Judith and I stood out there in the yard looking up at those boys for some time while we tried to determine just what it was we were experiencing. The boys continued their play. No one appeared to be guarding or watching them. In fact, we saw no one at all but them.. nor did we hear any noises at all. It was as though we were watching them through a window. Judith was feeling braver than I, as she suggested that we venture inside. We whispered our thoughts while walking though the heavy, newly polished arched doors. Why we bothered to whisper, I do not fathom for it seemed the place was empty save us and those boys. Perhaps it was out of some instinctive cautious habit that we kept our voices low and our steps carefully slow.
I was the one on edge now, as something felt very strange about this situation. If it was a time slip and we had truly arrived in the past, this place should be bustling and filled with people wandering about. If it were a vision or memory, then the same should be true. I could not recall ever a time of the Yorks being here that the entire place should be empty. No, this was something much different… something I had no experience in dealing with.
As I tried to search my mind for anything would give me a clue, Judith led me towards the chapel. She opened the door as quietly as possible and stepped in. On entering, all of her attempts at silence were forgotten as she gasped loudly in amazement at the cathedral like quality with which the chapel had been built. No expense had ever been spared in the creation of this chapel so many centuries ago. Judith tugged at my arm and pulled me into a seat at the back. This seating had once been reserved for the Royal family members. Judith sat there and exclaimed her praise of this place. “Eleanor, this is beautiful… it takes my breath away and leaves me without words.”
I looked around the chapel, seeing nothing that I had not seen countless times before in my life time. I failed to see what she could find so awe inspiring about this relatively small and for the most part, unadorned chapel. I also felt a need to remind her of appropriate behavior, even if there was no one else here. I whispered to her, “Judith, I must advise you to keep your voice down… We are in a church, a place of quiet worship and contemplation… also a place in which one’s words can be heard quite clearly throughout.” I looked at her with some thought then added, “I was not aware that you were of such religious nature to take so much appreciation of these surroundings.”
Judith looked up at the balconies, then forward to the altar dias. She closed her eyes, sighed and smiled as she whispered, “It has nothing to do with organized religion but all to do with inner spirituality, with that place of contemplation you spoke of. I’m not one for structured, organized religion and never haved cared much about attending church for the sake of attending if you understand what I mean. But, when I enter places like this, I can feel the presence of a higher power within it.”
I sat there with her and thought about her words. I had never thought of it like that. I had always come into these places of worship out of a sense of duty, looked at it as a chore to be endured. As she spoke, I began to see this so often dreaded time and place in a new light.
She explained, “I can come to these ancient places of worship and not hear the Damning , Condemning speeches or sermons being preached but the inner voices and prayers of those who believed in something so devoutly and profoundly that they would endure those words in order to find some sort of peace and hope in a place such as this.” She looked at me and went on, “Have you never looked upon something while sitting here, tuning out the ever pious words being thrown at you, and just felt an inner peace. When the preachings stopped and a chorus sang, when the sunlight sparkled and glittered though the stained glass, did you never feel as though something touched your soul? Did you never venture in here when no one else was here, just to feel that again?”
She held my hand, squeezed it softly, “It’s not about the religion, about which is wrong or right to believe in, it’s about the inner spirit and the basic need to believe in something, to have faith and hope…”
She looked at me and her voice was soft, “That is what we need right now Eleanor, it never hurts to take a few moments to stop our thoughts and ask for some guidance from what ever higher power you believe in.”
I held her hand, bowed my head and closed my eyes. I did something that I seldom recalled doing in the past. I let down my guarded walls and asked those powers above to help, to show me the way, to guide me toward whatever purpose I was meant for right now.
As I sat there, I felt a calm come over me and voice within speaking to me… telling me to let go of the fear. It was a lilting soft whispering trailing through my mind. The voice was female, and sounded so vaguely familiar to me, as though I had heard it before but knew not where or when. I felt arms wrapped around me, comforting me and that voice crooning to me in an much ancient language that, though I understood it not all, I remembered hearing at some time before. I had some flash of vision… of being held tightly and rocked by this woman. It was such a distant memory that it was but a momentary glimpse of her looking down at me. Her bronze, flame sparked hair flowing wildly around us both… her pale transculent sking glowing and the most delicate transparent wings fluttering behind her. Crystal like tears dropped from her face to mine from eyes of such a sapphire blue that they sparkled.
The image disappeared but I was left with the deepest memory of a woman who called me daughter. I was an infant held in her arms as she wept and offered a whispered vow, “I shall never truly leave you my Ainor, my daughter, I shall be ever in your heart watching over you. Should you be in need, you have but to seek me in your heart, your soul and I shall come to you.”
I suddenly opened my eyes thinking for a moment to find her here with us. She was not, but her voice remained in my mind, “Hush my darling girl and I shall be with you through this.”
I sat up straighter, filled with an inner peace and joy. Judith stared at me in some surprise, “Eleanor, you are glowing like there is some light inside of you. You look different… you look content. Have you managed to find some inspiration here?”
I nodded, not quite sure if I should share my experience, but too much amazed not to describe it to her. “Yes, I have found my inspiration, and I have found my guiding light.” I shed some tears as I told her of this woman in my heart, my soul who was with me now to guide me through this unknown. “For the first time in my life, I feel not alone. It tis different from John’s constant attempts to reassure me. It is a feeling that I can not explain in any words.”
Judith nodded, “You don’t have to explain it Eleanor, it’s a part of you that you have searched for and found, that is all that’s important.”
We got up and went to leave the chapel, thinking that our time here had been well spent. Standing out in the hall, we began to hear faint echoes, traces of voices around us. They were muffled and distant but were the first sounds we had heard since coming here so we quited ourselves and listened closely to try to determine where they were coming from. We edged back towards the chapel door near the altar and a voice became slightly clearer. Judith pushed the door open just enough for us to peer in. I held my breath as I looked in and saw the High bishop that I knew from my childhood knelt in prayer at the altar. I could not make out his halted words other than his muttterings of “God Forgive us all.”