I love cemeteries. Aye, really. Before you think I’m daft or the least bit morbid, here’s why I’m keen on kirkyards, like the one above, viewed through the sixteenth-century remains of Mar’s Wark, built in Stirling by the Earl of Mar.
The grounds are green, the air quiet, the mood contemplative. On any weekday you’d be hard pressed to find a more peaceful spot than this kirkyard in Selkirk. (Interesting how the path comes to a dead end.)
The residents don’t make a sound. Even visitors keep their voices low. No one is sitting around with a Starbucks in one hand and an iPhone in the other, loudly chatting away—not in a kirkyard.
It’s a good place to think, breathe, and get a clearer perspective on life. The saying, “Every day above ground is a good one,” takes on new meaning in such a spot.
Rural parish churches often are surrounded by natural beauty. Logie is one of the oldest parishes (twelfth century) in Scotland, with the heather-covered Ochil Hills as a backdrop. The curve of the road is pleasing to the eye, the abundance of crosses comforting to the heart.
Other than the occasional bird on the wing, nothing moves when you lift your camera to capture so timeless a scene.
Look closer and you’ll see artistic expression abounds. Some stones are decorated with flowers and vines, others feature winged heads or beautifully carved figures. Even the elements can’t diminish an artist’s careful renderings or a family’s thoughtful investment. To think of being loved and mourned so deeply!
History is everywhere, especially in a place like Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders. For those of us who revel in such details, the inscriptions on the stones show us how long people lived, whom they married and when, how many children they had, what they did for a living, and what mattered most to them in this world and the next.
Epitaphs make fascinating reading. Some are sobering, others amusing, still more are informative, and the best ones point beyond the grave.
Consider these lines etched in memory of a seventeenth-century minister from Kirkoswald in Ayr:
“For praised be God, grace never quat him,
In life nor death, till glory gat him.”
Between archaic spellings and the use of Scots words, such epitaphs can be tricky to sort out, but we get the gist of this one: God’s grace never quits. It’s a gift from the One “who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). When the end came for this minister of old, glory claimed him.
The greenery that encircles this Celtic cross in Edinburgh speaks more of life than of death. When I leave behind the silent stones and grassy paths to step back into the land of the living, I always do so with a grateful heart and a renewed longing for a far more beautiful place called Eternity.