Feeling wistful and a little lost, I decided to go for a walk to try and gather my thoughts. Heading for the relative sanctuary of our local woodland, after 10 minutes seemingly on ‘auto-pilot’ I found myself to be at the edge of the forest. ‘Church In The Wood’ was so called because contained amongst the small but densely wooded area was a tiny, quaint and ancient church. Feeling reflective as I was I decided to make for the church it’s very age and longevity the very kind of stability and reassurance I felt so in need of at this moment in time.
The wood with its roof of branches seemed a surreal place to be on this sunny day and as I walked along occasionally muddy paths shafts of sunlight reigned down upon me like some kind of majestic laser light show.
Very soon I came upon the tiny church. With its oak beams, moss covered stonewalls and outwardly dark looking stained glass windows the church seemed to me as a pillar of everything that is constant, thankfully no sign of change could I see around me. I took a walk around the church graveyard, the many faded, cracked, leaning or fallen tombstones serving to remind me of the preciousness of the very essence of life. In an odd way this stark meeting with the reality of death actually served to bring me out of the self-pitying state I’d allowed myself to retreat into. The very fact I was alive and able to walk the graveyard and feel the occasional bolts of warmth seeping through the trees above me was surely cause for celebration was it not?
Suddenly, my eyes caught site of two graves a little to the left of me. While both of the headstones were leaning backward a little, I noticed that both graves appeared to be in an exceptional condition bearing in mind the dates written upon the inscriptions. Edward Chandler, born in 1840 died 1907 said one. Emily Chandler (loving wife of Edward Chandler) born 1844 died 1909 the other. For gravestones of a century old, the writing upon both struck me as incredibly well preserved and easy to read. I wondered whether the Chandlers could have been wealthy people and had therefore left a provision in their wills in order to pay for the upkeep of their graves? Maybe, they’d been members of a very large family, some survivors of whom had maintained their places of rest? If so, I mused they must have been dearly loved for each subsequent generation to have been told about them and been sufficiently impressed upon to carry out such a task. A century had now passed since Edward’s death. Thinking about what his life could have been like I soon became aware of the enormity of how much things had changed since his time.
Edward would have been a Victorian gentleman, he would have lived during the age of so many of this countries greatest architectural achievements, lived in an age when things were made to last and to essentially perform a single function. Though life would undoubtedly have been much harsher then, the very fabric of life would have been so much simpler I thought. Edward would have been around to read first hand all of the newspaper cuttings I had visited the library archives to read myself about the terrible deeds of this countries most mysterious of villains Jack The Ripper. He would also have witnessed first hand the death of Queen Victoria and known of The British Empire at its splendour. I then thought of just how much both Edward and Emily would have had no knowledge of that to me was already ancient history. They’d have known nothing of the two world wars, nor attached any significance to names like Adolf Hitler or Winston Churchill. The ninth day of September would simply be just that and the popular music I’d loved so much all my life would not have existed in their time. Contemplating the enormity of all of this,
I wondered what I would have to say to Edward and Emily if I were able to communicate with them today? Where could one start? Past a friendly hello and an introduction where could I even think of beginning? One thing that obviously could cross the chasm’s of time I noticed was love. That Edward and his beloved wife Emily were buried alongside each other in death was something that had been mirrored by every subsequent generation to this day, my day. As I looked around me I could see numerous such graves. To feel that Edward, Emily and I despite our cultural and moral differences were joined by love felt good. Maybe I need not say anything to them at all. Standing in between the two graves I reached out and lay a hand on top of each headstone, no longer was I alone.