Monday, 23 March 2009

The Tomb that Speaks to the Living

In the quiet of Westminster Abbey in London, tucked away among the final resting places of generals, kings and statesmen is the grave of a young woman named Mary Beaufoy. I found this memorial years ago while exploring the Abbey and the memory of it, along with the photographs I took on that day, have remained with me ever since.
The reason? This grave speaks to the living.
Mary Beaufoy was the only daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Beaufoy, of Guyscliffe, near Warwick, and the Hon. Charlotte Lane, eldest daughter of George Lord Viscount Lansborough. Standing there in the Abbey's stillness, looking at this tomb, it isn't too hard to imagine how the hopes and dreams of Sir Henry and Lady Charlotte were bound up in this one precious child. She would have been their laughter, their joy, and the quiet confidence that one day their title and lineage would pass to another. But Mary died on July 12, 1705, aged just 28, and their hopes died with her.
Such was the impact of this tragedy, and yet through her grief and loss Lady Charlotte resolved that her daughter's death would not be in vain. The tomb she commissioned at the hand of the famous woodcarver Grinling Gibbons bears a striking message, one which stopped me in my tracks all those years ago and one which I pray will speak to you too.
This is what it says:
"Reader! whoever thou art, let the sight of this tomb imprint on thy mind that young and old, without distinction, leave this world; and therefore fail not to secure the next."

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