In the early 80s, as a new mother, I lived in terror of my own inadequacy to follow Dr Spock to a T.
My fears were heightened by a cruel road accident that robbed a friend of her teenage son as he was crossing the road, ironically just in front of the Salmaniya hospital.
The grieving couple buried their child in the Manama Cemetery and three years later, when it was time for them to go back home after their posting was completed, I will never forget the mother’s only request: She wanted no farewell gifts or mementoes, she said, only a promise that we would make sure her child’s grave was tended and flowers placed there on his birthday.
The rituals of the final farewell – how important it is for us to know that our loved ones not only lived well but are remembered with affection even after they pass away.
As the human race evolved so did the ceremonies of honouring the dead – some elaborate, like we saw last week when the mummies of 18 ancient Egyptian kings and four queens were taken in a grand parade from one museum to another.
Others trace the passage of a life and its journey of hope and courage – the Neuve-Chapelle Indian Memorial in Paris honours 4,742 Indian soldiers with no known grave, who were part of the British Indian Army and killed in the First World War; during the Second World War, India lost more than 87,000 military personnel and their memorials and graves are scattered around the world.
With Bahrain being at the crossroads of so many migrations, it is natural that many non-Bahrainis have their graves here or are cremated here.
The moving story in the GDN last Friday, of an octogenarian whose young husband was buried in the Old Christian Cemetery in 1957 and whose last wish for a memorial service for him was honoured by the Royal Navy, tells us of the emotional pull that these last resting places have on us, the peculiar sense of continuum that they give us even while representing the end of life.
For those who choose cremation, Bahrain also has a Hindu crematorium in Askar and priests who can offer last rites. Speaking to members of the Jewish community, I understood that they were expecting more visitors to come to Bahrain to pay respects at the graveside of their ancestors buried in the oldest Jewish cemetery in the region.
These last resting places are as important to our sense of identity as knowing where we came from. As we rush along into unavoidable urban development and cemeteries and crematorium and memorials come in the way of millennial development, let us remember that these honour those who moved on so that we may take their place and prosper, setting new benchmarks and shaping the world as we know it. While some change is unavoidable, perhaps we can use the latest digital technology to record the location of these memorials for posterity?
After all, we think nothing of stem cell and placenta banks – why not digital memorial records then?