Meg went to the Tower, somehow passed the halberds of the Yeomen of the Guard to embrace once more the father whose hair shirt she washed, whose “wholesome counsel and virtuous example” she received, whose mind and person she loved.
Not Holbein’s Chancellor but an El Greco saint, he was led out carrying his red cross, emaciated and ready. He reminded the axe man his neck was short, asked him not to miss. Then put that noble neck in the arc of the block, and the great, wedge axe lopped off his blessed head. Faithless Henry had it put on a pike on London Bridge, a horrible deterrent to heroic silence.
At what cost and courage Margaret rescued it, carried it home to Canterbury, buried it by St. Dunstan’s Church. How often did she gaze from home across to the church yard, longing for the King whose name is love, Whom she, and we, still await?
There are no plumy accents when traveling by coach, just ordinary people going about extraordinary lives. The bus grinds through small, forgotten villages, stops for elderly women with rheumy eyes dragging plaid shopping trolleys, stops for old men under flat woolen caps, hearing aids at odd angles whistling in their hairy ears, stops for weary young mums with impossibly complex prams. We bump by sodden fields of sheep, into market towns no longer proffering produce, only plastic. Yet three times on this journey I have seen standing stones, great, gray plinths alone in fields, reminders of time immemorial, reminders there is more than what appears to be. They watch us hurtle by.
I do not expect to breach heaven (if there is some heaven beyond our good, green earth) via pearly gates, golden streets with searchlights searing the sky and something noisy from Handel blaring from the speakers.
If at all, the passage will be secretive and silent, a chink through which I slip, perhaps between the rosebud and its fragrant flowering, the moment when baton is lifted before overture’s first note sounds.
Rarely in gaudy glory of liturgy as Host is elevated, eaten, often in spring’s gentle uncurling, autumn’s downward spiral, I see a shadowy hand beckon, or hear a quiet voice calling, “This way. Slip through here.”