White Stone Markers

The ground soggy and the grass still wet from the recent showers, I regretted wearing sandals. I sloshed through the long rows searching for the name. Every marker bears a number, but I wanted to find the surname–his name and the name I used for almost 22 years of my life and the name I gave to my daughter as a reminder of her heritage. I wanted to find his name, my name, not some cold, impersonal numerical code.  After systematically filing through dozens of the hundreds of rows in the correct section of the cemetery, and getting desperate with the search, I finally decided I needed to look for the number. Crap. Why can’t I just find his name? Our name? I wondered. It’s hard enough to be here, among the identical tombs searching for my very unique dad but now to reduce finding his grave to matching numbers? Annoyed and sad, I plodded on with my pilgrimage.

At that moment of frustration, standing amid the big stone dominoes, the dreary, indisputable fact hit me once again.  We all end up here–in the graveyard.  We all die and leave behind people who {hopefully} want to search among the tombstones to pay homage to our memory. We all finish our time on earth six-feet under with a stone marker. It really doesn’t matter what kind of casket or vault we’re in or whether it’s a name or number graven into the stone. Rich, poor, smart, slow, beautiful, not-so-beautiful, kind, jerk, generous, stingy, loving, hateful–everyone of our earthly bodies end up in the ground.We’re all equal at the graveyard, under the dirt. Dust to Dust. Not an original or profound thought, I know, but a poignant one all the same.

Of course, I finally found his white marker. I found my dad’s grave. I found the spot that means nothing to the thousands of visitors that travel to Fort Snelling each year, the spot that birds and airplanes fly over and never notice, the spot where my dad’s earthly shell resides, the spot that means something to us, his grieving family. I found my dad’s grave and I cried. I missed his smile and laugh and smell and the feel of his hand in mine. I missed his moody, funny, forever-curious kindred spirit.

The Minnesota wind blowing through me, I knelt in the mushy ground, risking certain grass stains on my white jeans, to take a picture. Small, insignificant, sad and alone in this sea of white stones, I searched for an angle that reflected my mood.

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I lingered among the dead, feeling a strange comfort in the quiet and reverence. I again made my way between the graves but instead of frantically searching, now I studied the names and dates and words forever written in the stone. Most were generic. “Husband Father Grandfather”, “Soars with Eagles”, “Loving Brother”, and “Devoted Wife” were common.  A precious few hinted at something more personal: “Alive in Christ”, “Gracious”, “Wise Guide”, “Gentle Leader”, “Kind Lady”, “She Loved Jesus”. Loitering in the rows, imagining the lives represented by the stark white stones, I found it difficult to leave. As I meandered, all the “big” and usual questions about life and death and eternity stewed in my small brain and eventually reduced to two thoughts: I desperately miss my dad and whatever earthly life I have is only significant in light of Eternity.

White Stone Markers

If you want to delve and question a bit more on Eternity, several Bible verses came to mind as I grave-walked. The passages and links are below:

Ecclesiastes 3–especially verse 11

Matthew 6:19-21 

Isaiah 55: 1-3

1 Corinthians 15: 50-58 

 

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