Ella Frances Pollard Died 3rd January, 1903 Aged 7 months.
So young, What did you die of? Fever? Diptheria? Pox? Why was your chance for a life so unfairly taken from you? If you had not died so young, would you have grown up as a beautiful woman? Lived happily to be married and become a proud mother?
Annie Violet Courlay Died 18th March, 1899 Aged 30 years
How come you landed up here? Taken in the prime of life. How long did husband James grieve? Did he marry someone else? Was he happy again? Did he remember you fondly till the day he took his last breath? James CampbellFell asleep 21st February, 1864Aged only 24 days
Another so young. Was it a cot death? Your parents must have had money to build you such a fine monument. But the cross now lies broken on the ground. Could you have grown up to a politician, priest, lawyer or thief?
I ponder these things as I peer though the pre-dawn gloom at the the line of stones that resemble a row of rotten teeth.
Many of the headstones have an obvious phallic resemblance with bulbous tops pointing fruitlessly towards the sky. Why so young? There are so many young women here. I can only assume many died of childbirth complications.
The wind rustles the trees and elicits an occasional moan from the taller pines. The old cemetery at Simon's Town is a regular haunt on my daily pre-dawn walks as it provokes me to consider my own life and mortality. The immediate survivors who erected these sad memorials will have by now also passed their allotted span and transformed back to dust. There are none left to remember the people whose lives are commemorated here. The broken shards of vases which one held flowers are testament to that. It is like those forlorn crosses one sees at the scenes of fatal road accidents. For a few years they are adorned with flowers and then none as memories dim and the living move on with their lives.
It seems so pointless to waste money on the dead. So many crosses and slabs have toppled over with the passage of time or have been vandalised. Many of the graves are anonymous, the headstones long gone or the engravings obliterated. Just piles of whitewashed stones showing that the local council want keep up appearances. I want to know who these people were? Did those that reached maturity live good and fruitful lives or did some prey upon their fellows without conscience? More questions; no answers.
Nearby is the Royal Navy cemetery. Much neater and well kept. Here is a memorial to the crew of HMS Nerbudda. Lost without trace off the Cape with all the crew some time in June, 1855. Many of the crew were young boys. Teenage boys as young as 14 and 15. Did the ship flounder in a storm? Where these young boys flung into a raging sea to swim helplessly till exhaustion and the cold grip of the ocean caused them to know they were about to die?
Why is life so unfair? Why are some born into wealth and privilege and others into never ending grinding poverty and starvation? Why do the innocent and the good die so young and the thieves and exploiters of others misfortune enjoy a long and happy life? Life and death is so random. There is no discernible pattern.
Why have I been so fortunate. If asked at 20 what I expected to achieve I would not for a moment have foreseen how life would lead me. At times I did try to control my destiny but in the main I recognise I received more than my share of good fortune. I made my bad decisions, too often acted selfishly, and often steered off course but always seemed to get back on track with positive results. Why was I so lucky to survive a motorcyle accident at 22 (low flying without a helmet), a car accident at 50 when I was rear ended and landed up under a cement truck and walked away unscathed? And the cancer that would have terminated me early had it occurred 25 years earlier when treatments were not as advanced as they are today. How come I survived but a life long friend did not make it past fifty?
It has become lighter now and the sun should be up within the hour. I can hear the early morning traffic stirring for the new day. I start to climb the path towards Runciman Drive for the long walk home.
When will death take me and how will I “shuffle off this mortal coil”? How much longer have I got? No one knows what happens when we die and those that claim to know have no greater insight than me. I do not fear death. Death is inevitable and I am closer to it as each day passes. I fear dying and am terrified of going out writhing in my own excrement and without dignity. My mother, who died age 96, suffered so horribly that I weep with the memory.
Do we simply return to the same state of non-existence as before we were born? Are the genes we pass on to our children all we really leave behind?
Those grave markers and memorials will all eventually crumble to dust. So no memorial for me. I leave my body to science. Let some medical students snigger over my cadaver and comment on the fact that half my stomach is missing and that I have steel pins holding my leg together. Perhaps they will spare a thought for me and wonder who I was.
Looking down over the harbour I imagine it filled with the tall ships of a bygone era. My wife and I are off up the West Coast to see the flowers today. The reports are that they are exceptional this year and the weather is promising. She is as attractive and fun to be with as the day we first met all those years ago. My best friend. It is going to be a good and happy day which I am going to enjoy to the full.
Where shall I walk to tomorrow morning? The trudge up Redhill, the climb to the waterfall or perhaps down to the shore to watch the Oyster Catchers?
Random chance keeps looking over my shoulder. Who knows, there may not be a tomorrow ….........
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