About this time last year, I co-hosted a writing workshop at glorious Victorian Cemetery Arnos Vale. Dr Hannah Rumble was one of the participants, and produced the following contemplative piece of writing, inspired by the pictured gravestone.
Rosina Hill by Hannah Rumble
Are you neglected because of your ordinariness?
The regular, uninspiring letters that announce your post-death existence…
That’s not old!
Your name sounds exotic,
Yet you lie forever enmeshed in thorns.
But the dead and the living all have their place!
You appear to nourish the blackberries that grow around you;
you offer them a ‘home’, a ‘root’, a place to establish themselves…
I can’t see all of your gravestone…
Your husband and daughter are almost eradicated to the passer by,
Obscured by the detritus of autumn.
Who died first, I wonder.
I’ll never know…
Does the order of deaths matter?
Your gravestone appears to be cut as a book,
Open on a page that announces your buried remains….
But who reads this page?
It doesn’t look like anyone’s visited this page for a long time.
Words lost to decades of time;
words challenged by the onslaught of the seasons and man’s fickle memory.
History may have categorised you as ‘ordinary’, Rosina,
allowing your neglected gravestone to slowly fall apart.
But, I bet, if you were alive today,
the stories you could tell me would confirm you were anything but!
Rest in peace, for your grave was noticed;
that’s why I can write these lines 69 years later, sitting here today.
About the author
Dr Hannah Rumble is a Researcher and Teaching Fellow based at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath. She recently published a book called ‘Natural Burial: Traditional-Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation’ and is available to officiate at all rites of passage in her role as a Civil Celebrant.
Nip back next Friday for another work inspired by gravestones, this time written by Angie Holland.