Driving back to the gate lodge from a visit to Sancta Maria, the nursing home where my cousin Charlie’s wife Nodlaig has been living for the past three or so years, I spotted a sign for Castlejordan and made a spontaneous detour in that direction. Several generations of my family are buried in a small cemetery there, and I decide to try to visit the burial site. I had found the cemetery a few summers ago and, although I wasn’t sure I could locate it again, when I got to Castlejordan I found I remembered quite well where it was. The cemetery is in an old churchyard, which is only accessible via the entry to a tractor parts distributor. This has happened because the church has not been active for decades and businesses and residences built up around it. I pulled in, parked the car as best I could in the haphazard driveway, and unlatched the gate into the churchyard. The church itself has been demolished, but the church tower has been left; it sits in the middle of the cemetery, more a vulnerable and scarred leftover that seems torn from its roots rather than a stalwart guardian of the sparsely-dotted gravestones.
The family gravesite is set at the back of the cemetery, in front of a line of trees. It is on a slight rise in the ground, and is surrounded by a low iron railing. There is only one large stone, full now with the names of twelve relatives. My great grandmother Mary Ann Haughton is buried here. Evidently stubborn and individual to the very end, she refused to be interred with her husband, who is buried in another family grave on a hillside miles away. The gravestone ends with the name of Robert Tyrrell, known as Bobby, who died in 1993. The top names are nearly obliterated with age; soon enough Bobby’s name will be the last one visible as his predecessors are washed away, one generation at a time. Since he died without children, there will be no more names to add when his name, too, fades.
A few days later, as I sat with Esther, Norman and Trina around what is de facto the family table on the patio outside the teashop at Ballindoolin, Norman casually said, I see you made a visit to your ancestors.
How on earth did you know?
Well, I was driving along the road and I saw you turn into the driveway. I figured you weren’t buying tractor parts so the only other reason to turn in there would be to visit the cemetery.
Such is rural life: You can’t get away with anything.