Friday, December 01, 2006

A family-filled sad day


It was a glorious, sunny, hot day today. Beautiful blue sky. Bit of a sea breeze.

We buried my uncle today following mass in the Catholic Church. He was placed on the hill next to my grandparents in the cemetary here on Thursday Island. The island ladies sang the most beautiful island hymns during and after the ceremony and afterwards the procession to the cemetary snaked down the entire main street.

One of the traditions up here is to fill in the grave once the coffin has been lowered. Down South everyone usually leaves at this point, but here all the men gather around and take turns shovelling the dirt back into the hole. It is very hot and dusty work, especially when they are wearing their good long sleeve shirts and slacks for the funeral. Huge clouds of the fine dry dust billowed around coating everyone who was nearby. Once the hole is filled, they top the grave with loads of shell grit (broken up bits of shells) and then the women come and put flowers over the entire site (usually plastic flowers as these last longer in the heat!). In the end it looks so colourful and complete. Then a year or two later they have an official tombstone opening. A really nice custom, in my opinion. Better than just walking away.

Afterwards we retired to the church hall for sandwiches, cakes and afternoon tea. The mood was solemn but cheerful as everyone chatted and the kids played. It was wonderful to catch up with so many of my cousins.

We had missed the last ferry but the operators had generously organised to put on a special one to take us back across to Horn Island (those of us that were staying there). The ride across (about 20 minutes) was a fitting end to such a day. The moon, almost full, shone down incredibly brightly and a few stars peeped through the clouds. The air was still, the water calm. It was a serene and settling journey after an emotionally draining day.

We have two more days here before our long journey home, and back to work.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Dear Jen, you've written a very moving description...

Thanks for sharing that with us

Mark and the Terry st Wongs