We move soon.
We’ve lived in this house for almost twenty years — a quarter of a lifetime — the longest George or I have lived anywhere. And a lot of living has happened here. Our youngest entered second grade shortly after we came to this town, and now he’s married with a child of his own.
We move soon, and I find myself observing more, trying to imprint this place on memory. Instead of breezing past familiar landmarks, I pay attention to detail, and sometimes I’m surprised by how much I’ve failed to see.
Sunday morning on our way to church, George drove past a graveyard we’ve passed a thousand times before, but this time my eyes caressed the contour of the land and the arrangement of the stones. I thought of the real people with real stories who are buried there, and I saw ghostly fragments of romances, marriages, childbirth, laughter, sickness, scandal, and shame. I imagined joys embraced and hardships endured — these once beating hearts with hopes and dreams, the cherished and the betrayed, the comforted and the disconsolate, all gone now. A parade of humanity with its marching bands and waving banners, all bidding for momentary attention from the cheering crowds — now silent. And what remains?
Then I noticed it. Marble headstones glowed golden, reflecting the sun’s early rays, and it hit me. All the tombstones faced east. Toward the rising.
Was it mere coincidence? I’ve visited enough cemeteries in my life to know that tombstones can face every which way, but still, I wanted to know.
After church I googled “tombstones facing east” and discovered that it wasn’t by chance. A licensed funeral director explained that, according to what he learned in mortuary school, tombstones often face east, “Because when the second coming of Jesus is supposed to happen….he is to come from the East. So when the person rises from the grave he will rise to see Jesus.”
He will rise to see Jesus. Yes! But not for the first time.
Before I even got home from church, I checked twitter on my phone and learned that Sara Frankl died Saturday night. Sara, who suffered much without complaint, pouring her life into those she loved, refusing self-pity, choosing joy, and leading the way for many to live awake, aware, and grateful for simple gifts. She loved God and loved people, and she left an imperishable legacy, because it’s written on human hearts and etched on the eternal souls of her friends.
Sara isn’t dead. She’s alive forever more, and though her body remains here, a shell of dust to rise incorruptible at Christ’s return (such mysteries!), even now she is free, breathing a fairer air, laughing with the fullness of foretasted joy. She’s absent from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), where there are no tears, no sorrow, no pain, but rather all things new, whole, understood. She’s tasting the harvest, and every raindrop that ever fell makes perfect sense now.
And I think of that graveyard again, its tombstones ablaze, a reminder of the real. Death is the hardest good-bye, but our hope in Christ promises us it is temporary.
We move soon, away from a community that has loved us well for almost twenty years. A quarter of a lifetime. But what’s that to eternity? So I will think of Sara and choose joy as I say the hard good-byes, because I know they’re temporary.
When I miss this place, I will choose to remember the real. This move takes us one step closer to Home.
I’ll remember, and I will turn my face toward the rising.
Giving thanks in community for:
#247 – #264
Sara’s joy, once for all
Heaven, a sure promise
peace that passes understanding
eternal purposes, firmly established
God everywhere, always speaking
Mallory Ruth’s safe arrival
the wonder of new life
packing and remembering