Official Opening of the Children’s Memorial of unmarked graves at Willunga Uniting Church Cemetery

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The unveiling of a monument on Sunday, October 15th was the culmination of many years of questions and searching by the Cemetery committee. They started by asking, ‘How many unused sites do we have in this cemetery?’

This led to the discovery that there were many burials with no recorded grave numbers. A list was compiled of the unmarked burials and a plaque was made with the names, dates and ages of those in unmarked graves. The committee then tossed around ideas of how to display the plaque and eventually decided on the concept and design by Tim from Nalty Memorials.

Rev Leanne Jenski spoke at the memorial about the people, mostly children of who are in unmarked graves, ‘When you and I read a headstone, we learn something about who is buried there. When they lived and perhaps who they left behind. When we read the name on a headstone, we remember, or, perhaps wonder about the life of the person laid to rest. Even more so if we know them or have a connection with them.’ Rev Jenski’s own descendants are buried in this cemetery.

Rev Jenski went on to say, ‘What goes through our minds about the many, many people buried here without headstones – most of them children – and most of those children are babies. Of the 165 unmarked graves:

101 are lives that ended before they reached 18

92 of the 101 were children under 5 years of age

and 72 of those were babies who lived less than a year.

Are any of these lives less worthy of our reflection and wonder because there is no headstone for them? No … unmarked does not mean unloved. Imagine the grief surrounding each death. The deep regret of not being able to afford a headstone – as was probably the case for many of these families.

Despite this, those families of long ago knew where their child lay and carried that in their hearts – a heart-stone, instead of a headstone.

This memorial honours the children who lie there, and our community honours the heart stones of all those who loved them.

The unveiling of the memorial was attended by the Cemetery committee, members of the Willunga community, Acting Mayor of Onkaparinga, Simon McMahon, Acting Moderator Sue Ellis and officials from the Uniting Church Historical Society and local Willunga National Trust Branch. It was followed by hospitality and light lunch in Bethany Hall.

 

A Prayer for the Children

Dear Children,

Your lives were important, You were cherished,

And today, we surround you with our love.

Even as your little bodies are embraced by gentle mother earth;

And your souls dance in the freedom of the wind’s breath;

And who you were, is forever carried in the heart of God

We honour you and we remember you.

Deep, deep peace to you, dear children.

Amen

 

 

 


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