I have pondered for some time before publishing this post, I respect all belief systems providing spiritual strength based on love and respect of of nature and of fellow man .
But our spiritual strength in this time of sadness was drawn from our beliefs taught to us from childhood, so this post is based on those beliefs, because without them Anna’s story would not be complete.
Our well of spiritual strength was a simple place in the countryside dedicated to the Madonna.
A peaceful shrine, offering the same familiar comforting feeling that we had felt each time we found new flowers on our journeys together
a place where God and nature seemed to meet.
Meditation and prayer seemed to come so naturally in this place -and even miracles seemed possible.
This place stemmed from a farming family’s need for spiritual strength.
In their times of need, they would return to nature to meditate and pray in front of a tiny statue of the Madonna which they had housed in a tree-trunk.
In those peaceful surroundings they found their strength.
They welcomed any traveller who was in need of strength and consolation and shared with them this quiet place of worship and meditation.
Many visitors felt consoled and so they expressed their gratitude by adding other symbols of religious significance to this woodland.
A cross with an image of our Christ, and a simple stone grotto to the Madonna.
Until the very end Anna fervently believed that in this place of calm and serenity, miracles were possible and even her seemingly unstoppable disease could be healed.
This woodland and other relics of spiritual significance gave Anna hope.
out of this hope sprang a resolute will and determination to live her life to the full, until the very end.
The above image of the Madonna was one that Anna always kept by her bedside, it was a tattered image that once belonged to my Father. Many times when we were children he recounted the story of why he always kept this image on his person, – when he was a soldier he said , it was this Madonna that appeared to him in one of the darkest periods of the war, she told him not to be afraid because he would survive. Survive he did and throughout his life always carried this image with him. When he passed away we kept the original image as a treasured memory, but a permanent copy of it was placed on his headstone.
We didn’t get the miracle we prayed so hard for, but Anna’s courage continues to provide light in times of fear and darkness.
At times when this darkness descends I imagine her spirit wandering free on those beautiful beaches – and then I feel a little less lonely and sad.
The image of the Madonna was also inscribed on her headstone to help guide her in that other world she had now passed to.
I went back to that peaceful sanctuary a year after I had lost Anna, but it was of little comfort
so many painful memories of our last time together came flooding back.
It was a cold miserable winter’s day only a few weeks before I lost her
I could vividly remember Anna seated in front of the Madonna, trying hard to hide her tears, as she continued to pray for that miracle.
As I clutched her precious body close to me, I could feel her tired bony frame shivering in the icy wind.
I remember feeling anger and hopelessness as I realized that in spite of every spiritual and human effort,
this precious gift of love I had received so many years ago was now about to be taken away.
We had traveled so far together, shared so many memories.
How could it end this way?
Sheltering in each other’s arms, through all those storms, for all those years.
We now knew that change was coming and could barely hold back our tears
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