We sat on a bench near his wife’s grave. When he died, I knew I had to return

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When my son was little, I did a lot of walking. Pushing him in a stroller, killing time, keeping him busy. Keeping myself busy. I soon got sick of my neighbourhood, so I ranged further afield, until my wandering took me to Melbourne General Cemetery. A perfect place to stroll, I thought, while checking out a bit of history. But in the end, I cut my visit short, racing out with tears in my eyes. Because as I walked, I kept noticing the graves of babies and children. And, as a new parent, that was too much.

So, Monica walked in a cemetery, and found it depressing. Surprise, surprise! Next I’ll be telling you the story about the time I stuck my hand in a fire, and was shocked to find it hot. Yet I was surprised by my reaction to those graves. Because cemeteries never seemed sad to me when I was young.

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Many of the Sundays of my childhood were spent driving out to the faraway spot where my mum’s family were buried, and I always saw these as fun outings. Once we arrived, I’d hear fascinating stories about my relatives, even those I’d never met, narrated by my aunt, the custodian of our family lore. I felt no fear, because death was something that only happened to very old people, or young people who’d lived in the Olden Times.

I never tired of my aunt’s tales, one for each grave, but my favourite was great-Aunt Vi’s. My aunt would tell me how Vi had always insisted that no one would visit her grave. But here we were, placing a flower under her headstone, gleefully proving the pessimistic old woman wrong.