I’ve been asked by several people, why having a headstone placed was such an important part of my grief journey. After all, they are not there; they are in the presence of God. As a parent that has lost a child (I dislike that phrase “lost”, she’s not lost, but that is a blog post for another day!), all I can say that for me (and our journeys are all different) it is the last act that you can do for them here on this earth and as a parent you want to take care of them even in their death.
So, yesterday marked an important day on this journey. Sam placed the headstone for Elizabeth Anne, Fischer Phillip, Benjamin Samuel and Hayes William.
And so God laid on my heart a story in the Bible that I think illustrates why this was so important. It is from the book of Joshua. To provide some context: Moses has died, the Israelites have wandered for 40 years and Joshua is preparing to lead them across the Jordan and into Jericho. Here is the story from Joshua Chapter 4 (The Message), I have added emphasis:
1-3 When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”
4-7 Joshua called out the twelve men whom he selected from the People of Israel, one man from each tribe. Joshua directed them, “Cross to the middle of the Jordan and take your place in front of the Chest of God, your God. Each of you heft a stone to your shoulder, a stone for each of the tribes of the People of Israel, so you’ll have something later to mark the occasion. When your children ask you, ‘What are these stones to you?’ you’ll say, ‘The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Chest of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan—stopped in its tracks. These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel.’”
8-9 The People of Israel did exactly as Joshua commanded: They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan—a stone for each of the twelve tribes, just as God had instructed Joshua—carried them across with them to the camp, and set them down there. Joshua set up the twelve stones taken from the middle of the Jordan that had marked the place where the priests who carried the Chest of the Covenant had stood. They are still there today.
19-22 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. They set up camp at The Gilgal (The Circle) to the east of Jericho. Joshua erected a monument at The Gilgal, using the twelve stones that they had taken from the Jordan. And then he told the People of Israel, “In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What are these stones doing here?’ tell your children this: ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry ground.’
23-24 “Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan’s waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed. This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always.”
God instructs his children to build a memorial….He wants them to remember their journey, how far they have come and who brought them through the difficult waters. He commands them to pick up the stones from the MIDDLE of the Jordan. I find that interesting. Not the stones on the shore at the beginning with all the excitement of a new journey or the shore after they arrive on the other side celebrating their accomplishment…no, he instructs Joshua to do it smack dab in the middle just when things are usually the most difficult. He also wants to have a reminder to tell their children about the memorial and to always remember the glory and strength of the Lord himself.
And so what does this scripture say to me today? That even today memorials, markers and headstones are important. They stand as testaments to the journeys of life, the crossing of those difficult waters and events in life. They are a witness to our loved ones earthly lives, how their life and death impacted us, and just like the children of Israel, memorials are a place to take our children and grandchildren and others to tell the stories of our loved ones and remember…..always remember “how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always.” This headstone represents a tragic event for sure, but it also is one to honor, remember, and to be a witness for generations to come that we were blessed to share a life with three amazing people that called me Mom and Nana. As a grieving mom, both of those days carved in the granite are personally significant. They illustrate the day God brought her to my arms and the day she returned to His. And because of that, my life was and will be forever changed.
My appreciation to Sam for doing a beautiful job in the selection of her headstone. Simple and elegant just like Elizabeth Anne. The cross piercing through the middle just as it does in our lives. Her superheroes who meant the world to her surround her…… one on her right, one on her left, the one she was carrying and all of them in the presence of the True Superhero…….
As sure as I breathe, 2.5 years later, there is beauty from the ashes. May my life always testify “how strong God’s rescuing hand is” because my Lord IS mighty…….Amen.
I hope if you are in the Salado area, you will go by and sit on her bench and spend some time in the peaceful serenity. If you go, as you approach the cemetery from the Salado downtown area, enter the last gate (the furthest one from the flag poles). She is closer to the back of the cemetery but you can see her headstone from your car. It is on the left.
Here is the headstone with the autumn flowers I placed yesterday:
Here is a picture from my car as a reference if you go:
I also brought the marble markers I had made for the 1st anniversary home and placed them in our flowerbeds in our new home. Peace, honor, remembrance, serenity and God’s presence.
In closing, don’t be afraid to build markers out of those difficult storms of life. God wants us to remember them always and his faithfulness to see us through them!