Today I went to Llangeinor Church and stood near a gravestone that I had only seen in pictures.
While here in Wales, I found Netflix here has very different movies on instant watch, and one was the Hugh Grant classic film "The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill and Came Down a Mountain" about a Wesh village. I love the way he starts off talking about how the Welsh, in spite of being quite imaginative, seemed to have an appalling shortage of surnames.
I found myself looking at the many Joneses, Hugheses and Williamses that were all around me. It is strange to have so many of the same names in different combinations on almost every stone surrounding this lovely stone church.
I lingered over many of them and wondered about their lives. When they lived here the coal mines were employing the bulk of my own relatives who lived here. Kerry says that the towns were grubby with black coal dust from the collieries. I had visions of Papa Jim being raised with the sooty look of Oliver Twist.
Now all was green and lovely and fresh. If these stones that made up any of the stone walls I have seen here were once covered in soot, it has been washed off many rains ago and now is left in sparkling splendor.
It took me a while to find the names of the family that I knew were here. When I found them, I felt a wave of amazement. On that side of the family, they were the last generation buried here. The next 2 generations are buried in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. I had attended their daughter's funeral with my tiny baby girl in a big fancy cathedral in San Francisco, where she was a regular until she was too old to walk there anymore. Not just one of the children was buried in the Bay but at least 2 of their babies were buried in a sunny world where the grass is dead the bulk of the year. I looked around completely understanding for the first time how hard it is to leave such a place.
Now that I have spent a month here I have found a land where everyone seems to be aware of everyone else. These valleys seem to be a small town atmosphere where everyone can probably find a connection with one another through a few degrees of separation. This is a very tight knit community. It took so much effort for Nanna and Griffith to come away to California, but I can see why some would have to come back. Kimberley, my cousin here, is only a Welshie because her grand came back....he was one of Nanna's brothers who wound up coming home to be with family.
What a different life Kimberley and I have led...and all was based on where our grandparents chose to live.
I thought about the choices they had made and how difficult those choices were at the time. To have had the strength to just live with the cards we are dealt is the big deal we all have to negotiate. Today it is obvious to me that neither choice was the wrong choice. Either way they had a win-win.
Somehow it made my own choices, for today, seem more light.