Thursday 8 September 2011

Little Legacy: A small thing handed down by a predecessor.

When I was seven years you were eleven years
Took my new bicycle for a ride
Stood in the park I watched you ride away
I didn’t want you to, and I cried.

(Part of a poem I wrote many years ago).

This summer the Doctor and I were invited to a wedding at a beautiful, ancient west-country church. I used to visit the churchyard now and then, on birthdays and Christmas to remember my step brother. I’d never heard of viral pneumonia, it happens to the young or the old and came very suddenly in the night. Time is a healer and losses become memories, but twenty years after his death I found myself re-living his funeral on a quiet sunny summer day. I remembered the black clothes that my skinny seventeen year-old self wore. I remembered which hymns were chosen. I remembered following the coffin out of the church and I watched it carried to the hearse. When I looked behind me the whole congregation had assembled silently behind me and stood on the steps in front of the church yard gate. This summer, twenty years on, I laid some fragile tangled flowers on to the memorial stone and for the first time ever I did not cry at the grave side. 

Later that afternoon our friends were married. The church that has seemed so ominously stifling to my teenage self was alive with pride, joy and love; bustling with colours and happiness. The groom was stylish in a deep red suit and wore a permanent smile. The bride was breathtakingly beautiful in the dress of her dreams and their family and friends released wishes of strength and happiness into the stones and foundations of the ancient church so that every molecule resonated with glittering hopes for the future. Outside in the church yard the bells rang out with joy, and we threw confetti over the happy couple. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two young children in their best smart wedding guest clothes jumping and playing over my brother’s grave. 

Little Legacy is a remembrance project, a positive and creative space, to celebrate small things handed down by predecessors. This is a concept created by Penny at the Alexander Residence blog. The idea is to share a scrap of wisdom that arises from the past, something that connects you to your past and drives you into the future. Little legacies can come from people living or dead and  don’t have to be a memory from long ago. 

At the beginning of their vibrant life together this bride and groom unwittingly gave me an intensely happy memory to re-frame my perception of a beautiful, ancient west-country church. Lives have seasons, everything changes, cycles and circles; a lovely lesson learned.

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