MOUSEY MOMENT … WHAT’S IN A STONE?
Once a year (if not more!) I go on holiday to the Lake District where I love to climb the mountains & take in the spectacular views & landscapes. I can follow the routes & read a map but sometimes the weather makes it difficult to see where you’re going & that’s when it’s reassuring to see cairn’s marking the way.
A cairn is a man-made pile (or stack) of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic word ‘càrn’ which means ‘pile of stones’.
Cairns have been and are used for a broad variety of purposes, from prehistoric times to the present.
In modern times, cairns are often erected as landmarks, a use they have had since ancient times. However, since prehistory they have also been built and used as burial monuments; for defence and hunting; for ceremonial purposes, sometimes relating to astronomy; to locate buried items, such as caches of food or objects; and to mark trails, among other purposes.
We know that for many, many Centuries people have used stones and rocks to help them remember those who have died. Many churches have stones or plaques inside them; some churches have graveyards; all villages and towns have cemeteries that are filled with memorials. Many places, including Stokesley, have war memorials that have on them the names of people who were killed during the First and Second World Wars. Some places have memorials to people who died in earlier or subsequent conflicts. The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire has a huge stone memorial which records the names of all British service personnel who have been killed since 1945.
True story: Leonard Cheshire who was awarded the V.C. for his achievements in WWII, but went on to achieve even more in helping others & establishing care homes
As a student at Oxford, Leonard had loved racing through the countryside in his little red sports car. When World War II broke out, he trained as a pilot, and was soon flying huge bomber planes. He took part in many dangerous raids over Germany.
After 100 trips he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his skill and bravery, and was sent as an observer in the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb over Japan.
Once the war was over, and Leonard had left the RAF, he gradually became a changed man. Why shouldn’t ex-service people work together for the good of all?
Leonard found out about a man called Arthur, who was suffering from cancer, and had been discharged from hospital with no relatives or money. Having failed to find anyone to look after Arthur, Leonard decided to do it himself. He cleaned and decorated a room in the large but shabby house that he had, and took Arthur in. He had to borrow a bed and blankets for Arthur. Soon they were joined by an old lady of ninety, who was also without any other help.
Leonard did all the cooking and gardening, as well as nursing the patients in his care. Through the influence of Arthur, who was a Christian, Leonard began thinking about God, and his faith grew.
When the residents numbered thirty, he looked around for another refuge. He and his ex-service friends partly rebuilt and repaired an old RAF station to suit the purpose. For a time Leonard worked so hard he became ill, and had to take two years off for rest and recovery. While still in bed he managed to obtain some second-hand buses that his friends drove around, playing recordings of his voice to attract people to enter his ‘churches on wheels’. Although he had gained a great reputation for all his wartime achievements, his main aim now was, humbly, to show love and concern to poor, lonely and sick men and women.
Together with his wife, Sue Ryder, he did a tremendous job in resettling refugees who had been displaced by the chaos of war. The number of Cheshire Homes, as they came to be called, mounted steadily, not only in Britain, but in India, Malaysia, and Africa, to name but a few. Leonard’s vision for helping the ill and homeless was being realised, and the important work he started still flourishes today.
When I was a child my family lived at Marske-by-Sea and one of the features of this little seaside town was having a Cheshire Home. Marske Hall is a 17th Century former mansion house, originally owned by the Pennyman family. During the Great War, the Hall was used by the Royal Flying Corps and during World War II by the army. In 1948, it was made into a private school, but was damaged in 1957 after pupils played with matches. The building was then abandoned for a few years, until in 1961 Lord Zetland donated it to the Leonard Cheshire Foundation. It was opened in 1963 as a residential care home providing nursing care for 30 disabled people. Leonard Cheshire Disability supports over 21,000 disabled people in the UK and works in 52 countries. The Foundation campaigns for change and to provide innovative services that give disabled people the opportunity to live life their way.
Leonard Cheshire epitomises the passage from Mark 12 v28-34 about ‘The Greatest Commandment’. The most important one is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself.
Stones serve as good reminders of things that have happened. They are strong and sturdy and do not readily break or rot away. In fact some stones hold within them a visible testimony to former lives – fossils.
Human beings have used memorial stones for a long, long time. They were not necessarily grave stones as we know them in cemeteries today, with names and dates carved into them: sometimes people simply made a rough pile of stones which we often call a cairn. In the Bible we read of people who set up memorial stones.
In Genesis we read about Jacob setting up a stone as a memorial to his dream about a ladder into heaven: Genesis 28.18-22
Sometimes they created something a bit more elaborate out of just a few larger stones – an altar. An altar was often a place of offering or sacrifice.
Genesis 8. 20 Noah built an altar;
Genesis 22. 9 Abraham built an altar;
Genesis 26. 25 Isaac built an altar;
Exodus 17.15 Moses built an altar.
In each case, we are told that the altar was built in response to what the Lord had done.
Eventually a temple was built in Jerusalem, as a place in which the people could celebrate what the Lord had done.
When Jesus came, he gave his followers a special way to remember him, the Last Supper. In the letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11 v23 – 32), Paul tells us that Jesus said ‘Do this to remember me’. In many church buildings we have a special place around which people gather to celebrate again this Last Supper. Sometimes it is wooden, sometimes it is made of stone. Sometimes people even call it an altar
But we need ways to remember people too; it is important that no life should be forgotten and stones can help us. On Remembrance Sunday in Britain we use poppies to help us recall those who died in conflicts. But we also use stones: people frequently gather at war memorials because the action of gathering is also important. Gathering together shows that we support one another and the stones gives us a place to gather around. And we lay poppy wreaths at the war memorials, thereby renewing our remembrance each year, so that the stone is not overlooked or forgotten.
This Remembrance Sunday pick up a pebble and think of the name of someone you wish to remember. Hold it in your hands and feel the love that bonds you together.