Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Graves

In Bromsgrove today to add some Easter flowers to my mother's grave. The daffodils from St David's Day are still in remarkably good nick.

I like the cemetery. Just as at Christmas, most of the graves have new flowers. It's good to see. Walking the perimeter of the graveyard, I recognise many of the names as old Bromsgrove names, the names of my primary school register - Pinfold, Giles, Banner, Lammas, Chance. There are ornate graves for the Giles family (funeral directors) and the Smith family (travellers), including that of 20 year old Lemintina Smith. Was she as pretty as her name ? And some lump in the throat graves too - mostly children's. A grave with a photograph - a pretty young woman on her wedding day. She died aged 36.

"The sweetest thing I'll ever see
Is my Mummy, smiling at me"

When I started for Cefn y Blaen only two or three people were in the churchyard with flowers. But now the customary beautiful Easter Eve Idyll had fairly begun and people kept arriving from all parts with flowers to dress the graves. Children were coming from the town and from neighbouring villages with baskets of flowers and knives to cut holes in the turf. The roads were lively with people coming and going and the churchyard a busy scene with women and children and a few men moving about among the tombstones and kneeling down beside the green mounds flowering the graves. An evil woman from Hay was dressing a grave (Jane Phillips).

I found Annie Dyke standing among the graves with her basket of flowers. A pretty picture she would have made as she stood there with her pure fair sweet grave face and clustering brown curls shaded by her straw hat and her flower basket hanging on her arm. It is her birthday to-day. I always tell her she and the cuckoos came together. So I went home and got a little birthday present I had been keeping for her, which I bought in the Crystal Palace in January, a small ivory brooch, with the carved figure of a stag. I look the little box which held it out into the churchyard and gave it to her as she was standing watching while the wife of one of her lather's workmen, the shepherd, flowered the grave that she came to dress, for her.

More and more people kept coming into the churchyard as they finished their day's work. The sun went down in glory behind the dingle, but still the work of love went on through the twilight and into the dusk until the moon rose full and splendid. The figures continued to move about among the graves and to bend over the green mounds in the calm clear moonlight and warm air of the balmy evening.

At 8 o'clock there was a gathering of the Choir in the Church to practise the two anthems for to-morrow. The moonlight came streaming in broadly through the chancel windows. When the choir had gone and the lights were out and the church quiet again,
as I walked down the churchyard alone the decked graves had a strange effect in the moonlight and looked as if the people had laid down to sleep for the night out of doors, ready dressed to rise early on Easter morning. I lingered in the verandah before going to bed. The air was as soft and warm as a summer night, and the broad moonlight made the quiet village almost as light as day. Everyone seemed to have gone to rest and there was not a sound except the clink and trickle of the brook.

(Kilvert's Diary, April 16th 1870)

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