Finding Life after Death

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 in Faith | 69 comments

As I’ve reflected on Jesus‘ death on the cross, his being raised from the dead, and the meaning of both in our lives, a special memory has kept coming to mind.  It was a time God showed me there really is life after death… not just eternal life in heaven for the one who dies, but abundant life on earth for the one left to live.  The more I journey with God, the more I’m convinced His very heart is to resurrect… to bring beauty out of ashes.

When I was 10 years old, a train collided with a car, and two dear friends of our family were killed.  One was the fun-loving, 38-year-old mother of two young children, and the other was the darling, five-year-old son of other friends.  I still remember their faces–both of them smiling and laughing.  Although precious Eddie was five years my junior, I adored playing with him, and from what others said, he really liked me.  This double loss was sad beyond words, and my heart felt deeply wounded.

But I remember the beauty and peace of the mother’s graveside service.  The setting in a garden-like spot was idyllic.  She died the Wednesday before Mother’s Day, a beautiful time in Colorado.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and once again it was Springtime in the Rockies.  But this time I was the mom, pregnant with my fifth child and facing the surreal task of choosing where to bury my baby.  As many of you know, my Sweet Ben had conditions “incompatible with life,” so I was living every day awaiting his death.  Truthfully, “living” felt much more like “existing”… as others who have walked through grief know, you simply survive day to day, sometimes moment by moment.

I wasn’t happy with any cemetery I visited.  They seemed so… dead.  I wanted Ben to be buried in a place of heavenly beauty, where I’d sense the perfection of where he would be–in Paradise with Jesus.  But such a place didn’t seem to exist… until one day, out of the blue, a memory of that garden-like spot appeared in my mind.  But I’d been just a little girl at that service–I had no idea where I’d been.  Fortunately my mother did, and soon I returned.

The heavily treed cemetery was nestled at the foot of the mountains, which I loved.  Upon entering through an old, iron gate, I immediately felt the intimacy of the beautiful surroundings.  Unfortunately, I learned, there were few burial sites left, and in undesirable locations.  Disappointed, I looked and looked for the gravestone of the mother who had died, but strangely couldn’t find it.

Days later the caretaker called to say he had overlooked a burial site he was very surprised was available.  Upon seeing it, I knew I’d found Ben’s resting place.  I felt I was in my own little Garden of Eden.  There was open space and sunshine to one side and big trees providing shade on the other.  I was profoundly moved and grateful God had saved this site for me–literally for almost two centuries as there are gravestones dating from the 1800s all around.  His provision of this gift lifted me up from my daily darkness and gave me a desperately needed, fresh look at life.  But that was only the beginning.

Some time after Ben’s death–which was also the weekend of Mother’s Day–my kids and I were at his gravesite.  I think it was Joey’s ball that went underneath an old evergreen close by.  I practically had to crawl to get under the thick, hanging branches which fell almost to the ground.  Once under, I couldn’t believe what I saw:  the gravestone with the mother’s name on it.  I was literally steps away from Ben’s.  I simply couldn’t believe God had brought me back to precisely where I’d been almost three decades before.  I felt as if my whole life was in His hands and was struck to my core with how much He cared… with how much He loves.

Beauty out of ashes… life out of death.  Indeed, God resurrects in ways that are “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Years later, as I sit in my beloved “garden” writing these words, I wholeheartedly believe there is ALWAYS hope and new life ahead with God.  Just as He raised Jesus from the dead, God is able to lift us up, too, from ANY situation.  Every new bud of Spring is a beautiful reminder.  “See!  The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.  Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.  The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.  Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me” (Song of Songs 2:11-13).

God extends this invitation of love to each and every one of us.  We need only take Jesus’ hand….

In Christ’s love, and with tulips and cooing doves, I wish you a Happy Resurrection Day!

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