I am tempted to say that I am ashamed to say that I have never visited the grave of a relative. However, we moved away from my home town when I was sixteen, so I was never in a position to go off on graveyard visits on my own. Indeed, I didn't know where my grandparents, aunt or family were buried. My parents came from a generation who had grown up with parents who were essentially Edwardian. Death was still a highly ritualised occasion and mourning was formal. In my view, my parents and their generation rejected their parents' stiff attitudes to life and death, rushing through mourning and quickly moving on. Hence, no formal mourning period and no graveyard visits. Personally, I think the modern attitude to "quick" mourning, coupled (thankfully) with far fewer infant mortalities, makes us shy away from death and has given rise to a society that shuns its dead. And, of course, we move around a lot and leave our family graves behind, as I have done.
My visit on Sunday to the graveyard went some way to confirm this view. Barely any of the graves were tended by relatives. The town council workmen had ensured that the cemetery was presentable, the grass was cut, fallen grave markers stacked neatly, but where was the love? Admittedly these were old graves, but it still made me sad.
I found several of the graves I was looking for, including the graves of five crew who were killed in a torpedo attack on their ship just off Newquay in 1918 (you can read about them here). One of these graves was for James Cunningham Mann, the 17 year old cabin boy. It turned out that Sunday was the anniversary of his death and I desperately wanted to lay flowers for him and his shipmates - unfortunately when I got home my daughter was ill and I couldn't make it back to the graveyard. But I will next weekend - these forgotten few are forgotten no longer.