Remembering Nana

Wind blown flowers litter the checker-board grave markers that climb heavily up the hillside, eventually courting the fence line and abruptly turning in to a field of golden gorse flowers that explode in rapture as they meet the sky. Wind turbines, looming and graceful, spinning endlessly amongst powdered clouds rushing overheard, pushed by a northerly eager to envelope the earth. Ragged hillsides stretch and bend over the horizon, corners falling off here and there, roots of trees clinging precariously to the dried out soil. A woman with a rag cloth lovingly wipes headstones, murmuring orthodox prayers and weeping for someone she once knew. Panagakos, Athanasiou, Stathopoulos, Gabris, Tavoularis - last names scratched in granite, claiming the heritage of the elders. Greece has taken over this small plot of land on the southern coast of Te Ika a Māui, a stamp-sized memory of those who sailed on this very wind.

Today I visited the Greek Orthodox section of Makara cemetery with a friend, in search of her parents graves. There is some kind of peace that hangs around cemeteries. A sadness and a loss, but also an affirmation that, despite the inevitability of life ending, there is a resilience within humanity. We remember the dead, we place flowers on graves, we trim the grass and pave the paths that lead to their final resting place. We continue to live on; in the memories of those who loved us, in the letters etched on our gravestone, in the grass that grows over us. And as we share memories of our loved ones with one another - this is where he worked, that is the house that we lived in, once when I was a child, he told me a secret... - we remember them a little clearer, a little brighter, with a little more warmth. We are but a monument, worn down by time, but we were once here.

It reminded me of my Nana, who has been gone for 4 years now. She was a bright, lively, loving, generous, sharp-tongued woman who could keep her huge family in line with one word. She constantly gave all she could to us, and she looked after us no matter what. When I visited her open casket, a scared 16 year old with a broken heart, I slipped a note in to her hand (I don't know if I was allowed to do that, but I did anyway). I guess a part of me wanted her to be sure of how I felt about her. And now, thinking back, the story reminds me of how powerful relationships are. Whanaungatanga. We yearn to spend all our days with those we love, and we mourn them when we can't. But when we dig a little deeper, we see that we don't need a note slipped in to a casket to remember - because there is something in all of us that connects us, a compassion, an empathy, that cannot be dulled as the years slip by.

No comments:

Post a Comment