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Grieve well, live well, love well

29 July 2019
Orchids

We often hear in the corridors of our organisation, a little saying “grieve well, live well, love well”. It is a statement that captures our imaginations as it is not often in society that we see or hear the words ‘grieve’ and ‘well’ placed side by side. When we look at the statement end to end, what we love about its intent, is the light it creates and the permission it gives us.

In sharing how this may be a concept of value to our community with a friend of SMCT, we were told the story of Audrey and John and Springvale Botanical Cemetery. With kindness, both have granted permission for us to publish this story. The below is an excerpt from an article Audrey has written to mark a special occasion.

I sit by the grave in quiet grief. The peace and tranquillity of this verdant botanical cemetery envelops me like a cocoon. Its serenity is like a healing balm, as I mourn the sudden demise of my only child. I can hardly come to terms with this tragic loss. Thrust upon the cycle of grief, I am angry - why me?

“I feel for you,” says a voice softly, yet strong with compassion. It startles me out of my reverie. I am ill-disposed to being civil at the intrusion, but manage a polite “Thank you.”

My visit to the cemetery is a daily ritual. One morning, as I approach the grave, I notice a beautiful orchid on the tombstone. I am completely overwhelmed with emotion that someone – perhaps a stranger – did such a beautiful gesture. Tears cascaded unabated down my cheeks. I look around. No one is in the vicinity. I notice, however, that a grave nearby has a similar orchid.

Weeks later, as I take a short cut through the cemetery, I notice a man sitting near a grave quite close to where my child is buried. I stop the car. I get out and walk up to him. “Did you put the orchid on my child’s grave?” I ask softly. “Yes,” he answers. “I am deeply touched by your kindness,” I say humbly and leave.

On two further occasions, we exchange pleasantries - two very lonely souls from different walks of life. It’s raining heavily. Umbrella in hand, I am about to leave the cemetery. He is just arriving. He stops me at the rotunda. Our conversation centres on our loved ones. We cry and it’s such a comforting relief.

It’s Father’s Day. I am sitting by my child’s grave when he approaches me. He looks very debonair in a brightly coloured jumper. “Will you have a coffee with me?” he asks. “Yes, thank you” I respond. I don’t know why I accept his invitation - perhaps it is meant to be. “I’ll catch up with you later.” “First, I want to visit my father’s grave,” I say. We confirm the venue and he leaves. Forty minutes later, coffee invitation all but forgotten, I race to the venue. The stranger was still waiting.

Today, ten years later, we have formed a delightful partnership of love and companionship.

We sincerely thank Audrey and John for sharing this beautiful story with us.