There are moments in life that seem made for serendipity. This weekend was one of them, when St Mary’s Church Newsletter published a front page article about ‘saving the date’ for a Christian retreat to Lee Abbey ; spotted the day after a unplanned bout of spring cleaning.
Having finally begun to clear out my oldest son’s bedroom (it is time to convert it into a study, Joe left home over six years ago), I was sidetracked by memories, as we always are when facing and accepting change. Would he want me to keep the plaster casts of his feet, the surprisingly creative outcome of a hospital visit following a knee dislocation at the age of 15? What about the Hornby train set that was meant to grow and rival the set up at a local model village; the box of rocks and shells, carefully catalogued for a Cub Scout badge; all those football programmes for Forest Green FC (no Premier League team for my boy, thank you very much)? All were dusted off and neatly re-housed, I knew this could not be my decision.
Then I found some photos and sat back on my heels, reflecting on how some things have been a constant throughout our family life. They were shots taken at the stunning Valley of the Rocks in North Devon, home to Lee Abbey. Despite a curious orange tinge, there were clear, long forgotten scenes of my young sons sitting with my sadly departed father, watching his beloved cricket on what has to be the best pitch in the land; sat at picnic tables consuming cream teas and towering ice creams in the full glory of truly British weather; messing about on the Coastal Path, pretending to tumble off the edge onto the rocks below (I was not amused by this particular game); and building sandcastles in Lee Bay, rocking their Speedos…
Two generations have holidayed in that beautiful part of the world, every year I aim to visit a friend nearby or stay at The Staghunters in the Doone Valley. We are not the only ones to come here – the extended family and close friends are now joined in regular, poignant pilgrimage to a very special place on the River Lyn where the ashes of a dearly loved one were laid to rest in October 2014. Mandy would love how much we all adore her favourite spot!
And now, at last, the chance to celebrate family history and the constancy of faith in a place where, indeed, I have always sensed the veil between heaven and earth to be very thin. I’ve asked St Mary’s Church to put me high on that list for Lee Abbey. I can’t wait!