I have discovered it’s possible to feel lonely even when you are not alone and to be alone and not to feel lonely at all.
This morning – #walk4andy day one – I was up with the larks to get to the Ascension Day service at Carlisle Cathedral. As I went bleary-eyed for communion, I offered up to God the day ahead and all the planning that has gone into this #walk4andy.
Afterwards there was a delicious breakfast and some good company from as far away as Argentina! I also got invited back to evensong when Michael, the brilliant Canon Missioner, kindly prayed for those suffering with VHL, remembering Andy in the Cathedral intercessions, and even gave me tea and a few beers! It’s always good to be reminded that we are not alone, and the Church extends well beyond our parish and across the world (NB. I drafted this before I heard the news from the Philippines but that makes it even more poignant – when one part suffers, the whole body suffers with it…)
I then took the bus out to Bowness on Solway to find the beautiful Pavilion where I could stamp my passport to prove I’d been. En route I made more friends on the bus and a visitor from Norway kindly took my picture.
Thereafter I was pretty much on my own. The route to Burgh by Sands was pretty quiet. I didn’t feel lonely though. I had my thoughts and the messages from so many friends and loved ones wishing me all the best. I even had a text from one of my churchwardens with a picture of the smiling faces of my wonderful congregation back at St Denys this morning!
But it was hot and sunny (Andy wouldn’t have complained!) and there wasn’t a lot of shade as I walked alone by the marshes. The cap and sun cream did their job but I felt very exposed to the elements.
It set me thinking about how exposed and vulnerable I have felt since losing Dad and Andy. I adore the women in my life – Wendy and my two girls, my mum and stepmother – but Dad and Andy can never be replaced and without them this little brother and youngest son does, if I’m honest, feel lonely at times, even though I know I am far from being alone.
I came across a beautiful prayer which I am going to use as I walk and try to learn by heart two lines at a time. It comes from the Celtic tradition and it begins like this:
You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from harm
As I searched for shelter from the heat of the sun along the still, deserted marshes of the Solway, these words came alive and I found peace with my ‘alone-ness’.