despite a religious upbringing, his mind is regarding an afterlife and he has never felt any “presences” here.
Nothing to upset the calm, the sense of order.