Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Tombstone Needed

"The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time"
Abraham Joshua Heschel

When I worked for my Pop in the monument business I worked alongside Rudy, sandblaster and chief stone setter. The business was small. There was Pop, Rudy, Alice (the secretary) and me. One day, Rudy and I were in a cemetery, a cemetery on a hill. We were at the bottom of the hill, the tombstone needed to serve a grave at the top of the hill- a stone setters' conundrum. Usually when presented with this problem we would 'buck up' and make it happen. On this day the ground was soaked with rain. The ground was, in Rudy's words, "slick as a gut". (I wonder if he'd read the theory of intestinal use in the construction of the pyramids.) After a couple of false starts, we arrived at a solution. We borrowed boards from the cemetery outhouse and built a step at a time. We delivered a public tribute to the dead by depriving privacy to the living. Pop asked me recently to do a presentation rendering for a monument he hopes to sell. I confess, I am intrigued. I have done many renderings, designed many memorials, but this one will become a piece of history. The memorial is for someone in the country music hall of fame, a lifetime achievement recipient. Over the years I have designed, fabricated, and installed monuments in hundreds of cemeteries. And so, I wonder, "Why is this one different?" As I pondered this question I also asked, "Why do we memorialize the dead?" I know the marketing response- I grew up in the business. And then, the words of G.K. Chesterton came to mind, "God grants us the ability to remember that we forget..." We, humans, are forgetful. To remind us that someone lived we make tombstones of granite and marble, not cardboard and marker. As we approach Easter I am, again, reminded that Jesus doesn't have a tombstone. And I am grateful.

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