I had at least an hour and a half to kill yesterday while my car radio was being repaired. Lucky for me I like cemetries or I would have had to sit in the service company's waiting room for all that time as there is nowhere else to walk in that industrial area.
It was raining lightly but I had a small umbrella and there are lots of trees under which I could shelter in the cemetery.
I'd never been in Waikumete Cemetery before. It is a place of beauty, tranquility, quiet reverence and rich history, which has served greater Auckland and Waitakere since 1886. It is the largest cemetery in New Zealand, and one of the largest public parks in the Auckland region. It occupies a site of 108 hectares and and is the final resting place for over 70,000 people. Needless to say I didn't see much of it in 1.5 hours.
Here, one can trace the history and evolution of a society from its pioneering days to the present, with people of many cultures and countries of origin being laid to rest here.
I entered by the entrance closest to the servicemens' graves. Just inside the entry off to the left a a little is a wonderful splash of colour.
I've heard about Paul Walsh, the artist behind the painted utility boxes in other parts of Auckland. I presume this tribute to Anzac Day is also his work. He is a web designer living in Auckland who paints these ugly utility boxes however he pleases. As the utility company doesn't paying him for his work, he has complete freedom when it comes to the subject of his paintings. He raises the money for the paint supplies for this project using Pledge Me, a crowd funding platform. Needless to say, he has the overwhelming support of his community on his projects.
Directly in front as you step through the entrance I took is the war memorial with wreaths still laying at its feet from the recent Anzac day commemorations (on 25 April)..
What looks to be a more recent addition is a memorial bearing "the names of those members of the armed forces who enlisted from this district who died in the service of their country in and around New Zealand or en route to overseas service and to whom the fortunes of war denied a known and honoured grave."
I know lawn cemeteries don't fall into disrepair like old graveyards do but they don't appeal to me. In the large area of mowed grass there was a solitary flag that drew me to it.
Had the seat not been wet I would have liked to sit here and look out over one of the older sections of the cemetery. I wondered who had sat there before me and left their empty beer bottles behind. (I picked them up and put them in the garbage container.)
I was surprised to see such a large Hebrew section. Thanks to Mr Google I discovered that as early as the 1820s, Jewish traders were among the group of whalers, mariners, escaped convicts from Australia, and missionaries who explored New Zealand and that three Prime Ministers have had Jewish ancestry, including our current PM John Key, who was born to a Jewish mother and is thus considered Jewish under Halakha (though he is not practising).
My wandering took me to the baby and stillborn cemetery. I felt an air of sadness but at the same time there were little touches that brought a smile to my face.