Monday, 1 May 2006

Graveyards in the Rain

Spring rain can be an attractive entity. While I normally object to being soaked through I find this type of rain to be atmospheric. Early in the morning, with the light dimmed only by gray clouds, the birds singing as they chased one another through the treetops, and the occasional dog walker shuffling along beside his happy tail wagging pet, is a good time to wander on wet bank holiday days like these. Listen to the quietness, there is little traffic, streets almost deserted, noise from water rushing down into the drains, or rain pattering of rooftops. Plant life is refreshed at such times, vegetation gives of an atmospheric aroma, plants, blossom in trees, and early flowers combining to freshen the air. Walking through the graveyard behind the Congregational Church at such times rejuvenates the whole man, while contemplating the memorials concentrates the mind.
Churches which have been established for several hundred years are bound to contain the resting places of the great and the good from years past. This one is no different.
What one notices first of all is the ages of the dead. Many are children, many others young women who clearly have died in childbirth. Still others reveal how being rich, as those who could afford a gravestone had to be, could not prevent the diseases of the day carrying them away.
We never realise how healthy we have become since the establishment of the NHS. But are we grateful? Teens and twenties abound as much as those in their seventies and eighties. In fact, they probably outnumber them! The fear of graverobbers, the ghouls as they were called, is apparent in those many stone blocks which lie over the vaults, sometimes these contain several bodies, even complete families. Occasionally metal bars are used to surround the grave. Most however, reflecting their wealth, consist of a tombstone, three or four feet high, engraved with the details of the deceased. The poor have no gravestone, and in many graveyards are buried together at the rear, unmarked, possibly unmissed!
Being believers, as most in non conformist churchyards would be, many are embellished with biblical terms. 'With Christ, which is far better,' 'His works have gone before him,' and the like.

The rain, the blossoming trees, uncut grass and the bird life making the most of the wildlife found here, combine to create an atmosphere that reinvigorates the soul. Something those 'couch potatoes' among us miss out on. We spend too much time wrapped up in our work, our problems, our 'self,' and need to wander through such places in gentle rain, alone, and with our own thoughts to get a better perspective on life.

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