Much more to lives than etched epithets

Published 7:12 am Wednesday, February 21, 2024

By Les Ferguson, Jr.

I’m not a fan of cemeteries and graveyards. I get their purpose. I understand why they are essential. At this point in my life, beloved family members rest in three Mississippi towns. 

Because tombs are not places of comfort or peace for me, I rarely visit. I know that the loved ones buried in those hallowed grounds are not there. I know that their earthly remains are just that. But even then, I find the entire reality of death and dying to be a thing of anger and frustration. 

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I get angry at unfulfilled promises. I hurt with the pain of loss. In some situations, the unfairness of it all is beyond comprehension. And if you’ve ever had to handle death certificates, closing accounts and otherwise finalizing the affairs of a life that ended too soon, you know precisely why the business of dying is complex and challenging. 

During my years of ministry, I’ve worked with good, kind, and compassionate mortuary folks. I know it is a business, but at the same time, it is a much-needed service. In what can be a thankless job, those good folks step in when we are at our worst. 

But back to cemeteries and graveyards. When you walk through and read the epithets etched in granite, you know there is so much more to the stories of the lives represented there. I have no idea what might be on my tombstone one day.

Maybe it’ll say I was a faithful husband, a good father or even an exceptional minister. I hope it will be many years before someone makes that judgment about my life. 

In the meantime, I’m tired of death and dying. One of my oldest friends died a little over a year ago. We are coming up this week on the first death anniversary of a brother-in-law, who has been my friend for almost 40 years. My mom passed away last month. I’ve helped bury a beloved friend and another sweet man from our church this month of February. 

Death is no respecter of persons; it comes for us all. We could morbidly end this column here, but our reality in Jesus is quite different.

Easter is coming quickly. Christians all over the world will wonder anew at the resurrection of Christ. Indeed, his defeat of death ushers in an entirely new reality.

Instead of death being the end, it is just a transition or passage into life as we’ve never lived before. 

Yes, I hate death. I hate the loss of those I love and hold dear. But death is not the end; to the contrary, it is a glorious new beginning in the Lord!

”But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

(1 Corinthians 15:57 CSB)