The color of the sky is the color of the gray waist-high headstones that surround me in all directions. I wrap my arm around my mother’s thin frame and clasp her upper arm with my hand. It feels as if it may rain, but the Center of Attention at this gathering cares nothing for that: her Life Book is closed; her time of writing is done; her pen is laid down.
My mother stands with shoulders drooped. Today we buried her cousin. With blurred vision through a lens of tears, she recalls the green sod underfoot and leather-soled shoes and cotton skirts twisting and dancing in the breeze as her younger self and her mischievous cousin ran around this very cemetery in search of odd names and early dates and flowers still fresh, stuffed too early into trash receptacles.
She clearly recalls the bent form of her grandmother as she cared for her great-grandmother’s grave and brings the two young girls along with her to perform this periodic ritual. Today my mother and I walk across the silent forms pressed gently back into the dust from which they came as she recalls the sunny yesterday. How time does fly on swift wing to hurry us on to our quiet rest!
Death— and the lips are silenced. The casket closes and is lowered into the ground. Like the closing of the casket, the Life Book closes and is put to rest. This woman’s life story has been written and is now complete. The cemetery is as a library full of books; a whole host of once lively active authors who had penned their pages now lie silent. The closing of a casket is the closing of a book.
This present epoch of time is our opportunity to write our Life Book, ideally an echo of the greatest Book ever written. At birth we are given this book, bound with its particular number of pages determined by God. Pages are written for us in the beginning, but at one point, early on, we are handed the pen.
Each day is a blank page. As I look back through my own book, I see many pages —some tear-stained; some dappled with hopes and dreams recorded like the sunlight on a spring morning; some wrinkled and pressed out again when anger took hold; some with beautiful script and poetic prose of life’s blissful summer days; some sparsely covered as depression thickened the ink in my pen; some splashed with saltwater and stiffened by salty air—all covered with words written in my own hand; words formed from the choices I made and the attitudes I coddled and nursed amidst my trials great and small.
Each page of the book an answer to the questions, “This new day is My gift to you. Tell Me then what will you do with the precious life moments handed to you in providential care? How will you receive, this day, the seeming good and the assumed bad? And whose glory is it that you shall seek, dear Christian, as the sun rises and falls; as your feet of clay walk about the sod, your life orbiting the Son?”
Life is not as complicated as we make it out to be. We hold the pen. This Life Book is about how we respond to the course God has prepared for us. Our story is a record of our choices. There is much to distract us from seeing the clear choice laid before us: please God or please self? An eternal perspective changes all other perspectives. It will adjust our priorities and change our schedules.
Standing in the chilly Trenton air of a gray February day I hear only portions of the priest’s empty and mechanical words of comfort. My attention is drawn toward the second funeral procession entering the graveyard. Fire sirens from the nearby street pull my thoughts back to the comfortless cheer being dispensed from the officiant, but not for long as yet another procession is entering through yet another set of gates. My attention settles on the reality of the moment— the reality of life. The privilege of breathing, once removed, places us at the intersection of the way of all men.
Some things matter. Some things don’t. A cluttered life makes it difficult to have a clear vision and a clear purpose. I do believe the Evil One seeks to throw much into our daily schedules, into the corners of our homes, and into the recesses of our minds so that we are quite busy with the unimportant, too distracted with a “busy succession of empty nothings” to realize the power of the pen and the empty page.
A cluttered life makes it difficult to have a clear vision and a clear purpose.
I look into the eyes of the other mourners: empty and looking for a diversion from Truth. The lifeless words of the priest end. The living depart and disperse across the grave sites of those who once dwelt on this side of the sod. I, too, walk away from this ceremony. I breathe in deeply the air and the opportunity.
I know not the thickness of my Life Book; but I know the One who has cut and bound its pages. My God calls me to create my life masterpiece line by line, day by day and chapter by chapter. I am called to do what good I can, where I am, while I can.