The Tomb Walker

So when was the last time you wandered about in a local cemetery?

I realize it’s not something that the average person has on their daily ‘to do’ list. But I’d recommend you get around to trying it sometime in the near future. It can be quite therapeutic in an odd sort of way. Certainly does help align your thinking and outlook, especially if you’ve been overwhelmed of late with work, family, or life in general.

I hadn’t done this myself in a few years, until a few weeks ago, when I decided to go try out my new camera at the Shady Grove Cemetery located a few miles from our house. Then, this morning, I was out and about in town running errands, along with trying out a new camera lens at the local town square, when on my way home, I stopped off at one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in this part of the state.

With the temperature already pushing the mid ninety’s at 10 in the morning, I really was oblivious to the heat. Perhaps it was the steady breeze filtering from the south through an array of old pine trees strewn about that kept me comfortable. Or maybe it was walking amongst the ‘tombs’ that helped me forget about my immediate ‘comfort needs’ that can so often be so temporal and shallow.

Strangely, as I walked and read the numerous headstones that varied in style, size, and age, I found myself feeling a tad weepy. It’s not like I was depressed or anything today. I wonder if it had more to do with having presided over so many funerals in the past as a minister; laying a loved one to rest in a final resting spot, surrounded by grieving family members, that just awakened those scenes that I’ve experienced so many times in the past 16 years.

But what strikes me every time I visit a place like this, is being made aware that every parcel of grass and dirt that is marked by a piece of cement with engraving on it…represents a life… lived.

The name you see etched in stone, was somebody’s mother, father, son, daughter, husband, wife. Some lived a very long time. While others, made but a brief appearance in this world before departing before ever really having a chance to start living.

Every name represents a story, a sequence of events and experiences, some happy, some sad, others tragic, or victorious; and probably most often than not, a probable combination of all this range I mention here.

I find myself wondering about the life they lived and were they happy? Did they live a full and productive life?

I find myself wondering how difficult their life might have been, especially the ones who lived and died back during the 1800’s as so many of the tombstones I read today indicated.

It’s easy and captivating for me to stop and imagine what their funeral service was like. Was it raining that day? Did family and friends shiver in a cold winter wind as they said their final good byes or did they sweat and grow dizzy under the relentless Texas heat that can be merciless at this time of the year.

What did the ‘preacher’ say before the dirt filled the hole of their final resting spot? Was anyone even there to bid ‘so long’, or did they live, and die alone?

But then, the question that is hard to escape when being reminded that we will ALL end up in such a place…is ‘what next’? Did they believe in an after life? Had they met and found peace with their creator?

And how do you go through this life with the notion that once you die, that nothing else awaits you?

I suppose that is the saddest thought that comes to mind when strolling amongst such a thought provoking place like a cemetery…is to ponder the question of “Is this all there was?”

Seems like once you end up in such a place, whatever the season or weather may be, that so many of the things we thought were important in this world…cease to carry any significance at all. So then what?

I saw some pretty impressive grave markers today at this cemetery. Towering monuments would be more like it. I suppose some brokenhearted family member felt some comfort in lavishing such a memorial for their departed loved one. But I would suspect it made little difference to the one to whom the monument was erected in honor of.

Then there were the simple stones of concrete that you could easily tread upon if you weren’t careful to watch your step. A simple stone, for what presumably may have been a simple life.

I take comfort, in believing that there is God who keeps record of such things and has a much clearer perspective on our lives than we do; and is even willing to share his views with us.

An eternal perspective.

Our pastor at church has used that term a lot lately…having an ‘eternal’ perspective regarding our lives. That thought…was driven home even more so today, as I strolled peacefully amongst a place that awaits us all.

I’d encourage you to try that sometime soon. It’s not as morbid as it sounds.