There was a cemetery in Ireland that I used to hang out in as a kid. It wasn’t a scary place, in fact there was something comforting about it. The plots were very well tended. There were trees and grass and lots of flowers to look at. I got a sense of history reading the headstones and I loved the stone carvings and statues.
My favourite was the angel. She guarded the grave of Una O’Meara whom my cousins and I liked to think was a distant relative because she bore the same maiden name as our great grandmother. She died in 1926 at the age of 42. My cousins and I were captivated by the fact that her headstone read
She lies in the arms of the angels.
We would talk about it for hours. The types of angels involved. Would they be archangels or just guardian angels? How many there were? Would she lie in their arms for all eternity or just until she got used to being in Heaven?
We used to pick wildflowers for Una and leave them on her grave. Sometimes we included notes and poems. My cousin, Aine, used to tell her what the weather was like or who liked who at school or how many times Sister Bernadette said Jesus, Mary and Joseph during Maths. We used to genuflect to the angel when we arrived and touch her wing for good luck when we left. After a while we came to believe that the angel wasn’t just watching over Una O’Meara, she was watching over us too.
I got an email from Aine today saying that the cemetery had been vandalised and that many of the headstones and statues had been broken, including the angel. I felt a sob rising up from the pit of my stomach because I had counted on that angel always being there. I have visited her every time I have returned to Ireland and I would hate to think that one day I would return and she would be gone.
A guy I used to work with told me once of the sorrow he felt when his childhood home was bulldozed to make room for a motorway. Although he hadn’t lived in the house for over twenty years he was filled with an incalculable sense of loss at the house that had meant so much to him being removed from the landscape.
I feel the same way about the angel. She was such an immediate part of my childhood that for her to be gone almost suggests parts of my childhood will be gone too.
The moments where we encounter the blackest parts of human nature are often met with the brightest, most golden parts.
The local community was so incensed by the destruction they witnessed in the cemetery that they started a fundraiser to mend everything that had been broken. In less than a month more than enough money has been raised to repair and restore all the damage.
The Bishop himself donated a significant amount – an unheard of occurrence.
So the angel will no longer be broken. She will rise again and will continue to watch over Una O’Meara. And hopefully, over the grown up versions of the children who came to love her.
* Image by JollyEmoLolly at DeviantART.