Graveyards are some of my favourite places. There’s nowhere like them for perspective. No matter who you are, no matter “your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar”, we all end up as a “quintessence of dust”.
In the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Walthamstow this afternoon I saw three graves in a row. Charlotte and William Gillam died within months of each other in 1956 aged 83 and 86 respectively. Long lives together, their gravestone reads ‘RE-UNITED’.
Next to them is the grave of Rifleman A Pledger of the 17th (County of London) Battalion of the 5th Brigade of the London Regiment who died aged 38 in 1917. Rifleman Pledger died in October, so he may have been mortally wounded in the Third Battle of Ypres which ran from July to November 1917, better known as Passchendaele. He died in England.
Beside him are Edith and Edward Banks. Edith died in 1954 aged just 34. Edward, her husband, lived for another 52 years, dying in 2006. The inscription reads ‘MUM AND DAD TOGETHER AT LAST IN PEACE’.
Five different lives, five different journeys, all ending side by side in a graveyard in east London.