A friend of mine asked me a very strange question the other day. “Where would you like to be buried?”
Perhaps I was looking particularly rough after an early morning flight and a late night of catching up, or perhaps he had some medical information that I wasn’t privy to yet. I floundered for a moment, nonplussed.
“Serious question,” he pressed. “Where would you like to be buried when you die?”
So I searched for a moment, and I found that it’s a question for which I have no real answer because it raises a more fundamental question for those who have lived a nomadic life: when all’s said and done, where do you think of as home?
The burial question is a good way of thinking about it, because nearly all of us know where we are from. But for some, our hometown was only that, a place to be from, not a place to be part of for life.
I left my hometown when I was in my late teens, moved around a bit in the UK, did a bit of travelling, and the left the UK for good in 2005. If I died today, would I want my remains to be repatriated to the place where I grew up? Probably not. There’s no family there any more.
So what about Denmark? Not really. I’ve a feeling that, with me gone, my family would have no reason to stay here anyway. And what about Australia? Does wanting to be somewhere for years automatically qualify it as home from the moment you arrive? I’d hope so, but I really don’t think it works that way.
So, when the dust of a few generations has settled and some yet to be conceived family antecedent is researching the history of their forebears, where will they conclude that our roots lie?
It’s an unanswerable question, but one that places the weight of our decision to emigrate in true perspective. In moving to Canberra, we aren’t just shaping the next few years of our lives, we are potentially redefining how our children and their children define themselves. As Brits or Australians? As immigrants or locals? At home or abroad?
In case anything should happen to me, I’d hate to think that my wife would read this and think she has to traipse the world over trying to find somewhere that my soul will find peace. So I’ll just say this: if my final stop is Australia, then that’s fine by me. In fact, I can almost see the inscription: “He spent 47 years trying to get here, and when he did, he never left.”