Grave TopicOut walking near Askrigg in Wensleydale last June, Glenys and I came across the ruins of a church at the top end of a beautiful lake called Semmer Water. It had once been the place of worship for the nearby village of Stalling Busk and numerous past residents of that place lay buried in the overgrown churchyard.

Shakespeare wrote: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft’ interred within their bones”. Well, thankfully, the “good” often lives after them as well, and in days gone-by was sometimes recorded on their memorials and tombstones. The present decline in personal belief is seen in the epitaphs one reads on many recent gravestones, which reflect the personality or interests of the departed person, rather than any statement of personal faith. Memorabilia such as fishing rods, images of motor cycles, soft toys and even bottle openers, have been seen on some graves in the past few months. These offerings are rather like the contents of pre-Christian graves, intended for the use of the dead person in the next life! However, even this indicates some hope or expectation of a continuing life somewhere or somehow.

But to return to the churchyard at Stalling Busk. One ancient stone caught my eye, as the wording was still quite clear, despite the passing of over a hundred years. It relates to a certain John Coates who died in 1892. He declares:

Corruption earth and worms

Shall but refine this flesh,

Till my triumphant spirit comes

To put in on afresh.

God my Redeemer lives

And ever from the skies

Looks down and watches all my dust,

Till He shall bid it rise.

Well – thank you John, I don’t think I could have put it better myself! And I guess, over the years, many thousands of walkers have stopped by; had a chuckle at the quaint wording, yet perhaps gone on their way reflecting on a faith they may have wished for themselves, and which indeed is still available today to all who trust in Jesus.

Barry Sutton-Jones