I stood in the cemetery with my friend, her family and all those who knew and loved her husband. The American flag draped over the casket; a symbol of this man’s 33 years of military service. The 21 Gun salute fired. The sound of the trumpet playing taps echoing in the air. Tears streaming down my face as six flags (one for his parents, his wife, and each of his four children) was carefully folded and presented to his family members.
As I stood in that cemetery, I was reminded once again of this very long season when I looked down and to the left of where Jim was being buried was my friend Rachel’s headstone. The last time I had been in Grand Forks, I was there for Rachel’s funeral. A poignant moment as two of my beloved friends now laid in the dirt. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This season has been an extremely long season of loss. It started almost a year ago with the deaths of Maggie and Justin. Then in November, a beloved high school teacher took her final breath as she succumbed to the reality of cancer. Then in March, my friend Ben lost his fight with cancer followed shortly by our seminary professor Ralph. Then in July Rachel, followed shortly by Stephanie and then Jim. After each death, it seemed I would finally catch my breath and then that breath would be taken away when I would learn about a new death.
And I find myself wondering when it will end. When will this season of life and death take a break for awhile for me? I find myself continually crying out “How long, Oh Lord?” It is all too much! There are too many children who have had to say goodbye to a parent way too soon. There is too much grief. Too much pain! Too much death. Simply too much!!
Yet in the midst of the too much, I see glimmers of hope. I see my friends living their lives with a strength that amazes me. I see glimmers of hope in little children who are also grieving and reminding me of the resurrection promises. A tree is planted in a friend’s honor. Life does come again. Mourning does eventually turn to dancing.
I watch as the season slowly turns from Summer to Fall. The leaves changing color once again. The weather turning much cooler as we put on sweaters instead of shorts and tshirts. Fields finally being harvested. It is a sure sign that another season has come and another one is coming. And then I remember that seasons sometimes last longer than we want them to. But that a new season always comes again.
So trusting in the resurrection promises, I am trusting that this season of death; this season of too much; this season of loss will come to an end soon. In the words of Clarence W. Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave but it won’t stay there.” In other words, we experience Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday throughout the year but Easter always comes! New life emerges out of death. Hope returns and we are once again able to proclaim in the Gospel promises that sometimes get lost when we cannot see the end to the longest seasons of loss and grief.
Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart and Kristin and Porch Stories.