On a regular basis I find myself conducting burial services in our local cemeteries.
Whether it’s in Ardmore, Ballyoan or the City Cemetery it’s a sobering and humbling experience to walk past the rows of head stones.
Each is usually headed by a surname, a short inscription detailing date of birth, date of death and often who the deceased is mourned by - spouses, children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends.
In a few lines our lives are summed up as parents, grandparents, spouse or partner, friend or colleague.
At the time of death, either in the hospital or a wake house many a story is told and recounted about the life and times of the deceased.
It’s a time for laughs and tears in equal measure as we try to make sense of the life of a loved one, so we can better understand why we gather to mourn and grieve. We try to better appreciate the person who has died.
In the Book entitled ‘Images of Hope’ the author explains the importance of our symbols of hope which we encounter even in the midst of the sadness which we associate with visiting the graves and cemeteries of our loved ones.
Our Christian graves remind those who gather round them how faith in Jesus Christ carries us over the waters of death into the promised land of eternal life.
Last Sunday afternoon many people gathered to celebrate the annual service for the Intercession of our dead in Ballyoan, Altnagelvin and Ardmore cemeteries as people were united by similar experiences as they mourned the loss of our family, friends and neighbours.
Burial sites have traditionally been places sacred and honoured in most cultures.
Our own graves and headstones witness to our grief and our hope. During Sunday afternoon at what has become popularly known as the Blessing of the Graves people gathered to express their pain and sorrow, finding solidarity and support as a community in the face of our experience of loss.
Standing at the graves of our loved ones we’re confronted by our sadness and fears, for in the face of death we can feel overwhelmed.
Yet our challenge as Christians is to embrace the hope which asks us to trust in a God who wishes to gather all his people into his loving arms.
God sent his only son into the world that we might enjoy the gift of eternal life. In Christ’s life, death and resurrection the way to everlasting life has been opened before us.
In faith we’re asked to hold fast to Christ who will carry all our loves ones over the dark night of death. For we believe if we have died with Christ we shall also rise with him into our inheritance of everlasting life.