I never noticed the cemetery workers until my father died. Not the   “office” people, in charge of opening graves, now nouveau riche and bendable and previously quiet set in their ways to make sure the Orthodox and Catholic dead were kept separate with the Jews, not to contaminate the soil where their beloved lie. At least now everyone lies in loose groups, but as the space runs out “outsiders” move in.

When the old people died the cemetery at Alberton was frowned upon. I am not sure why, if it was because there was no church nearby initially. Or because Alberton was really verkramp, I am not sure.   Most of my mother’s family is buried at Alberton, whereas my father is buried at Germiston.

My father is buried in Alberton, but wanted to be exhumed and transported to Greece for final resting.

When he died       within a few days we made the sojourn to Germiston, to freshen up the graves of his parents and cousins. So that they might welcome him I suppose. Germiston used to be a peaceful place. Recently it got quite scary with armed robberies and hijackings.

To add to the tension you drive past a mine memorial park which has a large fountain as its focus, with water weights and metal works glorifying our golden days in South Africa. Now it is home to squatters, you can smell the raw sewage and see the desperate look in their eyes.

As desperate as the look in my eyes when this big black man walked up to me in the cemetery. Rushing up to me, I backed towards a headstone; the car was too far away. I fisted my keys for self defence. Dry mouthed, wet eyed still from the loss, he made for me.

He took off his cap, and bowed as he stopped near me.

“Baas, you look like the big baas.”

“I am his son. He died two days ago”

“Hau, no, he was so well and was here often. I used to look after him, keep the skebengas away. And he paid me well to look after all the graves of the family. I am sorry, kleinbaas.”

Tears filled my eyes and blurred my vision. For all I know my father might have put this man’s son through school.



One thought on “Conversations with the Cemetery Caretaker

  1. Two wise sayings come to mind: never judge a book by its cover and actions speak louder than words…
    This story is about both.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s