My mother died a few days ago. Last week, I had written about how in the midst of the walk with those who transition from this life to the next, there are sometimes “no words.” Her death was as peaceful as I had prayed for and she was surrounded by love.
So the now deep journey of grief and gratitude begins. In a little over a week, as much of her biological family and extended family friends will gather to celebrate her life and spirit. The week of Thanksgiving was chosen, because the plan had been made for our family to have Thanksgiving together with Mom there with us. When it became clear that she would not live that long, we still wanted to gather, this time adding a celebration of her life and gather around a table as she so often encouraged us to do.
I firmly believe that my mother made a journey from this life to a life I can not see, but can imagine being filled with Light, with Love and with laughter. What she left behind was not just grieving friends and family but a body that was worn out and tired. This body which housed her unique and unrepeatable spirit was buried in remembered earth.
I don’t know where I first heard the term “remembered earth.” It was quoted in a worship service and it caught my attention. I tried to find the quote (google is wonderful thing) but could not. I found a PBS series, and a series of novels, but not the quote I was seeking. I have a vague memory of the phrase being used around cemeteries.
My mom was buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Garden Plain, Kansas. This particular ground has a deep and long history with my family. My great grandfather (my mother’s mother’s father) homesteaded just south of the cemetery. At some point, he deeded the cemetery ground to the City of Garden Plain for two cemeteries side by side, a Protestant and Roman Catholic. When I was young those cemeteries were divided by a fence (probably so there would be no fraternizing between the two religious communities in death as there had certainly NOT in life). Times change, the fence has been gone a couple decades, but the stones, the memories, and the bodies of those who have been loved and lost still remain.
She is buried in the remembered earth next to my stepfather, who was the only father I really ever knew. He was only the grandfather my children remember; the one who helped them “build” things with wood and nails and paint and walk down by the river to feed the geese. After her committal service, I and some other members of my family, walked, talked and remembered the stories my grandparents had told of those who were buried there the stones that mattered for their touching legacies and my children walked and remembered grandpa and grandma.
When we gather again, the great story of my mother’s life will be told. We will celebrate her unique and unrepeatable spirit, in grace and gratitude give thanks for her 86 years among us. We will be together with many who loved her to mourn and more importantly to experience God’s grace in the midst of this journey through grief.
As family, we will gather to laugh over her foibles, point out her characteristics that reside in all of us and share stories that only those who knew her the longest can understand. In the grief, the gratitude and grace I have received will be deeply present. In the days come, not only will the cemetery be remembered earth, but the places where her memory is most easily remembered and in the various things she left behind. I am thankful and remain graced to serve.