The Pyramid in Rome rises majestically next to the Metro station in Ostiense. Flanked by the Aurelian walls and imposing in its splendour, it takes one by surprise as there is traffic whizzing by and it is not visible from afar, but suddenly appears seemingly out of nowhere. It is the mausoleum of a wealthy Roman praetor (elected magistrate) Gaius Cestius who died in 12 BC at a time when Rome ruled over Egypt and there was a fascination with Egyptian culture. I love suddenly coming upon the Pyramid even now when I know exactly at what point its going to appear. What I love even more than seeing the pyramid is the non-Catholic cemetery behind it. Usually referred to as the Protestant cemetery, though there are people of other faiths buried there, it is an oasis of peace and calm. Both Keats and Shelly, the English poets, are buried there as well as other famous people. I find it moving to read the inscriptions and see the sculptures on some of the tombs. One of the most moving sculptures ‘The Angel of Grief’ was created by an American sculptor, William Story, for his wife’s tomb. The sadness in the stone figure is visible and palpable.
Death is the only certainty we have in life and yet when it comes to somebody close, we are taken by surprise. How could this happen? Why did this happen? And so it was for me and my family, on the sudden and unexpected death of my brother Peter which brought me back to Toronto for the funeral. Slowly, disbelief is superseded by grief but what sustains us in addition to immediate support from family and friends are memories. Some keep their memories alive by building memorials or tombstones, others by planting trees or lighting candles. Whatever, it might be, our loved ones may be gone but in our hearts they never die. So to my brother: ‘your spirit is alive and will be with us always’.