A CORK Young Offenders actor shared the heartbreaking reason behind a decision to dig his own grave, despite being fit and healthy.
Stephen O’Connor from Blarney Street, who works as a gravedigger by day but is best known for his role in the Young Offenders movie, sparked curiosity after posting a photograph of his feet in a grave at St Catherine’s Cemetery, Kilcully.
In the post he spoke of how digging his own grave made him realise how precious life is.
Mr O’Connor explained that he wasn’t ill, leaving his Facebook followers puzzled. Nonetheless, the story behind the dig was more poignant than anyone might have anticipated.
Stephen was digging a grave to bury part of his wife’s foot, which had to be amputated due to sepsis.
In a situation where amputations occur, families often choose the option of burying their loved one’s limb rather than having it incinerated as medical waste.
Stephen came to the conclusion that a burial was a more respectful choice, given that the body part had belonged to his wife, Valerie.
The couple had previously decided that, when the time came, they wanted to be buried together. It was for this reason that Stephen went about opening his own grave.
“I have the deeds and I am the owner of this plot,” Stephen explained.
“I wasn’t digging for any kind of experience or enlightenment. Having my feet in my own grave wasn’t a nice feeling, but it helps that I have faith. I’ve always believed that this life is only the beginning which made it that bit easier. Of course, it was also strange knowing that this was going to be my final resting place.
“At the same time, I took comfort from it because I believe in an afterlife. I have a lot of hope and that’s what faith is.”
Stephen received valuable support during the difficult time.
“The other lad offered to do it,” he said of a colleague. “He told me, ‘If you dig this on you’re own, you’ll feel it’. However, this was something I felt I had to do.”
He commended his wife for her bravery amid a lifelong health battle.
“She is a strong person who has been through the wars, but she always gets on with things. Her mother died from Covid a few months ago and it’s been tough for the whole family.”
Stephen described how working in a cemetery changes one’s perspective.
“Most people don’t think about death during work, but we face it every day. Some don’t want to face up to it or talk about it. Everyone will eventually have to go down this path. When you work in a place like this, it sharpens the telescope you use to look at life.”
The gravedigger and part-time actor said he respected everyone’s beliefs.
“I can’t prove to people that an afterlife exists and equally they can’t prove to me that it doesn’t. It’s all about the great unknown. Not everyone digs their own grave. I’m lucky that I was able to get out and go home that night. Hopefully, I’ll be around a long time yet.
“The day will come when I won’t be able to step out of it, but knowing that just makes me appreciate life more.”