Running With the Dead

Mom and Dad’s headstone was still the same. As were my memories. The tears were new, though. Amy read a sweet reflection on death as an answer to Christ’s prayer in John 17. The grave is an altar of incense.

A fresh grave was dug nearby. I pray that family is comforted by Jesus. In the distance a family released balloons. I pray they will see their child soon.

And there was our three-year-old son, running around like it was an amusement park we reserved for him. Weaving in and out of headstones to evade the lion chasing him. Jumping over them like an Olympian on his way to gold. Breaking off an end-around like it was the Super Bowl.

“Dad! Watch this!”
“One more, Dad!”
“Ready, set . . . GOOOO!”
“Jesse want flower.”

He didn’t want to leave.

Like most parents, mine taught me to revere cemeteries. Never walk over the body. Whisper. Be still. Dust off the tombstone. Remove and replace faded flowers. Irreverence is indeed offputting among the dead.

And there was Jesse treating this burial ground like a playground.

My instincts kicked in. I was about to uncork the lecture of his life. (I’m not sure lectures are becoming of cemeteries, either.) But I couldn’t do it. Suddenly, I didn’t see an irreverent rebel dancing on the dead. I saw a child in eschatological play. Without knowing it he solemnized the occasion with joy.

I sobbed and reminisced. He laughed and hoped. Maybe he was the theologian here and I the novice. Death surrounded him and he lived. He Lived. For this toddler death had no victory. It had no sting. It didn’t matter to him he’d never met Papa Max.

I stood over the grave of my parents hating all that is wrong with cancer and dementia. All that is wrong with a teenager burying his mom. All that is wrong with a middle-ager watching his dad lose his mind. Meanwhile, Jesse was showing me all that is right about the gospel.

So I worshiped. The tears were different.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thess 4.13).

Christ followers visit cemeteries differently than those who aren’t. At least they’d better. Jesse doesn’t know much Bible, much less about resurrection, but it seems he’s already getting the picture.

He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord Yahweh will wipe tears away from all faces, and he will remove the reproach of his people from all the earth; for Yahweh has spoken (Is 25.8).

Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people'” (Ezek 37.12-13).

Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (Jn 5.28-29).

And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them” (Rev 14.13).

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mk 10.14). I took Jesse to the cemetery. Before I could hinder him Jesse took me to the Kingdom. We went to visit two full tombs and left reminded they’re all but empty.

We won’t always let Jesse run roughshod in the cemetery. Jesus wept in a cemetery, too. There will plenty of time for that lecture. But at least for today we let The Lion chase Jesse and the whisper became a roar (Rev 10.3).