A few months ago my family visited Picardy in northern France. From the cathedral city of Amiens we drove to Albert and entered a rolling countryside so beautiful now but so full of blood and horror almost a century ago. Despite our distance from the First World War, “Somme” still invokes a feeling of dread in the British, images of trenches and mud and mutilated bodies passed to us through a vivid national memory. We were not there but somehow we know it was uniquely awful.
We stopped at the British cemetery-memorial in Pozières to find the name of my wife’s g-grand-uncle, Herbert Kirkby. Herbert was born in Portsmouth, England in 1893 and was killed in action on the 31st of March, 1918 as a member of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade. Like so many others, he has no known grave.
My sons found his name on the memorial.
We paused in remembrance and took a picture which I then texted to my mother-in-law back in England. Within five minutes she replied:
“At the Preston temple doing Herbert’s work.”
Hearts turned to the fathers. I do not know how Herbert died nor how he felt as the life ebbed from his young body, but I can imagine how he might have felt dreadfully alone, abandoned by the world and miles from anything resembling home. Across the miles and years, we felt to tell Herbert that he was remembered to us and not only that, but that we were ready to claim him as our own among the teeming, anonymous masses of the dead. Standing on a sacred bridge of place (the Somme and Preston) and time (1918 and 2010), we cried and rejoiced as one more part of the family of man found its way home, together.
This is the essence of Mormonism: relationships now and eternal, not because they are nice but because they are somehow essential.
|From France 2010|