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My wife Judy died a year ago this month–December 13, to be exact. Ever the detail person, she planned her funeral service and designed her grave marker well in advance. When the marker was set in place, she asked to see it. Despite the icy winter wind that whipped around her wheelchair that day, she flashed her smile of approval.

Ancient Jews had a custom of setting up a large stone or a pile of stones to memorialize important sites in their history–not just burial sites, but battle sites, worship sites, and the point where they crossed River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. These stones served as witnesses to what happened there, not only for themselves but for their future descendants.

So Judy had hers. I walk past it several times a month and remember the chilly day Judy sat there, anticipating her own crossing into the Promised Land. Someday I’ll join her and my date will be etched in the stone. (See? I’ll get the last word after all!)

Eventually, our descendants will forget where the stone is. Wind and rain will erase what we’ve written on it. Granite will dissolve into the earth to join our ashes beneath. Then who will remember us?

The One who made the stone. The One who also made us and the earth from which He formed us. The One who needs no landmark to prompt remembrance of us, for we always will be with Him.

 

My thirty-something daughter was going through an emotionally wrenching experience when she sent me a text message: “I wish the kids and I could come see you now.” So I painted a word picture of a happy place she had experienced 20 years ago. My text message:

Let’s go to Granny’s porch to eat some watermelon with her and Howard. The sun’s just gone down and the jar flies are singing (ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-eeeee). Tell me what you see.

Several hours later, I got her reply:

With that one message you wrapped your arms around me, Daddy (through a veil of tears)…I see Bouncer and Cricket [Granny’s dogs] doing laps around the perimeter of the yard, trying their darnedest to teach those squirrels a lesson…I see Uncle Dan and Keith crafting a complicated firework cannon with Coke cans and duct tape…Howard is bringing a handful of fresh veggies up from the garden…corn, ‘maters, zucchini…

I responded:

Yes, Honey. I see it too. Let that be our comfort place. All of us are there when you need a place of peace. All of us–including Jesus. See Him?

She texted back:

He’s sitting on the dock of the lake across the street, fishing pole in hand…

Then came a smiley-face emoticon.

That scene of tranquility and joy resides in her memory, ready to be conjured by something as simple as the jar flies’ song. (Perhaps that sound evokes such a place for you, too.)

Memory can be a powerful balm for both storyteller and reader, and that sense of place can be awakened simply. A sound, a smell, a color or texture can take us to those “places in the heart” where an entire world waits for us.