Burying the Island’s Dead

I wanted to illuminate something on the island that is both private and very serene, but also very easy to pass by without much notice. As a disclaimer, I happen to find cemeteries very appealing for their inherent peacefulness and for the insight they provide into different cultures, so I tend to visit them when traveling. In recent years the Mustique Company set aside a plot of land on a gently sloping hill near the airport to serve as a permanent burial ground for the island’s natives and villa owners alike, should they chose it to be their final resting place. The cemetery is bordered with a hand-made, white fence along one side and by dense trees on the other three. So far the island has been fortunate to have lost very few from their community – there are only about seven plots which have been filled to date.

Graves are dug by the loved ones of the departed and a burial is followed with joyous celebration of life (and probably some local rum too!). Each grave is lovingly bordered with a small enclosure of poured concrete which creates a natural flower bed in the center and delineates the plot. Some are decorated with conch shells, which can be found in abundance on the island’s beaches. Each headstone is identical in size and style, putting everyone on a level plane. The stones appear to be made of poured concrete as well, which has debossed black lettering. In the end, they all exhibit a beautiful restrained simplicity.

As one would expect on an island, cemeteries eventually become very crowded. There is no way to expand when you’re surrounded by water. For many years cemeteries such as that in Venice, Italy have been placed on a system of rotation, where a family has access to a particular plot for a finite number of years, at which point the body is exhumed and the plot turned over to someone else. The cemeteries on St. Vincent are to a point of over crowding as well, though there there are frequently no markers, so one wouldn’t guess when visiting the cemetery. The Mustique Cemetery has provided some relief for this problem and a permanent final resting place for the island’s wonderful people.

Interestingly, another option is a burial at sea. One villa owner chose this route not too long ago, requesting everyone to wear white. The beach was flooded with loving bystanders who assisted in pushing the flotilla out to see.

When you visit the island, take a moment to stop by the Mustique Cemetery and see for yourself.

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