Monday, April 23, 2012

Lessons from a Sexton

sexton (skstn)n. An employee or officer of a church who is responsible for the care and upkeep of church property and sometimes for ringing bells and digging graves. On a lovely Autumn day we took another visit to the Waikumete Cemetery. We were extremely fortunate to have a trained sexton help identify the Captain's grave. (Usually you need to make an appointment for this wonderful service)
This is the burial map for the Wesley C section of the cemetery. The graves are laid out very exactly with all the bodies in the cemetery facing East - this is so on Judgement Day they will all rise to meet the Lord. They were not quite so exact with the compass setting and they face a little more SE than due East! The Austen graves are marked on the map with small red crosses beside them. The pencilled hash marks indicate the number of bodies buried in each grave. Row 5 Plot 62 contains John James AUSTEN (1898) and William Edward AUSTEN (1911) - two of the Captain's sons. Row 5 Plot 64 (next door - it is just like a street with odd numbers on one side and even on the other) contains Captain John AUSTEN (1899), his wife Annie AUSTEN (1923) and their granddaughter Thelma WARD aged 5 weeks (1925) and her mother Elsie May WARD (1925) who died 15 days after the baby. At the time of their burial free plots were available and all the plots on this map not squared in red are free plots. This means they do not have headstones - they would have originally had wooden crosses but over the years these have disappeared. We enquired about putting a plaque on the Captain's plot but first one needs to purchase the plot at "historical" prices. These, at well over a thousand dollars, seemed quite modern!
So here are the unmarked graves in the middle of the photo.