I like to wander around old graveyards. Not in some macabre way (an unhealthy resurgence of my death-obsession), I just find them fascinating, thought-provoking and strangely comforting. To ponder how people lived, loved and died alongside their families, to witness how their remains have married with the earth, weeds growing round and into and under the headstones, destroying yet throwing forth life.
In the quiet and the stillness I always feel like an intruder, an interloper on past griefs. Memories and emotions once so raw now mere whispers on the morning air, dissipated and unnoticed but now momentarily disturbed by the inquisitive trespass of a stranger.
Thought-provoking and chastening that things once so important should have been brought to this. And yet such a strangely reassuring display of the natural passing of time.
Do events and feelings and lives become irrelevant when there is noone left to remember them? Does it even matter?
The other day as I ambled through the graveyard of my local church, my two dogs aroused by the smells of morning dew, I came across the headstone of a Victorian lady that had lost her husband in his forties, only to lose her 1 yr old child less than 4 months later, and a few years later her 10 yr old daughter. Unconvinced that I could find another loss to beat this one (a sick graveyard game I often feel compelled to play), I stumbled upon another grave erected to mark the passing of a young couple’s 3 girls who had died just 3 months apart. 10 months, 4 years, 6 years in age. Cause unknown.
Sometimes my loss feels so enormous, and yet so small when I read of other families devastated like this. To lose a mum at 71 would have seemed mere fantasy 100 years ago. To get through life without feeling the loss of a child? Blessed good fortune.
And as I turn on the television tonight to hear of the plight of those in Africa, thousands dying from Malaria and Aids, I realise this luck isn’t only divided by time, but by continent too.
And I feel acutely my luck, rather than my loss.
Don’t forget to donate to Comic Relief this Red Nose Day.