Dear Readers, every few months I make a pilgrimage to the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church in Milborne St Andrew, to ‘visit’ Mum and Dad. I do a bit of tidying (there’s cherry seedling that’s determined to grow right above the memorial plaque), pop in some new plants, and settle down with my back to the cherry tree and wait for the tears to come, and then for them to ease. It’s been four years since Mum passed away, and two years since Dad died, and things have gotten easier, but I still miss them every single day, and I think I always will. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Grief is the price we pay for love, and although I am sadder these days, I think I also have more perspective on what’s important, and am more aware of what other people might be feeling when they lose someone close to them.
But, there is a special magic about this place: the lambs in the field next door have gone, but an emperor dragonfly sweeps low across the grass, hunting for butterflies. And I notice a spotted flycatcher sitting in the bush opposite. Every so often it dashes from its perch and chases an insect, before returning. After a few minutes, I realise that there are two of them, each of them fluttering and twittering, disappearing for a few minutes and then reappearing. It is hard to stay sad when there is so much life going on all around.
As I watch a big, faded bumblebee pops into one of the penstemon flowers and then buzzes away. Mum always liked bumblebees; they were the acceptable face of insecthood to her, unlike wasps and ants and flies and anything else with more than four legs. And yet, although she was afraid she would try to catch them and put them outside rather than kill them, and she never allowed her fear to contaminate us when we were children. That takes more bravery than we often appreciate. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the will to contain it.
A huge Scots Pine looms over the churchyard, and a raven flies out of it, sending some jackdaws into a frenzy. It’s only when I see these birds together that I realise how much bigger the raven is. The birds are gone before I can raise my camera but the tree is still there against a wind-blown sky.
The blackberries look so fat and juicy that I can’t resist them. In the distance, a combine harvester is raising a cloud of dust.
The church of St Andrew dates back to the 11th century, and I always pop inside when I’m here. There’s such deep peace in those old walls.
I feel so close to Mum and Dad in Dorset. They loved it here, and I feel their love in every bird and berry, in every flint and every lichen-covered headstone.
And then I gather my things and prepare to head back for the 12.01 bus back to Dorchester, but something makes me detour via the site of the lime tree that I loved, that was blown over in storm Eunice a few months ago – you can see a photo of it in its glory in this blogpost. I was expecting to see the bleak stump that was there a few months ago, but clearly you can’t keep a good tree down. I have rarely seen so much growth in such a short time. It will take it a long time to get back to its previous magnificence, but how it lifted my spirits to see that it wasn’t dead! It reminds me that everything and everyone live on in some shape or form, and that is very comforting.