My wife and I take a daily walk with our dog at a nearby cemetery where my wife’s mother, father, and step-father are buried. We actually have two side-by-side cemetery plots located there that are reserved for us. Walking at the cemetery every day got me thinking about death and sparked a couple of posts, the first one was published last Wednesday and can be read here. The second and last post is below:
Shortly after my wife and I married in 1974, my mother-in-law married her boyfriend. Don was a big, burly guy who had risen through the ranks at a local manufacturing company, from a machinist on the production floor to plant superintendent, through sheer hard work and steely determination.
Don was a man of enormous appetites. He was a heavy smoker and also enjoyed multiple highballs every evening. He was also a gregarious conversationalist and loved to impress his listeners with unusual facts and trivia that he had picked up. Don was raised as a nominal “Baptist” (i.e., liberal American Baptist), but didn’t put much if any stock in religion. In contrast, his membership in the Masons meant quite a lot to him. Although he never attended church, he wrote out a monthly check to a local mainline American Baptist church, “just in case there’s something to it,” as he liked to joke.
My mother-in-law, Dorothy, was a nominal Catholic and when her health began to sharply decline in 1983 due to her emphysema, Don contacted the local Catholic parish and a priest made several visits and administered the last rites. Just previous to that, my wife and I had trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We both witnessed to Mom on many occasions and also presented her with a Bible. She did eventually profess her faith in Christ. However, Don did not appreciate our talks with Mom. He felt we were confusing her at a vulnerable time with our “religion” from the “renegade”/”wildcat” independent fundamental Baptist church that we were attending at that time. There was definitely spiritual warfare going on. For a man who didn’t personally care about “religion,” Don was vehemently opposed to our “interference.” Our relations with Don remained tense right up to the day that Dorothy died in January 1984. After several months had passed, we had a few get-togethers with Don, but there was an icy undercurrent and we eventually lost touch. Don came down with cancer and ended his life in 1996 with an overdose of prescription pills.
Many years previous, when my mother-in-law was still relatively healthy, Don had presented us with the unusual “gift” of two cemetery plots. He and his siblings and their spouses had purchased multiple, co-adjoining plots at White Haven Cemetery, but somehow ended up with two too many. So now, when my wife and I take our daily walks in the cemetery, we often walk by our plots. It’s a strange sight, but we know we will be with our Lord when we die, not “resting” beneath the cold ground.
Postscript 1: After I wrote the above, I remembered one of the most important parts of the story. In the final weeks of her life, Dorothy was in great physical distress and begged the Lord to take her home. My wife and I also prayed to the Lord that He would take her. It was Christmas time and Dorothy asked me to get her a fresh-cut Christmas tree. Don was adamantly opposed to the idea, but finally relented, cautioning me to get only a very small tree. I defiantly picked out the tallest and fattest tree available and put it up in their living room. Don fumed while Dorothy was delighted. After Dorothy died, her physician, a pulmonary specialist, pulled my wife and myself aside and matter-of-factly informed us that the spores from the Christmas tree had accumulated in her lungs and clogged up any remaining breathing capacity and had killed her. Ah, that’s my God. Thank you, Lord!
Postscript 2: Dorothy’s grave is in one section of the cemetery, alongside her second husband, my wife’s father (see my post about Gordon here), while Don’s grave is in another section alongside his first wife.