Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone or an obituary in a newspaper. — Billy Sunday
My dad hadn’t been back to his father’s grave in England for ages. The stone etched with the name “Stanley Briscoe” had fallen; the weeds had grown over the withered stone and my father’s face reflected a pensive disappointment. We huffed and heaved as we righted the slab and pulled weeds out of the sacred ground.
The graves of those who have gone before us conjure up a strange mixture of emotions and thoughts. The feelings are intense; the thoughts vital. They wash over us—like tsunamis crashing down on the soul. One wave comes from the sea of faith and hope; another wave swells up from an ocean of loss. Then a third wave hits: The blatant reality that one day it’ll be us. My body will die. My life will end.
I wish I had known my grandfather. The day we stood beside the grave my dad filled in some of the gaps with tales of the man:
- Keeping the family grocery store open through the War and the Depression.
- A man of his word… a man of the Word.
- A lay preacher who spoke what he knew each weekend in a corrugated metal building they called “The Tin Church.”
Nothing fancy here. Just a simple faith that knew the value of community and honesty, the value of the truth, the value of investing life in something worth dying for.
I thought a lot about “Stanley Briscoe,” about the dirt and dust beneath my feet. Would he be as concerned as us about the condition of his grave? I think not. He sounded like the kind of man who knew that the grave was not the period on his life… it was merely a comma.
The grave: That’s reality—both the good news and the bad news. In between birth and the casket, there are an unknown number of days that God gives us to live for His purposes in this physical body we have been given. Some day it will be changed into a perfect body, but for now it is wearing out. Yet, it continually waits to be used for eternal purposes.
Soon enough the dust of my body, of your body, will mix with the soil beneath a tilting headstone. Will the cemetery be kept up? Will weeds grow there too? Does it matter?
Perhaps it is best to let the gravestone lay.
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” (Psalm 39:4-5)