The afternoon couldn’t have been more perfect. We were laying on a blanket, looking up at the
accommodating arms of a massive oak tree selectively filtering the sun, its healthy moss hanging from above
in subtle green and gray hues, the tree’s shadows dancing about in the soft breeze. Serene, peaceful, and
no bugs in flight targeting us– a tribute to the Florida coastal environment. The only occasional disturbance
was the sound of a tractor mower somewhere across the expanse of the VA Hospital cemetery.
All grave markers were at ground level, hidden from the panoramic view of green grass
and towering trees, gently hovering about the perimeters.
Vince and I had time to kill between appointments, a rare commodity, and took the opportunity to relax, as
opposed to hitting one of the local malls or whatever else was available. Lying there, relaxing, exploring the
book of Hosea, my mind reverted to a similar experience well over 50 years ago, when my father and I went
to visit my grandmother Lydiard’s apartment in Roslindale, a Boston suburb, only to find her not home. This
resulted in our spending a good part of the day in a nearby cemetery, pretty much doing the same thing as
this day so many years later. It was so long ago, and because I was probably not even 12 years old, I can
barely recall the incident, much less what my father looked like in his younger days. The only thing that rings
true is that I was content to be with him in that way on that day, and now all these years later, lying next to my
partner Vince, I was experiencing the same familiarity. Life really does come full circle.
Wandering about the lawn and looking down at the flat markers until I was fully attentive and near depressed,
there were a couple of things which stood out. Most of the veterans had a life span from 65-80, although
some regrettably less. The majority of the markers indicated that the veterans had served in WW II or Korea,
with a few newcomers from Viet Nam starting to show up in the mix. Many of the comments on the markers
read “beloved husband”, “beloved parent”, “beloved friend”. There were also a few more self-absorbed ones
which read “I did it my way”, or similar.
One marker stood out like an exclamation mark above all the rest. It was a joint husband and wife plot, and it
read “at home with the Lord” – still testifying from the grave to Christ’s resurrecting power and the hope of
every believer. Having filled my head with words of the prophet Hosea just moments before, this verse stood
out - Hosea 14:9 “The ways of the Lord are right, the righteous walk in them”. This couple had known this
truth, and sought to remind anyone of it who might glance down at their inscription, for untold decades
to come, possibly centuries.
There will come a day when I will reunite with my earthly father in the glorious dimension which lies ahead,
and I will again remember what he looked like all those years ago. The negative part of reliving an
experience like this, over 50 years apart, is that there were men and women buried beneath my feet whose
life spans weren’t even as long as my 50 year memory. The positive part, is that God gave me this
experience twice. I, too, choose to be like this one couple, not self-serving or defiant,
but walking in the ways of the Lord.