Lessons from a Cemetery

by David Ramey

"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:13-14).

I've never been very fond of cemeteries, but when my parents mentioned that they were going to the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of deceased family members during the Memorial Day weekend holiday, I volunteered to go along and offer some assistance. So, armed with weed trimmer, rake, and a jug of ice water, my wife, my two children, and I went along. The work only took a few minutes and allowed me some time to look around. A few graves caught my eye. I'd like to share some of my observations. I found a lesson in the cemetery. I hope that I can share it with you.

Right next to the graves that we had just finished working on, there was a tree that must have been hit by lightning several times, as there was nothing left but a scarred trunk. Leaning against its base stood a homemade sandstone grave marker. It was well worn with time and harsh weather. I could barely read the date: 1934. Around the side of the hill was a fenced-in area where there was a headstone with the photo of a young lady who, according to the date, was in her early twenties when she died. Nearby were three graves with identical markers, neatly arranged in a row. They were the graves of three children, the oldest only nine years old. They had died on the same day in 1954 from some tragic event.

I then came to a grave that took me back to the days when I spent many a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. The young man buried there had been killed in a mining accident at the age of twenty-six. Sadly I reminisced about my teammate. We rarely won a game, but he rarely seemed to notice. He just loved to play. The boys of summer will never be the same for me.

Now we come to the lesson. Not one of those whose bodies are buried there had planned to die at the moment that they had died. None had purposefully gone about their daily business with the urgency in knowing that this was their last day on Earth. Brethren, if you have a friend or neighbor that needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, don't assume that you will be around tomorrow to teach him or her. Live every day as if it is your last. One day it will be. I hope that as Christians, we will never pass up another opportunity to spread God's Word with the assumption that there is plenty of time to do so.

Actually, there is another lesson to be learned from the cemetery. To the lost soul whose sins haven't been washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ in baptism, I hope that you won't assume that there is plenty of time to do so as well. The facts in the cemetery simply don't back up this mistaken notion. "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Please, don't delay your repentance and obedience another minute.

"For He says: 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation'" (II Corinthians 6:2).

For Further Study

Verses to Consider

  • Job 14:5
  • Job 21:21
  • Psalms 23:4
  • Psalms 39:4-5
  • Psalms 55:23
  • Psalms 90:10
  • Proverbs 10:27
  • Ecclesiastes 9:10-12
  • Ecclesiastes 10:27
  • II Corinthians 5:9-10
  • I Thessalonians 4:13
  • II Timothy 1:12

Questions to Ponder

  1. Is the length of our lives predetermined?
  2. Do we always have advance warning that our life will end soon?
  3. How should we live our lives?