Near my work is a cemetery so big it's not a mere cemetery – it's a NECROPOLIS. The Rookwood Necropolis is a city of death of spooky proportions, covering over 300 hectares and filled with over a million corpses, it is far and away the biggest necropolis in the southern hemisphere. Sometimes, on my lunch break, I go running through here.
There are hills and valleys and roads and trails and buildings and at one point there were three railway stations that brought coffins and mourners from "mortuary station" in Sydney into the Necropolis before car transport became commonplace. It's easy to get very lost in here, and even with a good sense of direction, I often do.
It's laid out in different sections: the Jews, the Catholics, the war dead, the Chinese, "Independents", Greeks, Russian Orthodox, isn't it funny how in life as in death everyone stays segregated in their own ghettos. Yesterday, I was running through the Catholics and toward the Jews on one of the many roads, rocking out to my iPod, when I saw an old man gesturing in my direction. I took off my headphones and he was trying to ask me something. It was very hot out, and I noticed the old man was stooped over and sweating. He must have been in his 80s, or beyond. "Do you know where the crematorium is?" he asked me.
I told him I had run past it one day, I thought, and I pointed in a vague direction over yonder - but it was at least a couple kilometers away. I told him it was much too far to walk. I said he should get back in his car and drive in that direction. "I've already walked this far from Lidcombe station," he told me. "I don't have a car." He thanked me and began hobbling off in the direction I'd indicated.
I continued my run, completely overcome by this man's story. Already he'd walked alone a couple kilometres from the station, and he had a couple more to go in the blazing midday sun. I wondered if he would ever find that crematorium, hidden in that city of death. I wished I could have helped in his grim, likely heartbreaking, lonely mission. One old man struggling in that sea of a million sleeping souls.