BY AMY WALTON |
I love to walk.
Fast walking provides me with a great cardiovascular workout, clears my head, and gets me outside. Plus, I solve quite a few problems and gain fresh ideas as I walk. And I always pack my athletic shoes when I travel, so I can explore new streets or walk circles around my hotel. It’s invigorating!
One of my favorite places to walk is my hometown of Mayodan, North Carolina. Unlike my current city of Virginia Beach, Mayodan has quite a few hills and no traffic. I’ve enjoyed many great workouts on foot in my native place, but I haven’t walked there in the year since I sold my childhood home. I miss it.
I also miss another walk I made every time I visited. Actually, it was a casual stroll, one that was deliberately slow and thoughtful and had a lot of gratitude woven into it. It’s one to which I look forward to making again soon.
I always think of it as a walk among tombstones, or in this case, square headstones that lay in neat sections and rows in the Moravian Graveyard, God’s Acre.
It’s interesting how some people don’t like cemeteries while others find them comforting. I fall into the latter group, seeing them as sacred grounds of final resting places. I love the stories we can learn or even imagine by reading headstones. We identify veterans by flags or appropriate inscriptions, and we can feel a sadness over birth and death dates that are the same, information that tells us a precious little soul entered and left this world on the same day.
In our Moravian graveyards, we don’t see big, fancy tombs or tall obelisks. Instead, we view rows of flat white marble squares of the same size laid out in a grid system. Our graveyards remind us that we are all equal in God’s eyes, even in death.
I confess that in my walks among these tombstones, I can’t help but remember certain late loved ones as being a little more important in my life than some others. My parents are buried there, as are my godparents. Their influence on my life and faith runs deep, and I think of them every day. There are others who rest there who helped lay the foundation for my faith, adding bricks with every lesson they taught. On my meanderings through the graveyard, I pause to reflect on these souls who were so instrumental in my early faith formation.
The graves of Vicie and Wetona are there, two dedicated spinster sisters who taught me in Sunday School. I loved hearing them bring stories alive from the pages of scripture. Another teacher, Irene, is buried there, too. I will always be grateful for her making me memorize key verses of scripture-John 3:16, the Ten Commandments, and the Beatitudes, to name a few. When I could recite a verse or passage correctly, she added a symbol of it added to my long red silk ribbon she called a “string of pearls.” All three of these wonderful women instilled in me a love for God’s Word.
Irene’s mother Lenna also rests beneath the earth in God’s Acre. As an elderly woman, she often prayed at our monthly Sunday School assemblies, impressing upon me at a young age what it means to pray passionately from one’s heart.
I pause at these graves on my walks, as I do at the final resting place of Mamie, a beloved teacher of teenage girls. She’d lost both her sons, but her passion for Jesus and for teaching young women about him was a joy to behold. My best friend Norma and I loved visiting her home on occasional Sunday afternoons, and we couldn’t wait to be her students. Sadly, Mamie passed before we reached our teens. I’m pretty certain her death was the first one to evoke tears in me.
So many everyday saints rest in the place where I like to roam. I’ve no doubt that passersby think it a bit odd that a woman walks up and down rows of headstones on an occasion other than Easter, but I don’t care. My visits allow me to remember these pillars of faith and to sometimes even whisper a “thank you.” I always stop at my mother’s grave to thank her for giving me life and for committing me to God through prayer her entire life.
As one who loves and frequently meditates on treasured Moravian hymns, I sometimes stop at the graves of my Daddy’s men’s chorus buddies and recall their resonating voices as they belted out songs in church. I thank God for the once-booming but now silenced voices of my father, Conrad; my godfather and uncle, Rutley; Rudolph, the jeweler who pierced my 10-year-old ears; and Frank, the always smiling furniture store owner. I like to think they are singing in the heavenly chorus now.
We Moravians have the beautiful annual tradition of the Easter sunrise service, a joyous event that concludes in God’s Acre. We ask to remain in everlasting fellowship with those who have departed since the previous Easter and with the Church Triumphant.
On November 3, we observe All Saints’ Day, a day that has its origins in the 7th century and was initially observed in a worship service over tombs and sites of martyrdom. It’s another time for us to reflect on all the deceased who lived their lives rooted in Christ and those who lost their lives in His service.
As we approach and observe this day in the coming week, consider taking your own walk among tombstones. Stop and reflect at the graves of the everyday saints in your own life, those people who helped grow your faith. Whisper a “thank you” to them.
And rejoice in the hope that you will one day join them in eternal life.
About the author
Amy Walton is a certified life coach, certified Christian life coach, speaker, and writer who has lived in coastal Virginia for nearly 30 years. A native of Mayodan, North Carolina, she was baptized, confirmed, and raised in Mayodan Moravian Church, where she remains an Associate Member. Connect with her at www.amy-walton.com or [email protected]