Cemeteries help us honour the dead, but also provide a link for the living. Hungarian cemeteries are living, breathing places of rest. Shaded by rows of oak and poplar trees, they form not only the place of peaceful interment for hundreds, but one of contemplation and reflection for anyone seeking solace and solitude.

At Debrecen’s Köztemeto cemetery, graves are dutifully tended. Should the neighbouring one be unkempt, it will be weeded and a fresh or plastic flower or two placed in the empty vase.

Sometimes, the dead can influence the lives of the living.

Anna had spent much of her childhood in the L-shaped house built by her grandfather on a nearby street. She lived with her adoptive parents in one half, and the other was home to her uncle, his wife and their children. A single child, Anna felt bored and lonely. Yet paranoia and arguments had led to a brick wall being built across the communal garden to separate the families.

Anna never stopped admiring her older cousin, Kata, to whom she’d been forbidden to talk. She dreamed of playing together. Instead, they glanced furtively at each other in silence.

When Anna was 12 years old, Kata married and moved away. Decades later, Anna returned to the cemetery to pay her respects at her relatives’ graves. She was surprised to see fresh flowers had been laid on her grandparents’ gravestone. Who could be doing this? Anna wondered if it was Kata.

Anna scribbled a note and left it on the gravestone. Perhaps it flew away, because it went unanswered. A second note in a plastic bag secured with string proved more robust. A short time later, Anna received a short handwritten letter – from Kata. “We grew up on either side of the wall,” Anna read.

The 40 years since her marriage had turned Kata’s hair white. She recognised Anna straight away. As the two women hugged and kissed, they realised their friendship had really begun long ago, in silence.

Hand in hand, they bought chrysanthemums at Köztemeto’s gates and walked peacefully beneath the oaks and poplars. Marigolds and bonfire salvia waved; the bell tolled. They stopped at their grandparents’ grave adorned with two pigeons facing each other. Companionably, they set about weeding, washing gravestones and filling vases.

Source: by Melinda Soos http://www.theguardian.com/

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