My Sufi friend, Rose Gardener, is one of my closest companions on my healing journey. She understands that “companioning” is a bold and heartfelt way to support a grieving person.

And Rose is a dab hand at reframing. Rose shows me how sometimes gratitude can arise from a simple reframing of an unpleasant situation like the one I recounted in the previous post.

After being released from the hospital following Karl’s death, I spend a few days in Brisbane. The day I arrive home to Nimbin, I am in an utterly stunned condition. Although everything in my life has changed in less than a week — and all my identities have disappeared — everything looks normal at our house. Karl’s sister Christa is there to meet me. She’s found an apron and is cooking dinner.

Karl and Christa, 2012

In the days since Karl’s death, we decide to bury him in a plot in the tiny community cemetery in the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet, the eco-village where we live. It has six plots. We’ve lived there for 15 years, and I think Karl would like to be buried close to home.

Peter stands on the porch

Christa is cooking in the kitchen and I am sitting in the living room when we hear a knock at the front door. I imagine a kindly, sympathetic neighbor with a casserole covered with a chequered napkin.

No such luck.

Peter, with the unpronounceable name, a short-term resident in the process of moving from the Jarlanbah community, apparently drew the short straw in the community committee meeting.

He has an announcement.

After Christa opens the door, Peter stands awkwardly on the porch and refuses to acknowledge me or come in. He stares into space. In stammered sentences, he formally advises Christa that, as Karl and I are no longer property owners, Karl is not eligible for burial in the community plot. Burial plots (in short supply) are reserved for owners, not renters.

I am not surprised.

But Christa is enraged. It’s the only time I have ever seen her angry.

“Piss off.”

“Piss off,” she screams at him.

I’ve never heard her use such language.

Christa slams the door and Peter scuttles away. A few days later, I encounter him on my morning walk into the Village. He looks down as we pass on the road. He does not speak to me.

That unkind decision costs me several thousand dollars.

But I soon learn to be grateful for it, as Rose helps me reframe it into something to be thankful for.

Rose’s reframing of the community’s decision

Rose tends Karl’s grave from the start, and I expect she will continue.

She tells me she will not feel as comfortable in the Jarlanbah graveyard. Rose believes (and I agree) that that shady hillside spot under that tall eucalypt in the old Nimbin cemetery is the perfect resting place for Karl.

There is a direct view to Blue Knob, silhouetted above the rainforest. Karl’s brother and sister, Shane and Christa, have selected a sheltered hillside spot in the shade of a large eucalypt. 

All are welcome in the humble village cemetery.


Holding our collective brokenness together the best we can, we bury Karl in the Nimbin village cemetery.

Karl’s sister Christa and I select a recycled cardboard casket, which we drape with a Romani flag that Andrea Cook designs and paints. 

Just as our celebrant, Angela, is about to begin Karl’s burial service, three barefoot Nimbin residents (Oasis Café regulars) and a small, spotted, three-legged dog arrive to join us in the Nimbin cemetery. We welcome them, of course.

Andrew delivering his eulogy

A heartbroken Andrew delivers a eulogy for his friend of 23 years. He blesses Karl’s intellect, his wisdom, his quiet way and his support and determination. Andrew says, “I think by far and away his quiet approach will dominate my memories of Karl.”

For my part, shattered and trembling, I can do little more than read a simple handwritten blessing, holding Angela’s hand:

In typical Karl fashion, nothing goes entirely to plan and his coffin nearly topples sideways off its structure as we lower it into the ground.

On subsequent visits Rose and I pay to the cemetery, an old black dog visits and a black pied currawong flies in for a brief, low-pitched whistled call and a glimpse of proceedings.

Pied Currawong

All beings are welcome at Karl’s grave in the Nimbin village cemetery.

Finally, understanding Rose’s wisdom, I bless Peter and the Jarlanbah committee for a lucky escape.