Carved in Stone

Galatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
I am on the way to Collinsville, IL, but am tired because I was only home for three days (and working each day) between shows. I work this weekend and then will have a weekend at home, my first in four weeks–or is it five??? My traveling buddy’s name is Bryan. Heartfelt Creations is actually the second place Bryan and I have worked together. I remember when he started as a clean up “kid” at Dutch Maid Bakery, with bushy hair in a ponytail. He “graduated” to donut cutter/fryer and baker’s assistant and you could always count on him to show up for work. Now he is Assistant Shipping Supervisor at Heartfelt Creations. I remember the day after his first date with his beloved fiance, when he was still working at Dutch Maid, and now he is getting married in just over a month–not a kid anymore . I enjoy working with Bryan as he is the exact age that Archie and I’s eldest child would have been.

Just married in February, we found out we were expecting our first bundle of joy in August, due in May. One and a half months later our little one went home. 3.5 years later, our second child joined them in heaven and now Archie has seen their faces, hugged them, and gets to spend time with them every single day. Nope, I wouldn’t wish him to come back. He has the first two and I’ll take care of Taylor until we will all be together as a family of five–for the first time.
Working with Bryan is like looking through a peek hole into what the life of our eldest would have been like: their maturity level, interests, and now the beginning of a family unit. It is exciting to watch the bud change into the beautiful blossom–even though he’s a guy. We are the van team, Bryan the driver. I am grateful because anyone that knows me realizes how distance driving stresses me. Being the journeys are long, we always start our travels by catching up. I love asking about and getting updates about Brooke, as their wedding draws near. His sister and her hubby are the flying travel team and I travel with them when I teach. It’s fun hearing some of the same stories, but from different perspectives. Bryan and I sometimes listen to books on tape or talk about tv shows but In all honesty, we often ride is silence.Today he asked me if I liked the long trips or if they bother me. I had to stop and think for a bit. I think and process a lot, so enjoy riding for 7-8 hour trips, with stops for coffee (of course), gas, and stretches. Much more, and I feel stir crazy and am edgy. When I reflected the question back to him, he said pretty much the same.
As we travel today we passed a beautiful cemetery with manicured lawn, stone carved monuments and mausoleums. The wheels in my head went-a-spinning again. I remember being 15 and my mom and I visiting the cemetery in Girard, PA, near the school I attended. Girard was one of the hometowns of a famous clown, Dan Rice, who in 2001, biographer David Carlyon called “the most famous man you’ve never heard of”. 
In that cemetery is the monument for Dan and Maggie Rice’s daughter, Lottie, who in 1862, tragically, died at 6 months. Mom and I would stop and take in the the detail of the carved infant whose fingers and toes were worn and weathered with over a century of harsh Girard winters. In another portion of that cemetery was a monument, resembling a pint size Washington Monument, engraved with the family name. Circling the tribute were individual name stones with dates of birth and death. I will never forget pulling back the hosta plant partially covering one marker, revealing the words,”Our Babies.” It made me shutter even back then. That memory remains over 30 years later.
It was during that time I began developing my love of history. Every headstone bare the name of a real person with a life story that had a beginning, middle, and conclusion. With every dated slab, a character emerged in my imagination dressed in heavy black period clothing. The men bowed deeply, the woman curtsied, all eyes dark and sunken with the reality of their situation. Some headstones told the story of the soul lying 6 feet below, others left the demise to the imagination. The library in my head would only allow the stories to end after a life well lived and ending with,”Happily Ever After.”  That was not reality.
As we continued to drive I shared my Girard memory with Bryan. I admitted, the time with my mom in the memorial park gave no clue or insight as to how much time I, personally, would be spending in such a place long before I was called to accompany the current residents. Nor did I give much thought as to the importance of a name, carved in stone, that no one could ever erase and the relief and comfort it brings to the family who feels the member is being forgotten. Sigh. But what would I know at 15?
Soon enough I will be called to take up residence in such a beautiful place, where Taylor and I will not have to mow but the grass will be maintained. I will hear the stories of the individuals that were once nonfictional but unknown characters and hear the truth of their tragedies paired with the redemption and deliverance by my/our heavenly Dad. Though my name is already carved in stone, I really do not mind if that one is worn, weathered…erased. When speaking of their gravestone, people often speak of what their stone will say, or how it will look. I see my name every time I visit Archie. Each time I am with him, I go “home” to the final destination of where my pile of bone and flesh will be deposited, and it’s already labeled. How convenient.  Each time I am there, however, I know Archie is not there, nor truly, will I be, for, as the verse states, I have already been crucified, willingly. My purpose for taking up space on this beautiful planet heavenly Dad created, is to let His light shine through me, and not get in His way. I hope my name fades, but my purpose is remembered for an eternity.
That thought took me to my current situation. Do I wallow in all of the things Archie and I intended to do together but will never come to reality? Do I look for the doors that heavenly Dad is opening and when I see them do I refuse to go through because my plan was to walk through as a couple, not a single, or do I proceed as the individual He created me to be?
What will your gravestone say? Will it be the reflection of the life you lived to the fullest, or the one on which you settled? What will be carved in stone for all to remember about you?
Until we meet again: Blessings!

Author: Tracy Cook

Widowed one week before our 27th wedding anniversary, Heavenly Dad continues to carry me, now blessing me with a second chance for love.

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