Are you afraid of death?
Well, I can’t say that I have
any great affection for it.
Look below you, my friend.
For 70 years,
I’ve watched the seasons change.
I’ve seen the vibrant life of summer,
the brilliant death of fall…
the silent grave of winter.
And then, I’ve seen
the resurrection of spring
the glorious birth of new life.
And my father and my father’s father
have seen it before me.
Nothing ever dies, my friend.
Prince of Foxes Screenplay, 1949
Prior to my son Larry passing away three years ago I had never spent much time in cemeteries. That of course has changed. Over the past three years I have been a weekly visitor, except when the snow is too thick to get in (one time I got stuck at the gate in the snow making the attempt) to Mount Olivet Cemetery here in Dwight. I have always been struck by the peace there as I talk to my son at his grave site and pray. A train runs along a side of the cemetery, something Larry would have enjoyed, and no doubt his spirit does, as he was fascinated by trains during life. Each season has a special grandeur at the cemetery: spring with its new life, lush summer, brilliant fall, and silent winter. However, without a doubt, the most beautiful time is Memorial Day where the graves of veterans in the cemetery are decorated with flags.
Going to the graves we see veterans who lived to old age and veterans who died young in war. Graves dating from the Civil War and graves dating from recent conflicts. Graves where the sorrow of the loss is dimmed with the passage of time and graves where the sorrow is a fresh wound. All the graves have in common is a small American flag marking them on this day, a sign of respect and love for their service.
Remembering our dead is a tribute to the human capacities for memory and love. It is all too easy to forget our dead in the hurly-burly of life, but it is essential that we do not do so. God loves each man as if there was no other. Each life is worthy of remembrance, for good or for ill. We are not Mayflies that live brief lives and perish. What we are echoes both in time and in eternity and no man’s life or death should be ignored.
In a cemetery we see the panoply of life spread out before us: infants who died at birth to people who died beyond the century mark. Beloved wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, sons and daughters. Graves of the obscure and the famous. Graves that are frequently visited and graves where the loved ones of the departed have long since departed themselves. All alike waiting for the Final Day when their bodies will rejoin their souls when Christ comes to judge all.
My bride and I have plots on each side of our son, we making the decision the week of his death that as we held his hands as a small boy in life, we will do so in death. I think Mount Olivet will be a pleasant place for our bodies to await the coming of Christ. It is close to where our children attended school and close to Lion’s Lake where our family had many enjoyable outings. Memories of good times survive the death of a loved one as does our love. A consoling thought for Memorial Day in this year of grace 2016.