We left the graveyard today with the reminder that the grave is not the end. It is merely the beginning. Again, we were reminded that life will go on – and that death is as much a reality of life as is birth.
We need these reminders and these times to help us recognize our own mortality. We also need them to help solidify our faith.
Dave’s uncle Rob spent his last years with a heart that functioned at a fraction of its intended use. He didn’t complain, but kept doing what he could. Last week, that heart gave out and he went Home to be with his Saviour.
He left a wife of 61 years, 6 children, 29 grandchildren and 45 great-grandchildren. When he got to Heaven, he was reunited with two grandsons, a granddaughter, and a great-grandson. He also had to be delighted to see his parents, two sisters, two brothers and a son-in-law who had arrived in Heaven years before.
Six young men carried the casket holding the body of their grandfather from the church to the cemetery. At the graveside, the committal service was held.
There was music, and there were tears. There was scripture and there was prayer.
Finally, it was time to lower the body into the ground, to return “dust to dust”.
This family doesn’t walk away from the grave until everything is in order. They stay until it’s over – and the job is complete.
This brings closure and healing.
That is why we didn’t walk away at the end of the service. That is why we stayed.
The pallbearers moved back to the open grave and placed the casket into the vault.
They placed the lid on the vault and worked as a team to lower the body of the man who had been their grandfather and friend.
One by one, they picked up shovels and began to shovel soil into the grave.
Solemnly, soberly, we watched.
We cried, but not without hope. We sang, but not without tears.
As shovel after shovel of soil was deposited on top of the casket, we sang hymns of consolation, peace and hope for those of us remaining here as survivors. We sang hymns of victory, joy and the reunion we know this deceased child of God is experiencing in the presence of his Savior.
Uncle Rob’s son stepped into the grave and began tamping the soil so it would be packed tightly.
We sang about the Rock of Ages, the place where we hide in times like this. The place we go to get our strength.
Shovel after shovel, and song after song.
Great-grandsons, nephews, granddaughters and great-granddaughters took turns, and a nephew stepped into the grave to continue tamping.
One shovel load at a time. Others stepped forward and took their turn in this act of honor and respect for this man they had known so well.
The tamping continued as the songs were sung.
We sang because we could for we know that death is not the end.
For the soul who dies in Christ, death is just the beginning of eternal life!
As we sang about meeting each other “in that Home above,” we wept.
We held babies who cried.
We cajoled squirming children.
We hugged and held, and whispered, and we sang.
Little ones watched and pondered.
As shovel upon shovel was dumped into the grave, we sang about the surety of Jesus Christ while everything else is sinking sand.
Aunt Cretora watched as the body of her Rob was covered with dirt.
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7.
We stayed at that grave until it was completely covered and the sod was replaced on the top.
Shovel by shovel, then piece by piece, the grave was filled and covered.
We sang until the job was finished,
until every last piece of sod was in its place.
We sang, “I’m pressing on the upward way . . . ” Yes, we are still pressing on.
When you’ve walked with Jesus and experienced His care; when you’ve buried three grandchildren, one great-grandchild and a son-in-law, you know the journey and the pain.
You know that you will come out of this okay because your faith is solid, certain, and true.
Aunt Cretora will be okay because her faith is sure.
We know that same grave will open one day in response to the triumphant shout of our Lord Jesus as He returns for His own.
It won’t be opened by backhoe or by shovel. It will open miraculously.
On that day, there will be no more sorrow, no tears, no parting, and no more pain.
Our songs will be joyful and triumphant.
We’ll be shouting Hallelujah! as Jesus wipes away every single tear from our eyes.
Photo Credits: Lauda Hartman Harmon, granddaughter.
Aren’t We Having Fun Dying?! is a book about Mom Slabach, who was Uncle Rob’s sister. It’s the story about her response to dying from cancer.