With the kids at VBS this week, I'm having a little fun in the mornings. Today, I decided to take my camera and go to Oakwood Cemetery. I've always been fascinated by cemeteries, especially old ones. The simplest reason is because they are peaceful and I find beauty in the old headstones.
There's more to it than that, however. As I walk along, reading the names and dates, it's excites my imagination. There are entire lives connected to those names. I like to imagine what those lives contained. Some of the lives were short and others long.
Today, as I walked along, I read each name out loud, imagining that it might be the first time that person's name had been spoken aloud in decades. Even though I was at the cemetery for an hour, I didn't make it through many graves.
I felt compelled to decipher every word on each stone that I came to. Some were very easy to read, but many of the older stones were worn down and covered in moss. I spent quite a while working on one grave in particular.
It was the grave of a young girl and there was an unusually long epitaph at the bottom of the stone. It was extremely hard to read, but I felt an almost compulsive need to figure out what it said. Someone had loved this child and felt these words important enough to put at her resting place!
I even tore out the first page from the book I had in my purse, because I had no other paper, and did a few pencil rubbings. It took several minutes (and several ant bites and burrs in my shoes), but I finally figured it out.
On not only this grave, but all the ones I looked at today, I was particularly interested in the words chosen to remember the lives represented. I'm sure I'm not the only one who pauses, now and then, to consider what epitaph my family will choose after I am gone.
As I turned to leave, I spotted a chunk of granite on the path. It had plainly broken away from one of the nearby headstones. It was just an edge piece, containing no designs or words, so I picked it up and carried it with me.
It seems a fitting reminder that one day, this life will be over. I will be put in the ground, with a stone above my head. My life summarized in a name, two dates, and a few well-chosen words. Within a couple of generations, no one will visit my grave or tell stories of my life.
Within a few more generations, my name will be forgotten. In 100 years, my stone will also begin to crumble. The prospect of death has never bothered me as much as the idea of being forgotten. As though I never existed at all.
However, this is where hope enters the picture. As much as I liked the idea of remembering names and lives from the past, there was no magic in speaking the names aloud and it was not up to me to keep their memory alive because they were never forgotten!
My life will end, my story will most likely be forgotten on earth. But it's after death that life really begins. I will move from life on earth to eternal life. From pain and brokenness to complete freedom and unencumbered joy.
Eternity is where our stories will not be forgotten because they will never end! Every step we take on earth should be seen in the light of eternity. Consider what you devote your time and energy to. Is it something that will pass away when your body does?
Or is it something that will last for eternity?
"For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures." (Psalm 16:11)
"Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt." (Daniel 12:2)
"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
- - - - -
For some of the more interesting and/or sweet inscriptions, see below.
|BUDDED ON EARTH|
TO BLOOM IN HEAVEN
|Gone but not forgotten|
|To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die|
|LOVE SHALL BIND US FOREVER|
|Weep not Father and Children,|
for me, for I am waiting in glory
|Aged 19 yrs 2 mo.|
& 12 days.
|I just thought this one was so pretty!|
(especially for the time period)
|Beneath this stone in|
soft repose is laid a
mother's dearest pride
- - - - -
(I placed the flower there.
This is the one I obsessed over.)
|"After lifes fitful fever, she sleeps well."|
- - -
Of such is the kingdom of Heaven.
|Thou art gone little Agnes|
Sweet child of our love.
From earth's fairy(?) strand
To bright mansions above.
|This one was odd...|
- - - - -
This sign X was on his forehead
This star * was over him
"He tried to be his brothers
keeper and failed
And hid himself under the name of
THE LONE PALM TREE"
|Never before have I seen a headstone that said, "See Other Side"!|
To be fair, there was more written on the back side of the stone.