April 9, 2017

The Grave and the Cross: Part 1 of 2

This is a somber week as we recall the events leading up to the betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ our Lord.

I am doing a very unusual Easter posting this year, but I think it carries the message and the hope of the Cross and the Resurrection in a very real way that reminds us of many of the truths of the Easter season.

For those who are new here, you may not know the personal family story below, but understand that it is part of the message of eternal hope Easter holds for those who belong to Jesus Christ. 

Friday, June 21, 2013 
I had a long talk with my long distance sister, Donna, whose 62nd birthday would be that Sunday. Randy and I were making plans for Donna and Dewayne to spend a few days with us in a chalet in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the fall. We talked for an hour late Friday evening and the last thing I said to her was, "Happy Birthday, Sis, I love you!” She said, “I love you too, Sis!” 

Less than 48 hours later 

Sunday, June 23, 2013 
My phone rang sometime between 4 and 5 pm. It was Donna’s daughter’s name and number on my phone screen. As I picked up my phone to answer I thought to myself, I bet she wants to go to Gatlinburg with us in the fall, that’s why she is calling.

I was wrong. I don’t remember much of what she said because who can believe someone who calls and says, “Mom and Dad were in a car crash this afternoon on the way home from going out to eat for her birthday.” Pause/silence/then crying… “They both died before help arrived.”

All I remember is handing the phone to my husband while I uncontrollably screamed and sobbed in disbelief and shock. 

March 2017 
Randy and I made a trip to Kentucky the end of March to see some of my family and to visit the cemetery where Donna and Dewayne are laid to rest. I haven’t been back since their funeral in 2013, until just a few weeks ago.

The winding road up the hillside to the small family cemetery was still a wintry scene of brown fields and bare trees. We left behind our early spring in Texas for a part of the country whose only signs of spring were a few blooming yellow forsythia bushes, redbud and dogwood trees peaking with their spring flowers before the emergence of green leaves. 

When you enter the gate and look straight ahead, there is a tall cross and small white bench overlooking the countryside and farms below. Even though it still looked wintry, the scene truly took my breath away—it is so beautiful up there.

The last time I was there, was the graveside service following the funeral the day before in the town they lived two hours away. I know you can imagine how difficult that day was. I can still remember two side by side caskets placed above the freshly dug hole in the ground they would soon be lowered into.

But time has passed and grief turned to healing in God’s most gracious way, and in March 2017 standing on the top of the hill with a cross looking down on their headstone, I felt peace.  

I felt beauty and serenity from heaven above wrap around me like a warm spring breeze as the late afternoon sun lit up the pretty yellow flower arrangement someone must have very recently placed on their headstone, as if they knew I was coming.

As I read the words GONE HOME inscribed above their names, I was reminded they knew where they were going when their earthly life was finished. They knew where they were going and they were ready to go - because of the Cross.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Part 2 will be posted Wednesday.