Our Common Ground


Many  years ago I was perusing the obituaries of the Washington Post and came across one that caught my eye. I was reminded of this obituary as I sat pondering my life on a birthday I celebrated several years ago.   In celebrating birthdays of younger years I had been most excited for milestones ahead. Lately I have stopped counting milestones and have waxed more pensive on the meaning of my life. Although I am still young by most standards, I have experienced the death of loved ones and the journey has taught me that the road of life, which once seemed so long, is much shorter than I had thought.  As you watch the door close on the lives of loved ones, you begin to see things differently; hopefully, more clearly. You begin to understand that life is but a blink of the eye in the  journey through the eternities.

And so, that day,  I was drawn back to the obituary I had read many years before.  It was then that I read the obituary of a woman who seemed of  no consequence in the world. I didn’t even remember her name. I didn’t remember her age. I didn’t  remember anything about what was written of her life. What I did remember, that day, were two words found surrounded by the facts of her life. It read, “Devout Mormon.” I remember how I had sat back at my office desk digesting those two words. I was quite impressed with the simplicity of that two-word statement. I came to the conclusion then, that if that was all that could be written of my life upon my death,  I would be satisfied.

Some might think that strange. However, encompassed in those two words are found all the righteous teachings of my life. It was as a ‘devout Mormon” that I have been taught all the principles of Christianity, of fatherhood, of being an honorable husband and person. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints might not be a perfect organization. But as I examine my life I attribute whatever good I have done, or will do,  to the teachings found therein.

A few months ago my wife and I visited an old cemetery in Pennsylvania.  The headstones marked the graves of souls long since departed from their physical resting place.  Each tombstone bore a name and the time they lived on this earth.  I thought of that “Devout Mormon” from the obituary past. I didn’t think I would find any “Devout Mormons” there and I didn’t.  But I did find some, “Devout Christians”, as many of them bore the symbol of the cross on their markers.  My wife and I walked through the entire cemetery. I was wet with perspiration when we were done. As we reached the car I gazed back across the vast rows of headstones; monuments to no name people, from no-name towns from a long forgotten time.  And it made me think!

I had my wife take a photo of me standing there in the cemetery. Perhaps it is because someday I know I will join them.  Perhaps it is because I share with them common “ground.”  Perhaps someday a stranger will look at my tombstone and wonder about my life. Perhaps he will brush back the dirt and weeds to read what it will say on my gravestone. But I won’t be a no-name person from a no-name town from a forgotten time as the world sees it. No, I will live again, as do all, because of the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. He remembers them, me, and you! We are all sons and daughters of a living God who offers to us eternal life and the opportunity to live with Him forever.

Just before I pulled out of the cemetery parking lot to leave, I once again gazed out on the vast sea of tombstones. I didn’t feel any sadness; just hope! Then we drove away and got some ice cream!

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