Yesterday, in the chill damp mist of the early afternoon, I met a man I’ve never met before and may never see again. We met down a narrow lane off of a muddy gravel road in nearly the center of rural Iowa-Boone County; to be precise enough. Only two other people on earth knew we were meeting. His vehicle pulled into the empty parking some 15 minutes post my own arrival. My truck was evident, though it’s silver color on the misty overcast day nearly made it unremarkable in presence. As the man exited his SUV, his appearance was as I expected: thin, coat and tie, and appearance disheveled in a small town sort of way. I opened my door and met him in the mist of grayness and simultaneously greeted and shook his hand.
I asked him a question I have never before uttered to another soul and it struck me as a peculiar moment: “How much for a grave?” His answer was as simple as my question and equally peculiar as a course of conversation: “It is a $100 grave.”
So let me review. Yesterday, on a misty afternoon in the center of rural Iowa, I paid a man $100 cash for the location where my grieving friends and family will deposit my body or ashes after the breathe of mortality leaves my body for all time.
I then walked over and stood on the dirt that will be shoveled over a box holding my remains, and I turned 360 degrees so as to take in the panorama of my graveside view.
A couple thoughts seeped into the strangeness of this moment.
First, I couldn’t believe I bought a burial plot for a mere $100. The familiar adage, “you get what you pay for,” seemed oddly mistaken as I looked at the substance, scope, and breadth of my cash purchase. I couldn’t imagine that Forest Lawn looks much different , though perhaps less creeping charley.
Secondly…I reviewed life expectancy statistics, and proceeded to calculate how long it would be before my three kids would bury my remains, chuckling as my son recounts for his sisters the infamous story of my “water slide” adventure. I always enjoy their epic laughter as they imagine that moment of my horror. It is a family favorite.
Finally I reach for some spiritual insights to ponder as I stand upon my $100 grave. Scripture records, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis3:19)
My dust infused into this 6 x 6 plot doesn’t change it much. In actuality, I’m paying $100 for perpetual lawn mowing!!
But then remembered that Joseph of Arithamea (John 19:38-42) also bought a new grave that was only used for three days. Certainly, a grave priced at any amount divided by the number of moments three days accumulates, would be a very expensive grave indeed.
Scripture, in fact, insinuates that my dust will NOT stay in the grave in perpetuity! (1 Corinthians 15:51f) “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed….thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
So why the necessity of a $100 plot of ground?
I turned and saw my parents grave stone and saw the date of my dad’s death.
It is at this place that I review the sacred. I ponder what worship really means to me. I examine my life fails in the light of profound future grace. I release anxieties of temporal life in exchange for eternal promises.
It is at this place I come knees bent in the reality of how brief my time was with someone I really loved. It is at this place I rejoice as I am reminded of how much of him is in me. I can weep here without reservation. I can only sing eternal songs from this place…from my soul.
This $100 grave, in the center of Iowa, is for the living to glimpse the eternal! Priceless!