The Year of Sorrow

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The Year of Sorrow- AS XXX

Written by Rhiannon Redwulf, January 27, 2019

A.S. 30 (1995-6) was the year of sorrows for Ansteorra. In a time when most of us were young, it was a surprise when Death began to stalk our land. Over a dozen of our kith and kin were gone by the end of the year. There were so many burials, that if you ask any one of us, you will get a different number. Indeed, the year began early and finished late for many of us. There were too many deaths that year for any one person to stand at all the gravesides. So know that what follows is my own memory of the Year of Sorrows — an idiosyncratic account of grief by someone who was living in the far north of our kingdom in the Shire of Mooneschadowe.

In the early part of A.S. XXX, a beloved family moved from the Shire of Mooneschadowe. HL Treschen (Teresa) von Asselen and Lord Talen Gustaf von Marienburg moved with their nearly two-year old son, Alex, to the far north-eastern corner of Ansteorra. While they were still unpacking their boxes, the child woke early from a nap and opened a door latch, that his parents did not know he could work. In just a few minutes, Alex had wandered away and drowned in a pool of water at a neighbor’s.

A horrible tragedy. At Alex’s wake, the day before the funeral mass, we sat looking at the tiny white coffin. And I thought that I had never been to a sadder memorial. Nothing more horrifying than seeing such a small coffin, filled with a life cut so very short. Nothing more horrifying than seeing parents mourn the loss of their baby son.

Later in the year, we gathered for Mooneschadowe’s Guardian Tournament. It was an unusually wet, cool September day. The Saturday tournament was part way finished, when we received the news that Baroness Caitlin Anna ni Seanain of Namron and her husband, Baron Pepin de Moronis of Namron, had been involved in a car accident on the way to our event. Trapped in the vehicle, Pepin watched his wife die, knowing that she wanted to live, and that there was nothing he could do.

The event simply stopped while we all gathered to cry. Weeping, I remembered the year before, when I had found Caitlin on the bench outside the feasthall. We were both up much earlier than the rest of the campsite. I sat down beside her as the sky was pink and gold, and she turned to me and said, "Isn’t this a glorious morning?" And that was all I could think of, that such a light-hearted soul was gone. Her family was overwhelmed at the enormous number of us who came to her wake. So many people stood and spoke. Hearing Pepin tore my heart. The day of Guardian was so rainy and foul, he had suggested that they stay home and not travel. But Caitlin responded, “We love Mooneschadowe, we cannot stay home.” And indeed, they had long cherished our Shire and had always been good to us. She was buried in her garb—as one family member explained—she said she was more comfortable in it than anything else she owned. And I thought, this is the worst. To stand by a coffin of someone who died trying to bring us good cheer. A bright cheerful woman, who has left a grieving husband behind.

As the year wore on, there was a tally of more death, some nearer, some farther — the Master woodcrafter, Edward d’Orleans of Wiesenfeuer, Lady Kendra Kenmare of Northkeep who had fed us all by her own hand, and many others. I did not stand at those gravesides, so it is left to others to talk about those days in the Year of Sorrow.

The Baron and Baroness of Wiesenfeuer, Subodai Khasar and Arafel Annwn of Caerleon, lent their presence to many of these burials. A long, doleful year, standing by coffins and gravesides, standing with friends in grief. At the end of these, Subodai’s heart broke, and he could not bear his own suffering and those around him.

We gathered one last time to bury the good baron. His lady wife had placed the baronial coronet on his brow before the coffin was sealed, and there it lies in his grave with him. As we stood beside the grave that grey, cold day, the wind dried our tears in cold bursts as we listened to Master William Blackfox play “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes. Master Lucais stepped forward to the edge of the grave and told a parable of a ship. He told us that we were like people who were bidding farewell to someone dear to us. Taking them down to the harbor and watching them board a ship, and then watching the ship out of sight. All we know is that we must say farewell. But on the other shore, old friends are waiting. And as they watch, the first of them sees the tip of a white sail, and sings out, “Here she comes! Here she comes!” For all partings will become a welcome when we reach that shore. When Lucais finished speaking, a flock of white birds rose and flew out of sight. And we cried out until our voices were hoarse, “Vivat! Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!”

The truth of sorrow is that each death is the worst, each grave the saddest. Moving from death to death that year, there was no numbness, no way to be accustomed to loss and grief. We could only cling to the living, honor the dead, and keep our steady march through that year of overwhelming sorrow.

Lucais’ Ship Song

On a sad gray day, stands a ship in the bay,
Waiting to take our loved ones away.
As she sails from our sight on that day,
We’ll cry, “There she goes. She’s away.”

But, on another shore, stand old friends
Who watch the blue horizons.
When they see the main sail, blown by the wind,
They cry, “Here she comes, here she comes.”

On that other shore stands a great golden hall,
A fire is lit, the boards are laid.
All around, standing friends line the hall,
Cups in hand, a toast to be made.

For, on another shore, stand old friends
Who watch the blue horizons.
When they see the main sail, blown by the wind,
They cry, “Here she comes, here she comes.”

For all of us, the white ship sails,
Taking us from our kith and our kin.
But remember this as she sails,
Each parting, a welcome will become.

For, on another shore, stand old friends
Who watch the blue horizons.
When they see the main sail, blown by the wind,
They cry, “Here she comes, here she comes.”

  • Score for the tune as a PDF here: [1]
  • MP3 of a "teaching" recording (Listen to this one to learn the tune): [2]
  • MP3 of me singing with the harp, but you can hear tears in my voice, so it is not as good for learning the tune. (I could not attend Terec's funeral, so I recorded this.) [3]