As is true every Memorial Day, we visited Rosehill Cemetery. Eleven of our loved ones are buried there, the first in 1911, 100 years ago. And eight empty graves lie waiting, a troublesome thought.
Mom’s ancestors didn’t enjoy cemetery visits, but Dad’s family made it a tradition, particularly on Memorial Day. In the early 1900’s they toted picnic fixings to Rosehill for lunch and watched a parade of period-dressed Civil War characters. Canons were fired and actors played the parts of soldiers, complete with grieving widows dressed in black.
Today as we assembled around the Johnson family plot where Nate is also buried, we heard the canons fire on the other side of the cemetery near the Civil War graves. But our focus was on what had occurred to cause one of our empty graves to be recently filled.
Nate’s burial took place 18 months ago, and I wasn’t sure how it would feel to revisit his grave. This would be our first look at his headstone, made to match that of my Dad’s family a few feet away. Birgitta and I arrived first, and when we saw the marker, we couldn’t hold back our tears. Last year, six months after Nate’s death, our Rosehill visit was traumatic, but there was no gravestone then, and it didn’t impact us then like it did today.
Mary, our excellent family historian, brought along her Memorial Day binder with its documents, photos and clippings, all in reference to the relatives buried at Rosehill. Lars read an old blog post written two weeks after Nate died, reminding us aloud that God gives us victory over death through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15)
As we continued to talk about our ancestors and mostly about Nate, the sorrow of missing my husband welled up and spilled over. I couldn’t stop crying. But as Nate told me when I cried during his cancer, “Crying lets out some of the sadness.” And out it poured.
Every widow is lifted when others miss their man. Our family grouping, though small this year, was a special bunch whose shared tears meant a great deal to me.
Days pile into years, and we all know the empty graves will bring us back to Rosehill with other sad stories of loss. But Scripture details the togetherness of our future on the other side of death. My nephew shared a thought about the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) It happened just minutes before Jesus raised his good friend Lazarus from the dead.
Andrew told us of the original translation of the word “wept” and of Jesus’ intense distress over death’s presence in our world. Although he will one day kill death permanently, for now we’ll all experience it and continue to suffer deeply when those we love are taken.
Waiting for Christ’s ultimate victory over death isn’t easy, but God keeps his every promise. One future day we’ll watch his prediction come true as he puts an end to all grave scenes in graveyards.
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:26)