There are moments in your journey of life when certain lessons that you learn stand out to you like a light bulb switching on. I call them “a-ha!” moments or epiphanies. It’s those times when you finally understand a concept that you’ve heard about, but it strikes your heart in a way that opens your eyes to the truth of that message.
While visiting the Tower of London recently, I had an epiphany regarding ancestors and the past. Before I went to visit this amazing site, I had to admit to an ignorance of what the “Tower” of London really was. I had always pictured a tall, stone tower where traitors, prisoners and even queens were executed. When I actually saw what the Tower of London was, it turned out to be a large edifice resembling a castle or cathedral surrounded by other buildings and a protective wall of ancient stone.
I was awed at the architectural details that stood the test of time and was thrilled to be allowed to explore nooks and crannies of the castle and it’s surroundings. I felt like I had just traveled hundreds of years back in time.
I entered one room that had been decorated with furnishings from the past and was drawn by a small empty enclave with nothing but a bare window looking over the Thames. I leaned against the wall and looked through the old, diamond-pane window at the vista below. I was alone for a moment and the peacefulness of the ancient ambiance soothed me. It was but a moment before the quiet began to speak to me.
My imagination took flight and I saw a woman dressed in royal gowns standing in the same spot and looking out this window contemplating the heavy burdens of her own life. This thought opened the floodgate to my mind. All of a sudden it was if hundreds of years of previous lives flooded my soul. Who else had stood at this window since it had been built? What were their fears, burdens, regrets and joys? Did Anne Boleyn stand here and contemplate her beheading the next day? Did King Henry VIII stand here himself and wonder if he was doing the right thing?
Years of history I had studied in school came alive and I reverently touched the glass wondering who else’s fingers had pressed against it? All of a sudden, history breathed. For a moment, my soul entwined with the lost ones over centuries and I felt the smallness of my own world. Yet at the same time, I felt the connectivity of all souls who experience the same human emotions. It was as if some great inner secret had opened suddenly and broken forth the light upon the recesses of my mind. Were my burdens any greater than those of my ancestors of the past? This need to love and be loved, to be accepted for who you are was a feeling shared by all humans – past and present.
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t known it before, but not like this. History and the people who had lived within these walls, became real to me. It was a beautiful and enlightening moment as I felt the lives of ancestors become a permanent part of my present reality.