Tom and I were on our way from the hotel in Pakefield to the beach, a five-minute walk– or hobble, in my case, thanks to the cancer eating away at my pelvic bone– when we spotted a church perched on a cliff-top above the dunes.
Neither Tom nor I are religious, but it’s what you do isn’t it? Well it’s what we did anway. We wandered in past the sheep slumped idly amongst the old and weather battered graves, intending just to sit for five minutes and try to find some sort of solace.
As we took a pew at the very back of the sparsely-occupied church a lady in the congregation asked us if we’d like to join the evening service. We looked at each other, each telepathically willing the other to find an excuse to remain by ourselves, but when neither of us did, we agreed half-heartedly. I have a habit of getting the giggles when singing in church, a nervous laugh that recalls my six years old self in Mrs Bartram’s class, trying to suppress a face-reddening laugh when being told off.
We duly moved forward to a seat nearer the ten or so worshippers. A ruddy-faced man of around sixty who looked like he could have been a local farmer began to give a reading. He had a Suffolk accent and initially kept tripping over his words. I was about to zone out when I heard the word ‘bones’. Suddenly he had my full attention. His nerves eased, his shoulders seemed to straighten and he read out a passage from the book of Ezekiel.
Now, I’ve never been Christened, I go to church about three times a year (mostly as a tourist), and have to admit to being fairly ignorant when it comes to the bible. I know the basics; the one with the animals on a cruise, the one with the riot in the market and the one with the fully booked hotel! You get the picture. I’m not religious but I do try to abide by the old cliche treat people how you would like to be treated.
Anyway, I digress. The story (as I understand it) was about Ezekiel who finds himself in the valley of dry bones and God asks him if the bones can live. A doubtful Ezekiel says God alone knows. God then breathes life into the dead bones and tendons and flesh appear. God then tells Ezekiel to do the same, which he does successfully. The vicar went on to explain that even in the most hopeless of situations there is hope; even in the most desperate times you have to keep believing.
Tom and I kept looking at each other as these words were being read out. Maybe this was all a coincidence, maybe the church we happened to stumble on just happened to have a story about bones (where my cancer had spread to) and the Vicar was telling the congregation that we should seek out hope no matter how difficult times get. After all, without hope you may as well just give up and at that point that’s exactly what we had done; we had accepted that within months I would die.
Looking back to that day I chose to believe that we were meant to hear that sermon. Tom and I were at our lowest but the random hour spent in that church by a beach in Suffolk gave us the first shoots of hope. It was a turning point, a nudge towards a much more positive path…