Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People

Abbaye de Solignac (Haute-Vienne)

photo: Abbaye de Solignac (Haute-Vienne) © Hedley Grenfell-Banks

When my first wife died after a long illness, and the funeral was over and the fuss had died down and there was just me now because Adam and Judith had their own lives to live, I took myself off to the Limousin.

When I came to Solignac I found a fairly undistinguished Abbey church, of the Benedictine sort in which the floor is at a lower level than the pavement outside and the emphasis in architecture and decoration is on total simplicity.

So I went in quietly and softly shut the creaking door, and you’d expect the light to dim, but the place had its own light, somehow, and instead of dimming, it glowed. Reddish stone, polished chestnut wood, stillness.

As I stood at the top of the few steps leading down into the nave, I heard a voice. Don’t turn the page, it wasn’t an angel or a vision or the voice of God telling me that grief would not last for ever – unless, of course, it was. But the voice I heard was Judith’s nursery school teacher, on her first day, when I took her into class and sat at the back in case she got nervous.

After five minutes, the teacher came back to me and said, ‘It’s all right, you can go, she’s with me now”.

And that’s what I heard in the Abbey Church at Solignac.