My grandmother died on Dec 13, 2005. She died in the hospital surrounded by some of the people most dear to her. She quietly breathed her last breath right as we were praying for her and entrusting her into the safe and secure promises of God. That time together was sweet and peaceful. But it was also so jarring. I couldn’t talk with my grandmother any more. I couldn’t share stories with her anymore. I wouldn’t hear her voice again. Something that happened in a moment had such a finality to it.
What words can ease the pain or overcome the finality? But gospel hope shows up at surprising times.
After the burial service for my grandmother, my wife and I started talking to the funeral director. He noticed that I took a picture of my grandfather’s tombstone. (I wanted a picture of the headstone, because “Porter” was written on it, and I wanted to be reminded that one day this would be my end.) On the stone is written, not only my last name, but also a verse from 1 Cor 15.52 “In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet...the dead shall be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” Hope. Hope on a tombstone. The grave is not the end.
Resurrection. Raised imperishable. Changed by Jesus.
As we talked, the funeral director gave more hope. He told us that all the bodies in Scandinavian Cemetery are buried with heads pointed to the west, and faces looking to the east. He said they do that in hope of resurrection, facing the sunrise of the dawn of the last day. That when Jesus returns, the first thing resurrected eyes will see is Jesus.
Gives hope for today, because it gives hope even in a cemetery.