Today was a beautiful day here in New England. We took advantage of the sun and unseasonably warm weather to explore a local cemetery. I actually enjoy visiting cemeteries. I find them to be such peaceful places. Also, as a history buff, I enjoy looking at older stones and uncovering the stories that they have to share. Today’s journey took us to a cemetery right in our hometown to search for some of my husband’s relatives’ gravesites. He has been researching both his and my genealogy for a while now, a task made much easier through the use of internet resources. It has been a fascinating exploration for both of us and a gift to both our children and our parents.
Searching through the cemetery today was like looking for a needle in a haystack. There were no headstones — only plaques on the ground. It was a painstaking process to brush the leaves off of each stone so that we could read the names, searching for one that might be familiar. We only looked through one section. Amazingly, we actually did find my husband’s great-grandparents. He was so excited to find the burial place of these people he had never met! He took a picture of our children next to the stone.
This search for our ancestors only leaves me wanting to know more. We have pages and pages of information — names and dates and places of birth for people going back to the 1600s, yet that is all we know. It is amazing to think that if any one of these people wasn’t in this listing, my husband and I and our children would not be here. It took that particular combination of genes and parental influence to create each one of us. Good or bad, these people have contributed to who we are. They each played a part in God’s plan. Yet, we know so little. They lived and breathed and worked and loved and raised their children. Their lives mattered, yet their stories are lost forever.
Walking through cemeteries also always reminds me of my own impending death. This week’s Gospel (Mark 13:24-32) speaks of the end of time: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” The same holds true for our own personal deaths. None of us knows the day or hour that will be our last. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. All we have is today to make the most of. How we choose to use that gift of time is of vital importance.
As I wiped the leaves off of those grave markers today, I knew that many of those people had not been thought of in years. They had long since gone to their eternal destinations. I offered up a silent prayer for their souls. I know that one hundred years from now, I, too, will have been forgotten. To this world, I will be just a name and dates on a gravestone. Yet, like those that came before me, I, too, am part of God’s plan, made to know, love, and serve Him. I pray to fulfill that role well and to make the most of the time that He has given me.