Again today, I walked through the “Silent City” as we laid yet another loved one to rest. Many thoughts come to me as I thread my way between the granite headstones. Most of them come from the book: “Life is but a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanished away ..It is appointed unto man once to die.”
And as I contemplate the reality of my own inevitable demise, Solomon’s words become very real and very personal: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
Each of the stones bears a message-some recent and clear; others dimmed with age-but each is a message of comfort and reassurance. One says simply “Our Mother”; another says “Asleep in Jesus”; and yet another reads, “At Rest.” I am made to wonder, “Of all these graves is there not one lost soul?” From reading the epitaphs, you would conclude that there is not. Then I realize that the Great Judge is not the stonecutter nor the griefstricken families, but the Christ Himself (2 Cor. 5: 10). As I stoop to collect some flowers, wilted and dried with age and strewn by the wind, I wonder what the epitaphs would read if God had written them. Some of His epitaphs I can read in His Word:
“Went about doing good” (Acts 10:38);
“Full of good works” (Acts 9:36);
“Walked with God” (Genesis 5:24);
“He being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4);
“Kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6-8),
Others were not so complimentary, but just as truthful:
“Betrayed Him” (Mt. 26:25);
“Sinned willfully” (Heb. 10:26);
“Left thy first love” (Rev. 2:4);
“Made shipwreck of the faith” (I Tim. 1: 19);
“Loved the present world” (2 Tim. 4: 10);
“Obeyed not the gospel of God” (2 Thes. 1:7-9).
As I leave the old cemetery, and the rusty gate swings behind me, I speculate how my epitaph would read if God Himself were to write it. But then I remember Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:12 and Romans 14:12, and I realize that our gravestones will bear whatever inscriptions that we have etched on them in our lifetime. It will read exactly as we choose it to read. That is our choice (Romans 6:16).