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Standing at my parents’ graves, I pondered how I'd feel if I couldn't visit them

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19.05.2019

Occasionally you’ve just got to go with instinct, a force we may not understand but one in which we sometimes invest ahead of the tossed coin to resolve a hard decision or determine where to go at the forked path.

Something was telling me to visit my parents in the Melbourne general cemetery. This something had been impelling me for some years. I’d been to the old graveyard only once since we buried Dad in early 2008. And that was to put Mum in the ground a few months before Collingwood won the 2010 grand final (replay) she’d lost the will to anticipate.

This might sound very Celtic or very Melbourne or both or neither. But in my big extended Irish-extracted family – with its stories of hardship and the club, of early tragic passings and of the wayward and the lost – football and life seemed existentially entwined in a way that I never really thought to reconsider until mid-adulthood.

In 2012, for example, when I paid a deathbed visit to an uncle I loved dearly, the last words he said to me included the priority, passing assurance: “They’ll be right. They’ll be right.” He was referring to our team’s prospects in the finals. He died a day or two later, just before the Swans knocked the Magpies out in the prelim.

Anyway, Mum and Dad, I knew, were buried separately, her with her mother in an un-marked grave whose location in the cemetery I could walk directly to even though I hadn’t been there for so long. Dad is with his mother and father, nearby in a grave that marks him as the grieving son of........

© The Guardian