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Old & New

August 4, 2013

IMG_4457Yesterday, I went for a motorcycle ride. It was a beautiful day, and I wanted to get out of the house for the afternoon. Instead of simply going for a ride, I ended up meeting new friends, and then visiting an old one. My new friends were in the shape of some cattle. I don’t know what kind they were exactly, but they were slow, friendly, and completely unimpressed with me taking their pictures. I just stood there watching them for awhile, the people driving past glancing at me strangely. When I left my new friends, I found myself wandering around with no real particular destination in mind. I came to a fork in the road and decided to veer left, which I haven’t done before. It was one of the most beautiful rides ever. I went slow, wanting to take in all the sights and smells. I got lost in how wonderful this particular road was, and then, all of a sudden, I realized where I was. To my right, was a cemetery. I haven’t been there since I first moved back home in 2010. And before that, it had been on the day of the service. I’d  come from the other direction my previous visit, so I hadn’t known this road would bring me here. At the last second, without really thinking about it, I took the small dirt path that brought me to the gravestone I remembered so well. It pained me to see it covered in grime and not tended. I tried to wipe it off with my gloves, but it wouldn’t budge.

I knelt there, remembering. I thought of how weird it is that people stand in front of the gravestones when the person is directly underneath them. I moved to the side. I wondered if he would be proud of me, of what I’ve accomplished and am working so hard to still accomplish. I know he would tell me straight, no sugar coating. I walked to look at the other gravestones and the names pounded into the hard, cold rocks. I make up stories for each name. This one was a singer at her church and made the best pumpkin pie. He was a hard worker, always paid his bills on time and loved his kids. She lost her son in the war, but still wrote him a letter every Sunday after service. So many stones, so many stories.

The ones that hit me the hardest are those with two names, but only one has passed. What is the other person doing right now? Have they remarried, or are they still grieving? Does it pain them to see their children’s faces and their spouse’s eyes looking at them? I go back to my bike.

With one more glace at the grave I came to see, I mount and start down the path back to the street. I think about his life as I ride home. Everything he accomplished and everything he passed onto me without even knowing it. He was an amazing man, a strong man. He always had a smile on his face, even when the cancer had broken him. He still gave the best hugs, even though I had to lean over to give him one since he was in a wheel chair. He took the time, on his death bed, to bring my father back from the darkness he had sunk into. Pastor Strong made those around him strong.

I don’t know if I’ll be back there soon or not. But I do know I don’t need a gravestone to remember him. I don’t need a gravestone to see his smiling face or hear his strong voice singing his favorite hymnal. I don’t need a gravestone to feel the strength he gave me or to feel the determination swell inside my chest to make him proud. Pastor Strong was, and is, my hero. And I’ve never met another person more aptly named. Props to the Big Man for knowing His servant so well. IMG_4478

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