Even the Genealogies Mean Something
(Foreword: If this blog is designed as a way for Southeastern’s leadership to talk about our spiritual journeys, then this entry will definitely come from the perspective of “in the middle” of that journey, not looking back on some destination reached… I don’t even dream that I’ve fully processed all that I’m writing about here.)
This last week I had the privilege of having a small part in a wonderful funeral service in Louisville for Jeana Garrison’s sister, Jana Rankin. It was so meaningful to hear from so many different perspectives what an impact her brief life had had in her all-too-brief 42 years. It was an experience that was sad, sobering, encouraging, and challenging all at the same time. As a funeral for a believer should be.
I did not know until maybe the day before the funeral that she was to be buried in Resthaven Cemetery in Louisville. I had already planned, since I was so close, to go from the committal service out to my parents’ for a little while before heading back for class Wednesday. But when I heard where the committal would be, I decided to make another stop. Resthaven is where my grandparents, my father’s parents, are buried.
I had not been to Resthaven at all since the day of my grandmother’s funeral almost ten years ago, and it had been cold and snowy that day, so the committal service was held in a chapel there, not at the actual gravesite. I am ashamed to say I cannot remember the last time before that that I had visited there.
After the committal service for Jana, I drove back deeper into the cemetery. For whatever reason, I thought I could rely on decades’ old memory to find the spot. I did recognize a landmark, a brick tower maybe twenty feet in height, with spaces and openings in its upper reaches for birds to build nests (obviously too cold for birds to be around now). I thought my grandparents’ gravesite was to one side of that tower, but after spending quite a few of my limited minutes wandering through that section to no avail, removing the snow from some of the ground-hugging bronze markers did not reveal the names for which I was searching. I thought memory had simply failed me, and time was drawing short, but on a whim I drove over to a section about as far from the tower in the other direction.
As I pulled around one curve I saw another landmark, a large sundial, which I had not remembered until that moment. It was then, as I slowed the car, that I looked to my left and saw the marker. Even upside down from my vantage point, I could see the name “YORK.”
I turned the car off and just sat for a second or two. Then I opened the door and walked over to the far side of the marker so that it was now “right side up” as I read it.
Perhaps you will think less of me, perhaps not, when I tell you this. Whatever you think of it, it is what happened and it is one of those moments that I would not trade regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. For the next few moments, I just walked around, not really in circles, but not really not in circles, and talked out loud to my grandparents. It was spontaneous, utterly unplanned.
I have been so blessed in my life that I have both my parents’ still living, as well as my father-in-law, and that my grandmother lived to just shy of her 97th birthday and was still basically “herself” to the end. I have been so blessed.
What struck me about those moments was how deeply connected I felt. I am not just an isolated, free-floating entity. I am part of something so much larger, and family is only a part (though a critical part, for sure) of that largeness.
For some reason, I thought of all of those genealogies in the Bible. They are not just lists of barely pronounceable names designed to bore us, inviting us to observe the “pass-over” and just skip to the next chapter. God put them there because they speak of the connection with others that is a huge part of how we are connected to God and to all of his creation.
So much of who we are is tied to, defined by our relationships and how we function in those relationships.
In those relationships, just as in those genealogies in the Bible, there is continuity with people in the midst of God’s ongoing outworking of his purposes. Even if all the people are (like us) not so perfect.
Continuity. In the midst of so much disconnect and disintegration.
Perhaps someday one of my grandchildren will stand over my grave marker. Perhaps he or she will say as I did Wednesday, “Paw Paw, so much has changed since the last time we saw each other.”
Continuity. In the midst of God’s ongoing work of shaping us and saving us.
I’m not sure, yet, of what all those few minutes visiting my grandparents’ gravesite was all about for me. But I do know that I felt so strongly the sense that life is a gift, that life is a blessing, and that none of us is “in this alone.”
It was nice to have a reminder of connections that are (temporarily, awaiting Christ’s return) in the past, but that continue to shape who I am. And I was reminded that I am part of relationships right now where lives are being shaped, mine included, for all eternity.
So I wiped the tears from my cheeks as I walked back to the car, wanting even more than before to drive out to spend some time with still living, wonderful parents, and then later to drive back up here where I knew I’d see my own family as well as my church family.
It was a day that brought glimpses of the past and the present and the future of God’s glorious eternity. It was a day for remembering that it is all in God’s hands, and so, “all will be well.” It was a day of deep blessing and deep joy.