For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I made a random turn…into the cemetery. The other evening Judy and I were out on a mission. One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container. Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious. It was peach and it was peachy. I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next. So we returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly. As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.
Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there. First, though, on the left was the newly rededicated “Little Arlington.” It was dusk and the lights were on and I was so impressed with the great work the crew had done. One of those was our own Jacob Palmer. Great job, Jacob. But I was also impressed with what it represented. Sacrifice. Ultimate sacrifice. The kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war. I love what is often said, “All gave some but some gave all.” For that, I was moved and I was grateful.
Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention. It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.” He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away. He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom. I was moved and I was grateful.
In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there. Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone and it symbolized two lives joined into one with one story. And for both the story was concluded. Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long awaited reunion. One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage. So many of those story writers had touched our lives. I was moved and I was grateful.
There were also stones of tragedy. There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver. Several of stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident. Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado. Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran. One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II. So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions. I was moved and I was grateful.
As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together. Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together. The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there. On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked. The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone. In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves. I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew. Once it was the funeral director and me. No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.
“Wait,” you say. “How can you be grateful?” Well the reason is simple. Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there. He is the unseen attendee of every funeral. For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord Who wishes all to believe but knows not all will. But He is there. He is always there. When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him. I am moved and I am grateful.
When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery. It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do. You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful. Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time. Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well. But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him. The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end. Once again I am moved and I am grateful.
Many see the cemetery and think death. For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life. You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life. So trust in Him and rest in Him. For He has all of this.