I spent a sunny afternoon last week taking a trip around one of the local cemeteries & garden of remembrance with my Dad, not because I’m ghoulish but because it is steeped in history and I love the quietness. This particular cemetery which we frequently visit has views of Dartmoor in the distance which provides the location for the famous prison and where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. As we continued on our walk, we visited the war graves, those of the Greek merchant seaman who had lost their lives in the English Channel and were buried so far away from home & their families like so many other casualties of war. As Plymouth was a main naval port for the UK during the war, the bombing was relentless and there were over a 100,000 casualties of the blitz in this city alone.
In one corner of the graveyard there is a small tree-shaded copse where many of the old gothic tombstones have been recovered and I was sad to see that even death does not command respect judging by the amount of fly tippers. In fact, whilst we were there a couple of workmen erecting a hand rail had deposited a couple of cement bags on some loved one’s memorial plot during their endeavours. Am I alone in thinking that someone working in this environment should demonstrate a basic level of integrity at the very least? I was also dismayed by the signs promoting the sale of burial plots in much the same way as Estate Agents or Realtors promote the sale of properties. In addition I realised that most cemeteries become more about the living coping with their grief than the much lamented deceased. Like most of my generation, I have little concern about my eventual demise (which I hasten to add I hope is not for a very long time) but I do remember my grandparents paying into a funeral plan with the co-operative for their eventual funerals. With funerals now costing on average between £3,000 to £4,000 ($4,500 – $6,000), many will not be able to afford these hefty charges. It saddens me that there are people who will still make a substantial profit from the vulnerable and grief-ridden. Nearly one hundred people since 2008 in the city of Plymouth alone were buried in paupers’ graves. The local council will pay the charges of £950 ($1,500) each time for the transport of the body (hearse), coffin, officiant, and burial or cremation. As many elderly people will struggle on through a bitter winter without heating as they can ill afford to pay the utility charges, it is unlikely that they will have sufficient savings to pay for their own internment. After all why would you struggle to pay for a better afterlife when you can barely afford to survive in this one?
My Dad says that a bin liner and a bonfire will suffice him “when he goes”; my mother suggested we have a trial run; if I’m honest I think that maybe the cake incident still rankles.