Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The grass withers

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth (Ps 34:16).
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt 6:19-21).

Last Spring I visited a public cemetery which was founded in 1850. Most striking were the vestibule mausoleums. These had marble crypts, as well as stained-glass widows in back to provide further illumination. The entrance was open to the elements.

They would have been expensive to build. A proud statement of wealth, prestige, and permanence. Not just any decedent, but someone important. Someone from one of the best families in the area.  These were designed to impress the onlooker.

Yet it’s not the mere mausoleums which were striking, but their state of disrepair. The unforgiving contrast between the intentions of the family that built them, and the impudent ravages of time. The marble crypts were grimy, while the floors were covered with dirt and dead leaves. Moss, or even a shrub, was growing on the roof.

Why were they so neglected? Simple: they were forgotten. Famous in their day, long forgotten today. Not only were the decedents dead, but everyone who ever knew them was dead. Long gone. Widows, widowers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and lifelong friends–everybody who ever knew them or loved them now as dead as the skeletal remains. No one left to sweep the floor or lay fresh flowers. No one to remember.

The state of decay wasn’t confined to the interior of the crypts. The mausoleum itself, as well as the weedy grounds, with anthills and obtrusive tree roots, bespoke the pervasive decay. What was meant to be a bulwark against the indignities of time became a testament to the futile vainglory of human life, pride, power, and ambition. A muted statement by the dead, for the dead, and to the dead. 

So there they stand; facing the air, the silence, the emptiness, the erosion of the seasons.

1 comment:

  1. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

    -James 1:11

    Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look at the earth beneath;
    for the heavens vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment,
    and they who dwell in it will die in like manner;
    but my salvation will be forever,
    and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

    -Isaiah 51:6