Last Saturday, the girls and I packed up for a day trip to Campobello, SC in order to attend a family reunion. I remember going to this same plot of Morrow Family farm land as a child to celebrate many Easter Sundays. It’s quiet, open, and since it is nestled in the foothills, the mountains are ever before you.
I was happy to oblige and attend this gathering; they are good, cheerful people who love their fried chicken, creamy casseroles, and sweet tea. But, I had another incentive to travel that day. 3 miles from the farm is where we laid my grandmother to rest 2 1/2 years ago, and I had not been back since that beautiful fall Saturday in 2008.
I left the reunion by late afternoon and headed to the cemetery on our way out-of-town. Some parts of the drive seemed familiar and with other parts, I felt sure I had lost my way.
Being so distracted by making the proper turns, I was caught off guard by my tears as I drove up the hill that led into the heart of Evergreen. I let them flow freely though. I miss her, and she was worth my tears of remembrance.
It is always interesting to see how children respond to their parents grief. I am not sure much else can make them feel more vulnerable and unsure. But, my kids knew that my “Memaw” was more like a parent to me and understood my heart being pierced by the loss and separation that death produces.
I gave my girls permission to stay in the van, but being team players, they wanted to help me find the family plot. I knew the general direction, but it can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I was thankful the weather was so lovely as I quietly stepped over names and dates I never knew. This place is a book of stories, I thought to myself.
Young men who died in war. Veterans who came home to see many more decades. Husbands whose wives were still living out their days. Children who died too young. Babies.
Being so lost in thought, I came up on it before I was prepared.
It is difficult to put words to being stunned by something you set out to see. But, when I saw her name etched in the plot beside her husband who died 6 weeks after I was born, I broke down.
My girls pointed and sweetly said, “Mom, we’re going to go sit on that bench over there.” I nodded so thankful for them at that moment.
Grief is so strange. It can be like an unruly toddler. You never know when it will come to you. You may call on tears for years and they just won’t obey. And then at other times, they are so present that they follow you around like a shadow.
I sat down at my grandmother’s grave and tried to take it all in. I looked at her dates laid out like the first and last chapter in the book of her life. I was overwhelmed with so many stories.
Things I had not thought about in years. It was difficult to accept her as old so there was much of the early years that got shelved in my memory towards the end.
Staring at her name, I was thankful for her imperfect love of me. Her home was a haven, and I wept with all that was in me for the part she played in the story of my life.
I took in the beauty of the mountains that surrounded me and thought of the lines to my friend Matt Auten’s song, NewFoundLand. He was kind enough to come and sing it when we had her burial service. I thought it fitting since it is a song about our first five minutes in Heaven.
Singing Silence, Laughing loneliness,
Sweet joy spilling on the mountain,
Spring is springing and I am smiling.
Grace lies before me like a New Found Land.
Casting off the remnants of these dead man’s garments
now I stand to breathe morning we were meant for
Further up and in with the rising wind
I look into the eyes of Him we died to live for
Come look into the eyes of Him we died to live for…
I got up and called my girls over. They were timid, but had no reason to fear. I smiled at them at gave and them a hug. As we walked, we chatted about how difficult it can be to spend time in a cemetery. My oldest stopped at the foot of a baby’s grave who had only lived a day.
“It’s so sad, Mom,” she agonized.
“I know, honey. It’s not meant to be this way. We say that death is a natural part of life, and it is in its inevitability. But we were not designed to feel such loss. It’s why grief is real because there is a severing in the soul when someone we are connected to dies.“
I looked at them both and said, “But for us, those of us in Christ, this place is not the end. It’s more of a beginning. The beginning of Our Great Story where all things are made new and whole and clean.”
I was not trying to be trite. It is not a band-aid or wishful thinking.
Being in Christ is a life-preserver and the plot of my life.
“Glory to Jesus, Ancient and Strong
Giver of love and the theme of my Song.
Glory to Jesus, Ancient and Strong
Come to your people and carry us home.”
Andrew Peterson; Behold the Lamb of God.