On the third day of our honeymoon in Norfolk, after sailing out to see the seals and then enjoying a brisk coastal walk, we explored the little village of Stiffkey. We stumbled on a gorgeous old church, parts of which date from the 15th century, and spent a glorious half hour wandering the grounds. The cemetery was particularly moving; many of the gravestones had inscriptions from the 17th and 18th centuries. An especially sad one marked the memory of a 21 year old woman who was buried there along with her infant - the stone read:
A loving Wife, a Mother dear,It sounds morbid, but the churchyard was such a peaceful place. The day was brilliantly sunny and you could hear only the birds in the trees - it was almost as it time paused there. As we walked towards the gate to leave, Jon began singing a hymn under his breath:
A faithful Friend lies buried here;
Here days with me, was short and sweet
I hope in Heaven with her to meet.
O God, our help in ages past,At that moment, I could not have been more present, aware of and grateful for everything I had. I was with my husband on our honeymoon, standing in a beautiful cemetery and gazing up at the church tower reaching towards a clear blue sky, and Jon knew exactly the perfect hymn for the occasion. In that place, surrounded by those who had died centuries earlier, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
In a post from early November of last year, I wrote, "Today is All Saints' Day and tomorrow is All Souls' Day in the Anglican calendar, so it seems appropriate to remember and honor those who have gone before us. It's also a reminder that the responsibility of love is also a gift - it's an amazing blessing to have these people in our lives, to cherish them so deeply and to be held the same way. It's a gift in the same way that faith is a gift; I don't know how to put it into words, but, as I think about it, love and life and faith and trust and responsibility seem to bleed into each other more and more."
A year on, my belief in this idea has only strengthened and, while it seemed scary when I first published that post, now I find it comforting. I hope that the husband who buried his young wife and baby in 1806 felt not scared but comforted as his family was interred in that quiet churchyard. What gifts he must have had though he grieved for them!
linking up with Bonnie Rose for Travel Tuesdays