Yesterday was a strange day. I had hardly slept because of pain, and in the morning I felt so bad, so I decided that if I didn’t go out I would sink into the most horrible depression. It’s a bit like if you ignore it it’s not really there. You know – defying it!
So, off we went in the afternoon. But I was fed up with going to our normal place, which is a little old wooden bridge out in the countryside near to where I was born. So I asked my husband to take us a different way.
As we were travelling along, I realised that we had got almost to a place that is very dear to my heart. Although I had not set out with any intentions of going there, I realised that as we were so near, we could actually go there. I have not been there for a long time, and, having been so ill of late, thought I would never go there again. But there we were!
The place is a tiny tiny church that is very ancient, that sits in the middle of a farmyard. Literally. It was built in the 900s and has many very ancient features inside it. It is so tiny that it takes only about 40 paces to get from the back of it to the front. But it is an absolute gem. So isolated, despite being in the middle of a farmyard, and so peaceful, except when the Red Arrows are practising overhead.
I found this little church quite by accident in the summer of 2009 just after we had moved back to my home county of Lincolnshire from Derbyshire. I was just driving around the countryside re-acquainting myself with Lincolnshire again, with my two dogs in the back, when I came across a signpost on my left that said, “Unspoilt Pre-Reformation Church.” Well, I go for ANYTHING that is unspoilt! And I love old churches. So I headed off down the road, with great excitement. It had started out as an ordinary day, but in then turned into a most extraordinary one. Though, I did not realise at the time just HOW extraordinary it was going to be.
I drove up what was really just a narrow country lane – an Unclassified road. I drove for a while, but the road seemed to go on for ever. I thought I must have made a mistake. Maybe the signpost was pointing down a different road. Yet there was only one! What had happened?
However, eventually I came to a row of tiny cottages that were facing me. The road swung to the right, but STILL no church. I MUST have got it wrong!
I continued to drive, but now, the road seemed to have become a mud track. On either side of the road were tall poplar tress reaching up high into the sky. It felt like a tunnel. But then suddenly there were no more trees, and on the right hand side there was a clearing – and there, in the clearing , stood a tiny little stone built church. My excitement rose. My heart fluttered. WHAT was I going to find inside?
Here was to begin the most extraordinary story of my life. I may tell it here one day.
The church is called St, Ediths, and it is at the little hamlet calked Coates-By-Stow. It is some miles from the market town of Gainsborough, and some miles from Lincoln.
Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, I found myself back there again. A place I never expected to be ever again. Yet that place had been the centre of a love story for me. Not the conventional kind of love story, but very intense nevertheless.
It has been strange how that tiny church has appeared and disappeared from my life at will. I became very close to it, and it very close to me. My first impression was that there were souls living in the walls of this ancient church, and that if I listened hard enough I would hear them talking to me, and they would tell me their stories. And as I began to research the history of the church, they did. They talked to me. My research was original and may be published one day. But I became very close to the characters that I uncovered, and it is a most amazing history.
I became close to the church spiritually too. I felt as if the veil between earth and heaven had been torn when I went in there.
Then I got cancer! I was too sick to even think about the little church. But we had emailed the churchwarden, whom I had come to know, and told her of my cancer. And that was it! I was going to die anyway – or so we thought, and I DID receive the Last Rites. I thought I would never see that little church, my little love, again. I lived! I am still here. By some miracle!
When I finished my chemo, I started to gain a little bit of strength, and the first place I went was this little church that I thought I would never see again, that had once been so central to my life. . We were awaiting a CT scan to see just how much the chemo had worked. But here I was again, quite unexpectedly.
There followed a period of time when the church once again became central to my life. The live affair was on again. We never went to Services there as there are hardly any taking place. But I went in on my own and just contemplated. It was an amazing time.
Then, my health started to go downhill again, to where it is now. And I had not been to the little church for many a month. Until yesterday. Quite by accident!
I was too ill yesterday to actually go inside it, but I could sit outside it in the car with the doors open, and I just breathed, and soaked up the atmosphere. My husband went inside so that he could look a d see if anything had changed. It had not. I found myself taking up my pen, and writing. Word after word after word. Yes, I cannot see what I write, but I can still write, with the aid of my thumb, which moves with each line, and tells me where I am. That then has to be read to me by someone else, and dictated into my iPad.
As we were driving home, a sudden thought came to me. When was that first time I had returned to this place after my cancer? Upon arriving home, I tried to find out. And YES, there it was. The same date as yesterday, in 2014. AMAZING!. How do our minds and bodies know these things? But yes, they DO!
And so now the love affair – and the writing – begins all over again!