Yesterday OH and I went to Durham Cathedral to light a candle for the baby we lost last autumn, and a candle for Little Sun, whose maman very kindly did the same for us in Notre Dame earlier this month.

It wasn’t quite the peaceful pilgrimage we’d hoped for. First, there was a family with eight misbehaving kids on the bus – all sitting in different places, shouting conversations at each other, getting up and running around… We were very relieved when they got off at the stop before us. Then we arrived at the train station to find it swarming with stag and hen parties – there was even a man dressed as a penis – and no trains. That’s right, there were engineering works on the line, so we had to get a bus all the way to Durham – hardly ideal when OH gets travel sick. Still, we made it. 🙂

This is a photo of the Cathedral from the train station:

Durham Cathedral from the train stationWhen we arrived at the Cathedral, a choir was rehearsing the St Matthew Passion for a concert that evening, and the main body of the church seemed a little chaotic, so I headed straight for the Galilee Chapel, which I knew would be quiet. I like this chapel because it has a lighter, airier, more humble feel to the rest of the Cathedral, and it’s where I feel closer to God. It is built below the western towers, and right above a steep drop down to the river, which from the outside is one of my favourite views in Durham:

Durham Cathedral's western towers

Durham Cathedral’s western towers, viewed from the opposite bank of the river. This photo was taken last summer, shortly before I became pregnant – hence the brighter weather!

Inside the chapel, we found a place that we both felt was right for commemorating our baby. It was by Bede’s tomb, below an inscription that is very meaningful to me in my grief. The text reads, “Christus est stella matutina qui nocte saeculi transacta lucem vitae sanctis promittit et pandit aeternam,” or in English, “Christ is the morning star, who when the night of this world is past brings to his saints the promise of the light of life & opens everlasting day”:

I light candles beneath the inscription.

I light candles beneath the inscription.

I lit a candle for Little Sun first, praying in English and French for him and his family, and then I lit a candle for our baby. After that, OH and I stood and held hands, listening to the choir sing Bach, and hugged for a long time.

Here are the candles. Little Sun’s is on the left, and our baby May’s is on the right:

Candles for Little Sun and baby MayFinally, we went for a walk in the cloisters, which you may recognise as part of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter films. It was quite sunny by this point:

Durham Cathedral cloistersDurham Cathedral viewed from the cloisters

Our day ended with dinner with friends in a pub in Shincliffe, and then we caught the bus replacement service home. We managed to nab the last two seats on that particular bus, which meant sitting separately – but at least the bloke getting drunk next to me was doing so quietly!

We’ll return to the Cathedral in April for the Saying Goodbye remembrance service for anyone who has lost a baby during pregnancy, birth or infancy. In the mean time, although I’m grieving a lot (both for baby May and for the outcome of my most recent treatment), I feel a little consoled to have put May to rest in such a wonderful place.

5 thoughts on “Candles

  1. What a wonderful quote from Bede, first time I’ve heard it.
    I’m glad you were able to do something meaningful. The service “Saying Goodbye” sounds wonderful – I keep meaning to suggest to my vicar that he do something similar, as we have a small maternity hospital in my town. I know that when my mum lost her babies she would have appreciated a service like that, but there wasn’t one at the time.

    • Thanks, Emma. If you ever go to Durham Cathedral, the Galilee Chapel is on your right as you enter – you can see the text there.

      What a wonderful idea to do something similar at your church! Saying Goodbye is a UK-wide thing, and all the services are in cathedrals. Not everyone can get to a cathedral, or wants such a big service (I was going to say ‘mass’ but I don’t mean communion, I mean there will be masses of people there), so I think we need smaller services taking place in local churches too. 🙂 x

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