Meanderings of a Minister

On Visiting a Cemetery
October 24, 2013, 3:07 pm
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Just this week I had the privilege to walk with a family through the death of their loved one.  As we stood in the cemetery, I was reminded of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes when he said, “It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.”  (Ecclesiastes 7:2, NASB95)[1]

What did Solomon mean by this?  Good question.  Solomon, in trying to pass along what he had learned as he searched through life pursuing many of the things we call important, wrote his observations down for those that would come after.  He wanted others to be able to avoid some of the mistakes he had made, so he gave them this piece of advice.

In this section of this writings, Solomon was providing contrasts that were meant to capture the attention of those that would listen as his writings were written, so he said it is better to go to a cemetery than to go to a party.  He said it is better to go to someone’s house that is grieving than to go to someone’s house for a birthday party.  What he meant was that going to a cemetery provides some arresting lessons for us as we contemplate our lives and the days we have left.  Below are some of those observations I noted on my most recent visit to a cemetery:

  • I saw the headstone of a set of twins and their birth date and death date was the same.  This reminded me that any day we have is a gift from God and should be used serving Him and making Him known.
  • I saw the headstone of a baby that was born and lived three days and then died.  This reminded me of how precious all life is to God.  Like David in 2 Samuel, I believe this child is safely in the arms of Jesus.  This little girl was precious to God without doing anything on her own.
  • I saw the headstone of a seventy five year old man that was born in 1832.  As I did the math, I realized he was of an appropriate age to have served in the Civil War.  This reminded me of the price of freedom and how God values all people regardless of skin color.  It also reminded me to be thankful for the many families that have lost loved ones in service to our nation.  I thank God for their sacrifices so that I have the freedom to even write this article.
  • I saw a bench that was in the place of a headstone and thought this was a neat way to decorate a grave, but also thought about the sorrow of those that come and sit in the cemetery missing their loved ones instead of living the life they still have left.  Some are lost in their grief and have stopped living.  Others will use the bench to pause for a moment and appreciate their loved one and God for giving them the time with them.
  • I saw many headstones of couples where one has passed and the other is still living and it caused me to stop and think about how blessed I am to have the time with my wife that I have right now.  It makes me want to thank God for His provision in my life.
  • I had several headstones pointed out to me for various family members of the deceased we were there to honor and it reminded me of the heritage of those in my family that passed the faith on to me.

As I left the cemetery, I was reminded of what Solomon was trying to tell his audience.  It is better to go to a place of mourning than to a house of feasting because it causes me to stop, evaluate my life, thank God, appreciate my family, and leave with a sense of wanting to live.

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995.


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