Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Cross (as in the Cross of Christ) (08/17/06)
- TITLE: Cross Purpose
By Marita Vandertogt
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I come out here sometimes, when I want to remember her. I’ll stand on the small patch of ground, and look at the headstone, shiny pink grey marble in the afternoon sun. “Absent from the body, but present with the Lord.” That’s what the inscription says, in black scrolled letters. It’s the verse the pastor helped us pick out in the middle of all the blurry funeral arrangements, so many years ago.
I come out here, but I don’t know what to say to her, so I sit, and listen for bird songs, and wait to feel the wind on my face, or the warm sun. Her spot is close to the giant wooden cross they erected at the edge of the cemetery almost 30 years ago. The excitement when it was paved into the ground, was as big as any circus that came through town. Mostly because it could be seen from the highway that passes by this place, a testimony to drivers as they make their way along the road, this giant plus sign in the horizon.
My momma and grandma took me with them the day it was finished, to the dedication ceremony. I stood between them listening to the pastor say some words, my cold young fingers tucked into both of their big warm hands as the large black structure loomed against the cool afternoon grey sky. I was too young to understand the words he spoke, or the hymn we sang afterward. When it was all over, we walked away, leaving it standing, tall and alone. But for some reason, it made me feel safe, like my momma’s hand.
Because it sits on a hill, and is close enough to the downtown, they put lights around it, red and green changing lights at Christmas time. So even in the black night, it can be seen from almost any part of town. In the summer, there’s big white floodlights, shining up against it, the big wooden arms still holding strong. I’d watch it from my bedroom window, holding firm against the imposing changes.
But I come up here sometimes, surrounded by the marble headstones, when I want to think about her, and sometimes I talk to her from my spot on the hillside. And I remind her of the afternoon we came out when the giant cross was erected. And that I understand that now too. Why she wiped tears from her eyes when dedication hymn was sung.
I know she can’t hear me. I know she’s not lying under the ground. I know that because of the tall black cross that casts its shadow on the ground, and on my face. There’s no Jesus on it. It’s as empty as her coffin will be someday. It’s just me and its giant outstretched arms, reaching to the sky, that makes this place a promise, and not a graveyard. Someday, I’ll be looking at it from the Son side, like my momma.
But until then, I come here, when I want to remember her.
When I want to be reminded.
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