Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Clothes (11/02/12)
TITLE: How Final is a Cemetery?
By Noel Mitaxa
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Ornate marble headstones may declare the importance of the person laid to rest beneath them, or is it to assuage the guilt of those left, to compensate for thoughtless words or actions? For who speaks ill of the dead?
Smaller polished stones jut up in regimented rows from manicured lawns: some with pictures of the lost loved one; some with plastic flowers inserted into small wide-mesh panels.
On verdant expanses of lawn you’ll find small plaques set into simple square slabs that sit flat, or at very slight angles.
Set into brick screens that are embroidered with low shrubs and flower beds are the nameplates of those whose ashes are inserted behind them.
The oblique angles of more ancient monuments, with cracked parapets and rusted rails stand in mute evidence of ghoulish vandalism; though natural ground movement or subsidence can also plead guilty to causing similar damage, without a trace of malice or selectivity.
Taking time to survey the epitaphs – or even the lifespans of those they honour – will stir thoughts of lives well-lived; or tragically cut short through violence, stupidity, suicide, childhood epidemics or through still-birth.
There’s something quietly final about a cemetery.
Most of the time…
Bethany is abuzz. Even the cemetery is stirring, as the crowd stands in this place of finality. They are silent out of respect for two weeping sisters who were trying to comfort each other in the loss of their beloved brother, grief that was now four days old but still not easing...
“Where was he when they needed him?” A sullen murmur seeps out of the anger at the thought of a good man gone too soon, but what can anyone say? How can words bring him back?
Even the sisters take turns to tell their friend, in a tearful mix of faint hope and desperate disappointment, “If you’d been here, we wouldn’t have lost him!”
Their friend is weeping too, as he briefly scans the crowd. Then, in a tone that doesn’t brook any questions, he yells: “Pull back the stone!”
“What? He’s been gone too long for that! After four days in this heat the smell will be too much!” But despite those with too much eye – or nose - for detail, a few strong brave souls put their backs to the stone while two others lever a strong length of timber into position.
Muscles strain, veins stand out on sweating arms and temples, faces flush with the effort, steady breaths become shorter, louder and more frequent, until the stone gives up its hold.
The crowd gasps as the visitor strides up to the gaping blackness and yells again: “Lazarus! Come out!”
Their stunned silence is palpable. Who could imagine that cloth scuffing in dust could be so audible? But they all hear it.
Then they see their friend shuffling so awkwardly out of the darkness back towards them and back into their lives.
Amidst their cheering, the visitor tells them: “Get him out of those grave clothes, and let him go!”
There’s something not so quietly final about that cemetery.
Author’s note - How many of God’s people can relate the details of their rebirth, but they are still in their graveclothes, awaiting their arrival in heaven – without launching themselves into the freedom of a fulfilling life that nourishes those around them with the freshness of God’s grace?
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