i Editor's Letter: A day of mixed emotions


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The Independent Online

Chances are that your 14 February was a little ... lighter than mine.

I have an annual Valentine's Day ritual: a visit to Croydon cemetery. My father died on that date, long before my sister and I were old enough to know him. So, it is always a day of mixed emotions.

However, taking my mother and daughters to the cemetery to visit his grave brings a whole new dimension to the experience. One really enjoys that clichéd sense of a cycle of regeneration.

As a teen, the cemetery was a forbidding, yet magical, place of eerie beauty – yes, even in Croydon. As I recall, we treated it with a fearful reverence. But, as my sister laid our flowers, she remembered rolling down a nearby slope, sometimes on to the graves themselves – until we got caught and there was hell to pay!

These days, cemeteries are such a major part of teen culture (at least for girls) that you half expect to see Edward Cullen, Bill and Sookie, or the Salvatore brothers lurking behind a tombstone. At their age, I would have had Dracula nightmares with eyes wide open. (For me, the scariest scene in any film is the surprise ending of Stephen King's awesome Carrie.)

But the girls weren't fazed at all. We found ourselves in the damp dusk of a dismal February afternoon, under a lowering sky conjured up for the occasion, reading the rows of poignant headstones and wondering aloud about the lives and loves of those buried beneath us.

I never regret taking them. A day off to go to Croydon cemetery doesn't sound the most exciting of Valentine's Days, nor the most fun you can have in half-term week. But it's the most meaningful way to spend 14 February I can think of.