Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Little Reflecting

My Grandma and Grandpa Cox - 1930s
Another Memorial Day celebrated and gone. As we visited the first cemetery to decorate a young 18 year-old's grave, then headed to another one to decorate my father and grandparents' graves - I couldn't help but be reminded of the brevity of this thing called "life." We passed the graves of two babies - our friends' children who were both only months old when they passed on. Yet there were my Grandpa Cox was blessed with over 90 years of life before his death. It's human nature to question why some lives are cut so short and others are long and full. Are we all born into some grand game of chance?  I'm not much of a believer in chance - but I do believe that no matter the span of our lifetime here on this revolving rock, it is a gift from God. More than anything, it's a gift to each and every person touched during that lifetime, no matter its length. And in the grand scheme of things - the history of all mankind - even a 100 year-old lifetime is merely a breath, a heartbeat, a wisp of wind when compared to all of eternity.

That fact is never more noticeable than in a cemetery. Strange as it may be, I've always enjoyed wandering around the older portions of the cemeteries, where the stones are weathered and beaten and sometimes broken. There are rarely any flowers here - any who would have known the dearly departed are long-since departed themselves. Thus, I squint and stoop and rub and do my best to read the gravestones. In my small, minuscule way I feel as if I'm honoring this life - recognizing the fact that this was a living, breathing, human being full of hopes and dreams, not unlike myself.  Yet here, merely a century later, sometimes less than half a century later, that life is already forgotten.

For instance - those three brothers, all dead before the age of 20 and with graves marked simply by a small square of concrete in the ground and names scrawled in a rough hand. What's their story? An even bigger question for me as a mother - what was their parents' story? Obviously too poor to purchase "professional" headstones to mark their sons' resting places. Did they feel shame in that fact? Or did they take loving pride in kneeling there on that hallowed ground and creating their own hand-crafted memorials to their sons? How did they go through the remainder of their lives - full of sorrow and bitterness? Did they let their brokenness take hold of their lives, or were they able to move on - scarred, but with hope for a future eternity?  I'm sure I think and ponder amongst those old graves a bit too much - and yet, who else will reflect? I always feel that it's the least I can do - to pause for a moment, read a name, a couple of dates, and realize that yes, life is short and that person died a long time ago - but he also lived. And that life was a blessing to many people.

"While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal."  II Cor. 4:18

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