A pilgrimage by proxy

Today marks 11 years since my beloved husband, Paul, passed away so unexpectedly. His death has impacted my life more than I ever could have imagined, and so this day remains a day of great pain for me.

To help me through the day, I like to take the time to visit with Paul. In the previous 10 years, I marked this date with a sad yet cathartic journey to his grave. But I had been thinking about changing the way I mark his passing moving forward. The first 10 years were spent visiting him at his place of rest, so I thought that the next 10 years might be taking him (in my heart and in my memories) to places that hold meaning to me.

Which is why this year was meant to be a “pilgrimage” to the Isle of Iona. That is where the St Martin’s Cross stands, and it is that cross that I had replicated (in a smaller size) for Paul’s headstone. It was a place we always spoke of going together, in part because of the cross and the island’s role in Britain’s Christian conversion. It just felt like the right place to be this year.

I started looking at bookings in January with the plan to book in mid-March. But at the beginning of March, I began to realise that might not be possible because of the COVID19 pandemic. And by the end of March, I knew it was out of the question. That realisation hurt more than I would have imagined.

As April began, I found myself feeling slightly anxious about the looming anniversary – even more so because I didn’t know how I would be able to mark the day when we are on lockdown. I knew that I would have to stay in the local area because I don’t have access to a car and public transportation is running on the barest of bare bones right now. That left me with very few options to choose from.

In the end, I decided to walk up to a small cemetery that sits halfway between my cottage and the nearby village of Roslin. The cemetery was once used as a resting place for people who lived and worked on the estate and is now used for families from a couple of nearby villages. Importantly, it is a place that I could get to with my own two feet – and not have to worry about how to maintain social distancing and self-isolation practices.

And so, this year’s pilgrimage was done by proxy.

I brought with me a photo of my beloved Paul and a miniature replica of the cross that my brother-in-law brought me after his own visit to the Isle of Iona a couple of years ago. And I sat there thinking about Paul; talking with Paul; crying for Paul.

I also spent some time taking photos of some of the headstones to add to Find a Grave. There were only 14 monuments listed and I have decided that I will adopt this cemetery so that I can ensure that all of the monuments are documented. After all, there could be someone else who can’t get to their loved one’s grave and they might one day find comfort knowing they won’t be forgotten. But I digress…

I don’t know what will happen next year, but I know that I will mark the day somehow. After all, the most meaningful relationship I’ve ever had is my relationship with Paul. He brought my soul to life and he showed me what romantic love is. He made me a better person. He made me feel confident in just being me. And when someone has had that kind of positive impact on your life, I can’t see how it would be possible to not be keenly aware of the moment their life ended; the moment their future ceased to exist.

Paul, you may be gone but you will never, ever be forgotten. I luv ya, luv.

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