Sermon in a Graveyard

This is a true story, written exactly as it happened to me in the “morning” of my mothering years.  It was published once, and then again and again.  It seemed to touch a chord in many women’s hearts.  And so, I offer it once again, in the “autumn” of my mothering because the power of thanksgiving is always timely.

     The morning had dawned sunny and clear in Western Michigan.  But as the day wore on, the incessant bickering of my three children (ages 10-16) began to gnaw at my already limited patience.  It was August, and school started in 3 weeks.  By 11 a.m., they had annoyed me to the point that I had to get away–something I didn’t often do.  I jumped in the car and headed for the country.  A few turns down dirt roads and I began to decompress.   I slowed the car, and noticed a tiny, shaded graveyard I had never seen, even though it was just a few miles from home.  I stopped the car and got out, strolling aimlessly at first among the ancient tombstones.

A slight breeze stirred through the pines, and my edginess began to subside.     I had asked the Lord to “please do something” as I left the house, but I really didn’t think He would.  At this point, I wasn’t even sure He cared.

Jamming my hands in my pockets, I meandered, noticing the dates on the grave markers, but listless.  Then, one caught my eye, and I stopped, kneeling to read the inscription.  The stone was so old and weatherbeaten I could hardly make out the words.  I traced them with my finger.  “Children of C. and A. Arndt,” it read.

Stepping to the side of the 4-sided marker, I read, “Charley, Died June 6, 1883, aged 5 years.”

Another side read, “Ricke, Died May 22, 1883, aged 6 years, 19 ds”.

Two children in a month!  I exclaimed aloud.  Those poor parents.

I was in for yet another surprise as I walked to the fourth side of the simple tombstone and read:

“Francis, Died May 18, 1883, aged 3 years, 4 mos, 15 ds.”

At this I sat down in the solitary place and sorrowed for the unknown parents of almost 100 years ago.  They had tasted death three times in one month.  An epidemic, no doubt.

I wondered if the parents of those children had ever had days like mine.  I wondered if they regretted every impatient, angry word after their children died.  I would, I knew, and I was sure they had.

I felt that if these parents were alive and able to talk with me now they would urge me to go back home and love my children well.  I imagined them saying, “Learn to laugh with your children.”  And they would no doubt remind me that life on earth is so very short after all, and it must be lived abundantly.

And if they knew the Lord, I’m sure they would point out God’s commands to give thanks in everything–and to rejoice evermore.  Perhaps they would even tell me to live each day with my family as if it were my last.  Some day, I knew, would indeed be the last.

But those parents didn’t need to come back to tell me such things.  Their children’s tombstone had already done so.  And I had listened.

Linda Andersen

What is it that you do to gain perspective for the ones you love?

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1 Comment

  1. Linda, thank you for sharing this story. I”m reminded of the week following the death of my older brother. My Mother, grieving his loss, remembered the argument she and my brother had as he left the house the morning he died. She was saddened that the last words they shared were out of anger instead of love. She made it her mission to instill in my sister and I that we should never let a day go by without telling the ones we love that “we love them”. So thank you for your story that has reminded me of that. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to do just that.

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