Posts Tagged ‘cemetery’

Arlington CemeteryMy sister, who taught in minority schools in Dallas for almost 30 years, contributed a word to our vocabulary a few years ago, the word funeralize, as in We have been funeralizing a lot of people lately.

Sherrylee and I have funeralized two wonderful people in the last couple of weeks, one a 90 year-old family friend and yesterday, one of our closest friends from the twenty-two years we lived in Edmond, OK.

It would not be out of place to eulogize both of these wonderful saints, but in some ways they were very different. Paul was a church leader, a successful businessman, a strong personality, and healthy for 90 year–until the week before he died. Marlene was usually in the background, was part of a failed marriage—although her re-marriage in her last decade was blessed—and had a life full of serious—life-threatening—health issues. She was never healthy as an adult, walked with a cane the last year or so, and her death at age 62 was a release from a long-broken body.

Did you know that German cemeteries are kept liked parks!  Many are attached to churches, but even city cemeteries are usually beautiful places. Each grave is tended by either the family or by professional groundskeepers paid for by the family. Not only is this care required out of respect for the dead, but because it is not uncommon to use cemeteries as a place for a Sunday afternoon walk. I’ve heard German Christians talk about the perspective one gets by walking among the graves.

I thought about that yesterday in Oklahoma as we walked to the burial plot for Marlene. I read tombstone epitaphs for people who died fifty years ago, for a young women, for a child, for veterans, for people probably forgotten. Walking among these markers reminds us of the reality of our own short visit.

We lived in Germany just 25 years after WWII, so everyone we knew had lived during the war and lost someone. I wonder if young Germans still walk in the cemeteries?

It doesn’t sound very American, does it!  Even Decoration Day, the official day for visiting family graves and perhaps leaving at least artificial flowers, is just a relic of rural communities or of people who are very old.

When I was in high school at Fort Worth Christian, people called on our chorus to provide singers for their family member’s funeral, so I have sung at dozens if not a hundred funerals. As a boy, I hated the sadness and thought it was a kind of punishment ritual for the living.  That was youthful ignorance.

The Apostle Paul said, “We do not grieve as others who have no hope!” (I Thessalonians 4:13). Christians–above all others–understand funerals and cemeteries to be just markers, markers written not with permanent ink, but with pencil that will simply be erased by the Day of the Lord.

The sadness of funerals still makes me cry. It’s the sting of death—for which we were not created, but which we must experience.  But death has no victory.

“Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was” (Romans 6:5).

If we Americans don’t walk in cemeteries to gain perspective, let’s at least not be afraid of funerals. We have to somehow come to believe—really believe–what John revealed: “Happy are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are happy indeed . . . “ (Revelation 14:13)

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