Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Western Road Christian Cemetery

Last All Soul's Day, I visited the Western Road Christian Cemetery where my grandfather is buried. Its a very quiet and tranquil place where one can really requiescat in pace. Lush green trees provide shade for the shades of those long departed.

Its not the oldest cemetery in Penang. That honour goes to the Protestant Cemetery in town where the first Governors of the Island including Captain Francis Light, the founder of Penang and many other Anglican dignitaries are interred.

The founder of my alma mater, the Penang Free School, the Anglican Vicar Rev. Robert Sparke Hutchings is interred there too. On the anniversary of the founding of the School on the 21st of October 1816, the non-Muslim members of the Board of Prefects together with the Principal of the School used to visit the grave for a memorial. Not really sure if that practice survived as all the Principals have been Muslim since 2001.

Anyway, back to the point. The Western Road cemetery is fast filling up. Even the side lanes have been utilized for burials. Not much space left. The new proposed one is like miles away from town in Balik Pulau, on the other end of the island.

I'm posting some photos I took of the cemetery some time ago.
First off, here's a general view. Note the trees and general atmosphere of calmness and tranquility. It was also a very beautiful day, with not a trace of haze in sight.

The Catholic Columbarium can be seen below. Nice eh? I think it used to be a chapel where Mass was said on All Soul's though I can't be sure. I don't think it was a columbarium back before they allowed cremation, since it was deemed a denial of the Resurrection of the Dead.

A profile view. Until recently, there was a Mass on All Soul's here before the blessing of the graves. After that, there was a Liturgy of the Word, then a paraliturgy. Now, nothing. The priests just file in and the blessing begins without any fanfare.

A close-up. There's some wear and tear on the facade. This is an old photo. You won't believe what happened to it now.

They've put in a horribly ugly looking blue metal roof that is totally not in keeping with the architecture. I'll try to get a pic of it. What a shame.

The inside. Most of the niches are already occupied. My granduncle is in here too. On the top right.
The is the central cross. I normally use it to navigate around.
My grandfather's grave is in a direct line in front of this cross.

An angel over an old grave, hands raised in supplication. Beautiful, ain't it?

A newer grave with an angel. Look at the peaceful and lush greenery behind it. I'll need to get myself a spot. =)

This grave is on the Protestant side of the cemetery.

Here's an interesting grave.

The story goes that the owner of the dog, Andrew(no relation to your humble scribe) died and his faithful dog came and rested on the grave until it too died.

People then built a statue to honour the dog and placed him on the grave of the master it faithfully served and accompanied, even in death.

Touching story, no? I always liked this grave when I was a kid.

Here's what the dog looks like. Its eyes red in vigilance.

Here's the memorial to the sailors from the Russian Cruiser Zhemchug that was sunk by the German ship, the SMS Emden during the Battle of Penang. This was during the First World War. From Wikipedia:

On October 28th Emden entered the harbour at top speed, still disguised as a British cruiser with the fake fourth smokestack. Once inside the harbor it raised the German flag and began shooting at the Allied ships in the harbor. Emden fired a torpedo at the small Russian cruiser Zhemchug, a veteran of the Battle of Tsushima, which exploded spectacularly. Several other ships fired back at Emden but missed, and several shells ended up hitting other friendly ships in the harbour. As quickly as Emden had arrived, von Müller turned the ship around and made good his escape. The French destroyer Mosquet followed Emden, unwisely, and was quickly sunk by Emdens much heavier guns. Its sister-ship Pistolet also tried to shadow Emden, but soon lost contact.
The memorial was erected by the Russian Government to honour their fallen comrades. I always light a candle when I pass this way for these men who died so far away from their family and homeland.

Here's a parting view of the cemetery where I one day hope to rest.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus Deus, in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem. Exaudi orationem meam; ad te omnis caro veniet. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn becometh thee, O God, in Zion, and unto thee a vow shall be repaid in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; unto thee all flesh shall come. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”)

Absolve, Domine, animas omnium fidelium defunctorum ab omno vinculo delictorum et gratia tua illis succurente mereantur evadere judicium ultionis, et lucis æterne beatitudine perfrui.
(“Forgive, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from all the chains of their sins and may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge by your fostering grace, and enjoy the everlasting blessedness of light.”)

Domine, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriæ, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu. Libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum; sed signifer sanctus Michael repræsentet eas in lucem sanctam, quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.
(“Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, free the souls of all the faithful departed from infernal punishment and the deep pit. Free them from the mouth of the lion; do not let Tartarus swallow them, nor let them fall into darkness; but may the sign-bearer, Saint Michael, lead them into the holy light which you promised to Abraham and his seed.”)

Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in æternum, quia pius es. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(“May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with thy saints in eternity , for thou art merciful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.”)

And for me personally too, I pray:

Libera me, Domine, de morte æterna, in die illa tremenda, quando coeli movendi sunt et terra. Dum veneris judicare sæculum per ignem. Tremens factus sum ego et timeo, dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira. Dies iræ, dies illa, calamitatis et miseriæ, dies magna et amara valde. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.
("Free me, Lord, from eternal death upon that terrible day when heaven and earth shall be moved, when thou comest to judge the world with fire. I am afraid and trembling, on account of the coming judgment and wrath. That day is a day of wrath, of disaster and misery, a great and very bitter day. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them.")


DrMatthewDoyle said...

Great to see you blogging more regularly! Love the photos!

Andrew said...

Thanks Matt.
Hope you like the recently added sidebar as well. =)

The Crescat said...

gerat pics thatnk for sharing. I always love the tombstone that tell the stories. I reflect on what thier lives might have been like & how they must have been missed.

All Soul's Day... its hard to find a 'Catholic' cemetery these days but I still follow my Abuelita's tradition and go to a small abandoned cemetery and place little votive candles on each tombstone and say a few prayers.

Andrew said...

Haha...I do so too. There's some old 18 century French graves behind my grandfather's. I always light a candle for them, who have died so far away from home.

Sojourner said...

The place looks peaceful for the living. The dead go to Christ, those who know him and are born again in the Spirit. God will resurrect the dead that are dust. God is God of the impossible. Believe in Jesus and follow him by obeying His Word.