My personal journey through life has gifted me a long and deeply rewarding career in education, the pull to become a spiritual healer and soul midwife and then, for the past four or five years, to serve as an Independent Funeral Celebrant. I feel privileged indeed.
I have led a great many funeral services both here in Carlisle and elsewhere-times of immense sadness, confusion and pain for those most closely involved.
Here in Carlisle, we have a 96-acre cemetery dating from 1855 with a crematorium built in 1956 and an area set aside for woodland burials. Over 97,000 burials have taken place here since it was established.
The 2017 Global Earth Exchange in the cemetery grounds allowed a quiet contemplative opportunity to reflect on many things-the life journeys we each experience being, of course, the common thread.
It began at the spot where John Kent was buried in a pauper's grave in July 1886-it was there that the RadJoy bird was laid with branches, twigs and leaves found scattered around under nearby bushes and trees. Sunflowers completed the tribute.
The first black police officer in England, John was the son of a former slave brought to Whitehaven here in Cumberland, as it was then called, and who was later given his freedom by his master.
John was carried through the same gateway by which I entered on June 17th as I made my way to the old yew tree by his grave, almost exactly 131 years later. A gateway through which so many have been taken on their final journey. In John's day the wealthy would have been attended, no doubt, by pomp in horse-drawn hearses, the less-well off on carts, and the poorest borne simply on shoulders. Who knows who carried and wept for John that day.
John could never have fully understood the trauma experienced by his father-there can be no words to express the pain of that. A stranger in a strange land-a story which belongs to all the dispossessed.
There was time too to pause by the military graves of those who served in the first and second world wars-and, in particular, to stand by the headstones of those who were buried in this place as enemies. I wondered if their families and loved ones ever knew where they fell and finally lay.
We commit so much suffering and pain to the ground-and water it with tears... and this was the story of Global Earth Exchange 2017-a time to reflect on how such a place as a cemetery can also become a place of great beauty, a place of quiet peace where people can find comfort and inspiration. The earth takes-and the Earth gives-and we are its privileged guardians.