Whenever I visit my Dad in Holcombe in Devon I try to get a walk or two in on the beach or along the seawall depending upon the tide. I can easily clock up 4.5 miles if I include the back beach in Teignmouth. However long the walk, and regardless of the season, I never tire of the beauty of this special place.
I have been coming to Holcombe since before I could walk because it was where my grandparents lived. Initially it was only a short drive from our home in Plymouth, but after we moved to Guernsey in 1962 we had to travel by air meaning that visits were less frequent. The visit I remember most was Christmas in 1964. Sadly, Granddad spent his Christmas in Exeter Hospital where he passed away at the end of December. My sister Linda and I were not allowed to visit, but Dad held me up at a window so that I could wave goodbye to my grandfather. I made him a boat with the woodwork set I received for Christmas that year. My Nan kept that boat for the rest of her life (she lived until 1983).
Nan moved across the country after Granddad died. It was to be thirty-five years before I renewed my acquaintance with Holcombe when my parents relocated to the village a few years after they retired. My visits to Holcombe have taken place much more frequently in the last fifteen months since Mum’s health deteriorated. Sadly, we lost Mum back in March. Visits to Holcombe since March were initially curtailed by Covid-19 regulations, but since May I have been able to visit Dad every month. It was in May that my sister Linda left us. Her last visit to Holcombe was when we held a thanksgiving service for Mum on 18 March. Because of Covid-19 we have been unable to hold a similar service for Linda.
Apart from photographs how do we remember those we have lost? Photographs are useful and help keep memories alive. I don’t want my memories of Mum or of Linda to fade with time. Recording memories in this blog has been a useful exercise, particularly with regard to Linda as I have been able to share those memories with many who knew Linda through friendship, work and church. Linda knew a lot of people and blessed them all.
Since Mum died I have started to pick up stones and shells during my beach walks. My collection is growing and taking up more and more of the windowsill in my home office. Mum loved the beach. She was born in Aberdeen where there is a beautiful beach, albeit one that Mum probably did not remember having left Aberdeen while she was still quite young. When we lived in Guernsey Mum spent much of the summer on Cobo beach. Linda and I would join her there after school. All of the family have many happy memories of our time in Guernsey.
The twenty years in Holcombe represented the longest time in Mum’s life that she spent by any beach. In the last couple of years the walk back up Smugglers’ Lane from the beach became too much for Mum. I’m sad about that but I guess that the beauty of where Mum is now with Linda makes Holcombe beach pale into insignificance. I’m looking forward to joining them one day but for now my memories of Mum and Linda are prompted daily by photographs supplemented of course by the bits of the beach on my windowsill.
Stones feature regularly in The Bible. In Ecclesiastes 3 we are told that there is a time for every matter under heaven. Just after the verse that tells us there is a time to mourn (and a time to dance) is this verse:
(There is) a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together.
I think that this verse refers to gathering stones from fields, but I shall continue to gather stones from Holcombe Beach. And I shall continue to mourn the loss of Mum and Linda. But I shall also dance (in my soul as I have two left feet) and rejoice for the lives they both lived and the ways in which they both blessed so many people.