Tonight I hope to be in Moylena, among the fields where linen used to bleach.
I am delighted to have been invited to a dinner with surviving members of the Muckamore cricket team which won the Northern Senior Cup 50 years ago. Undoubtedly, we also will be celebrating the club’s return to the top league after a wonderful year-long campaign.
I will be meeting up and craicing with guys I grew up with in that now disappeared tight-knit, linen mill village. They are people whom I have known since childhood. People who know my seed, breed and generation, and likewise me theirs. Put simply, I’m going to where I still call home and back to the bowl I was baked in. It’s a great feeling.
That rootedness in family, childhood friends, and location was what Seamus Heaney’s final homecoming in Bellaghy demonstrated this week in a quite wordless way which overcame denominational or political differences and totally defeated media commentators. A Bellaghy lad, who became a universal colossus in his own art. The inspired wordsmith made his final journey to the place he knew and called home. There was nowhere else in the world where his remains could rest in such peace. No explanation or commentary was required or to anyone who had the slightest clue about his poetry. He was definitely a man of place and time.
Not far beyond the headlines of Heaney’s homecoming, there is something Biblical about a relationship between location and the lives of individuals. Christ, the saviour, was Jesus of Nazareth. His core of followers were fishermen of Galilee. An early convert to his cause declared with pride that he was Paul of Tarsus, “a citizen of no mean city”. But they all called us to travel, following a pathway of faith. Seamus Heaney’s last message to his family tackled the core issue of the final stage of his life’s journey. That stage is an engagement which cannot be postponed when it comes our way.
My simple, but hard fought for, faith points me not just to the bowl I was baked in and the love in that home which nurtured and guided me, but to my ultimate destination – “that city whose builder and ruler is God”. And like countless others when the time comes and I have to leave family and friends, my only consolation is that Christ has gone before to prepare a place for me and for everyone who tried to live out their faith in Him as Saviour. Then you can lay my remains in my native dust, but my soul will be truly liberated.