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Meditations in a Cemetery

Silence settles like fog over this cemetery

as I walk amid the graves—

A cold shudder passes over me when we sing,
“You Never Mentioned Him to Me.”

The funeral is over. Family and friends have gone. The echo of songs and sermon has faded. Silence settles like fog over this cemetery as I walk amid the graves. Serious reflections flood my thoughts uninvited. Look at those two headstones side by side. One is inscribed to Susie, a three year old victim of a childhood disease; the other marks the grave of “Granny” who died a few months later at the age of eighty. What solemn reminders of the unannounced visits of the grim reaper. None are exempt. All tread the way to the grave. The dust claims the moldering body; all are penniless.

The influential could not persuade death to pass him by; the rich could not buy another minute. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, …“ That even includes me! It seems so unreal that I must die! The haunting refrain returns — ” As the life of a flower, as a breath or a sigh, so the years glide away, and alas, we must die.”

Look at the inscriptions. All express hope for a resurrection. Doubter’s words are not inscribed on tombstones. Scriptures best express man’s hope. But no doubt some would prefer ‘ever to wake. Many are not prepared; many have been deceived. Resurrection means judgement.

Ah, look at this grave — the plot and plight of the procrastinator. “I am going to come as soon as I get all straightened out.” And my joking barb in reply, “Don’t wait until the undertaker straightens you out.” Somehow I found no humor in the thought when they called to say he was dead.

However, I remember a funeral that was even harder. Let me see.   There is the grave by that big Oak. He was a faithful Christian for years before he quit — said he wasn’t having much fun. He knew his duty and expected to return to the Lord before he died. I guess he died sooner than he expected. What a gamble to lose!

I learned at his funeral of the sorrow of people without hope. The family knew the Bible, and they knew his willful sin. He robbed my sermon of all comfort and his family of all hope. It was so sad!

It was such a contrast to the funerals of the righteous. All lament their death; none doubt their future. It is not difficult to find words of comfort and hope. Even more, righteousness must be consolation to a man on his death bed knowing that life is ebbing away. He could say, like Paul, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…“

Over here lies my friend. He was not a Christian — it may have been my fault. I wanted to say something to him about his soul but never did. I was afraid I might offend him or say the wrong thing. Oh, how I wish I had tried! May God forgive me! A cold shudder passes over me when we sing, “You Never Mentioned Him To Me.”

The sun is setting. I must leave, but I will come again to think. It is strange to learn such important lessons about life in a cemetery. Joe Fitch

Plain Talk 6.1, March 1969.  See:

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