31 March 2012
Before Christmas we went to visit our friend Veronica Williams who is in the Taita cemetery. She always was a great one for celebrations and I didn’t want her to miss this one.
I laid the flowers on the headstone and noticed that her grave was in a state of disrepair – full of thistles and weeds and generally looking very uncared for.
I was trying to remove the thistles with little success when I noticed a big van pull up and some men get out.
One of them wandered past and stopped to come and have a look.
‘You need a shovel,’ he said ‘I’ll get one.’
I asked him if he was part of the parks and reserves staff but he replied that he wasn’t.
‘I’m a bad boy,’ he said.
I told him he wasn’t acting much like a bad boy to me.
‘I am though,’ he said. ‘I made some bad choices and I have to spend a lot of hours in this horrible place.’
From this exchange I gathered he had had some counselling somewhere!
He told me that his ‘bad choices’ were all around drinking and driving but he was going to try and stop now.
During this time he was working hard removing the thistles and weeds. We chatted away and I learned that he had four children by different partners but none of the partners or the children wanted to see him.
‘It’s hard,’ he said, ‘But I am still trying. Maybe I will get to know them some day.’
He told us he was a local boy and that he had lots of brothers who were all doing better than him.
‘But I’m the only one who will be there having Christmas dinner with Mum,’ he said proudly.
The thistles were gone by now but he said we needed to bark the grave so it would continue to look nice. He went and got bucket after bucket of bark, while we raked it on.
‘David, when you said that you had to spend time in this horrible place, I wanted to tell you something. The woman in this grave was someone who loved everyone – everyone I mean, not just some people.
‘I can tell you that even before you helped us, she would have loved you and now you have a friend for life. And you know, I am absolutely positive that everyone here has loved or is loved by someone else.
‘So maybe if you think of this place as being full of love and take some of it for yourself, it may seem a nicer place to be.’
He thought about it for a moment and agreed that it would make him feel better and that he would say ‘hello’ to Veronica every time he passed.
He gave me a few much needed hints on how to keep the weeds from poking through again.
I thought for a moment and then crossed over the grave and held him in a huge hug filled with gratitude. I stepped back and saw there were tears running down his face.
‘I don’t get hugs,’ he said.
As my friend gave him his second hug, I thought that the spirit of Christmas was right here, right now, and that our own Veronica was not resting where she is now any more than she was when she was here with us!