Mike Cope's blog

Friday, December 09, 2005

Megan's grave. There is this wonderful country cemetery just outside Neosho, MO, where generations of my family are buried. But when my daughter died in November of 1994, we couldn't bury her there. It was just too far away. I know that may be hard for some to understand, because we couldn't visit her,anyway--at least not like when you visit someone in the hospital. But we still did need to visit her . . . to drive out to the little plot of ground where she was buried. It was/is holy ground. When my daughter's body was lowered in that spot (just outside Abilene on 277 -- Elmwood Cemetery), it was a cold, rainy day. I remember hating that it was so wet and cold. She liked being warm and snuggling. I wanted to put some plastic over the fresh dirt to keep the rain off (but didn't). For the first few months, we drove out there often. Nearly always we went separately, lost a bit from each other in our grief. Then as the months rolled into years, our visits were less seldom but still regular. Now, eleven years later, I rarely go to Megan's grave. There are the three regular dates, of course: Easter (most important), Valentine's Day (when I lay roses), and November 21 (the date of her death). There are other times, like when visitors come to town and want to drive out there. And usually when I'm doing a graveside service at the cemetery, I'll stop by on my way out. But for the most part, the need to visit has diminished through the years. It is still holy ground, however.

27 Comments:

  • I don't have children so I have no idea what you're feeling. I know that I've not visited my papaw's grave because I never saw him there so I don't have fond memories of that place. However, when I visit Florence and drive past the cemetary, I can't help but glance out just to see...

    By Blogger That Girl, at 12/09/2005 04:38:00 AM  

  • From Gerald Sittser, who lost his mother, his wife, and his four-year-old daughter in an accident:

    "Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past. . . . It is not therefore true that we become less through loss--unless we allow the loss to make us less, grinding our soul down until there is nothing left. Loss can also make us more. I did not get over my loved ones; rather I absorbed the loss into my life until it became part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it. . . . One learns the pain of others by suffering one's own pain, by turning inside oneself, by finding one's own soul."

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/09/2005 05:17:00 AM  

  • I, too appreciate Sittser.

    I understand what you are saying about visiting Megan's grave. It's really hard to be responsible for someone and then just leave them. (Even though part of what made them who they are is gone, the body is still there, and it isn't eternal but is still part of who they were.)

    Our son, who died of cancer at age 6 (13 years ago) was cremated. At the time we lived in Portland, TX, but we moved around a lot and I could not stand the thought of leaving him somewhere. For a while after he died I took his ashes with me anytime we went away for the weekend. I couldn't stand to leave him alone, even though I knew he wasn't really there alone.

    I see the trunk where his ashes are every day, it's in the living room. But, I don't feel the panic about leaving him that I did in the early days after his loss.

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 12/09/2005 05:33:00 AM  

  • In a world that has gone mad for the drug of here and now fullfillment, Megan's grave is a reminder to you and to many that this world is not our home. Even if we give our life to Jesus we are not promised a pain free life, despite what so many preach. Every time you remember, visit, or lay roses on the holy ground, God is reminding you that the sod of this earth isn't wholy ground. There is something very wrong with this world and it's death and deseases, wars and oppression, pride and poverty. Megan's grave reminds us all that this isn't the complete picture of eternity. It's holy but not wholy. There is more!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 12/09/2005 05:51:00 AM  

  • Sittser's words seem so very true to me. We have lost 2 sons (I guess they're not "lost" as I know exactly where they are!) - one was stillborn and the other died at 1 week of age. One died in Denver, the other Searcy. Both were cremated for the exact reasons that Joyce mentioned. I didn't want to "leave" them someplace we will probably move away from. I know they are not left anywhere - I can't wait to be with them, as I know you can't wait to be with Megan.

    Mike, I was a student at HU when you were at College. I remember seeing you and your family at Chi Sig functions. Your stories here of Megan uplift and comfort me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about her and about loss as a child of God. Means more than you will ever ever know.

    By Blogger Lisa E, at 12/09/2005 06:13:00 AM  

  • Gravesides are a hard thing to comprehend. We say that our loved one is laid to rest there, but they aren't really. They are resting in the arms of Jesus, far away from the dirt and flowers and gravesides. It's an odd thing, our draw to the graveside. As a photographer, I've been drawn to photograph the angels and statuettes that you will often see perched upon gravestones. As I quietly walk through the graveyards I'm drawn to these little stone guardians that stand vigil over the bodies of those we love. It's odd and holy all at once. There is just something peaceful about a quiet walk through a graveyard in the sunshine. It brings a feeling of being so peaceful and restful, but also of the smallness that we all are in this big wide universe. There is a lesson there from the Lord, that at almost 40 years old I'm still trying to figure out.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 12/09/2005 06:20:00 AM  

  • I have one child (13mo) and one on the way. I can't imagine...

    Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Agent B, at 12/09/2005 06:24:00 AM  

  • OK, this will sound weird but, I have always felt strangely at home in a cemetery. Perhaps it is because when I was a little girl my Nana in Coloaro City sold headstones. She lived on Commercial Street and had almost a dozen blank headstones displayed in rows in her front yard. (You can imagine the Halloween pranks kids played on her!)
    I used to play on the headstones jumping from stone to stone pretending the grass was alligators. I remember playing funeral. I remember going to the real cemetery with her to measure for a headstone or to oversee the delivery and placement of "an order." I never knew it was supposed to be eery. I thought it was neat. I was really young.

    My nana is buried about 100 yards away from Megan. Even though I don't get out that way very often, I visit their graves when I do. Somehow my mind thinks more clearly of them when I am there and I remember things I don't think of at other times. It is somehow comforting, even though I know they are not really there. I'm glad you kept Megan's grave in Abilene.

    By Blogger SG, at 12/09/2005 06:36:00 AM  

  • Mike, I too have made regular visits to that same cemetary. My best friend was burried there in 1978. We were young and not long married to our husbands. Our weddings had been a week apart just after our Jr. year at ACC and we were bridesmaids for each other.
    It is so very peaceful out there, and somehow I could sit and tell Carolyn things that girlfriends share. Last March Carolyn's husband burried his second wife next to her. She had also become my friend. Now I can sit and have a "chat" with the 2 of them. Wierd, but it is something like prayer. And then it usually becomes a time of prayer.
    I hope my life makes an impact on someone as both of them did on me.

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 12/09/2005 06:48:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    My father died in 1980 at the age of 47 just before I started college. For many years, I visited his grave regularly, but over time, less and less.

    Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I went during a trip home. Your post has served to remind me that I have been neglectful in my pilgrimages. This Christmas, I will correct that. No telling what peace and grace awaits on that holy ground. Thanks for the reminder.

    By Blogger mike the eyeguy, at 12/09/2005 06:54:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    The newest members of our small group are a couple who lost their 14 year old son -- their only child -- in a car accident this past summer. As I've strived to help and serve them, I've realized how much I've drawn on what you've shared about Megan over the years. Thanks again for being willing to share your journey of grief publicly.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 12/09/2005 07:21:00 AM  

  • I visited my dad's grave two days ago for the first time in years. The need, as you say, has diminished in the 18 or so years since he died. But it's odd how it comes and goes. He was born on Dec. 7 and I used to visit on that day and on Aug. 11, the day he died, every year.

    Of course, I used to think I was going for him. Now I know the truth.

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 12/09/2005 07:35:00 AM  

  • Mike-
    I remember that day--cold, wet, rainy. I still get knots in my stomach thinking about it.

    I remember another day too in a little town in East Texas called Groesbeck. Generations of my family are also buried there. My father was buried there in October of 91. I was surrounded by my ACU friends.

    I hear you on the need to have that holy ground closer. I have often wished it were closer. I rarely get to go visit. Ironically, it's the same cemetery my cousins and I would go play in as kids. My dad would often go out there and hide and scare the fool out of us. There are so many memories of that old place. I just wish it were closer.

    Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 12/09/2005 09:28:00 AM  

  • I hear what you mean, Mike. My sister was killed in the '99 Greenlawn bus accident. She is buried there across from Greenlawn in the town I grew up in. My parents visit pretty regularly I think b/c of the need to be close to her.

    I on the other hand did not like going out to the gravesite at all. I knew that "she" wasn't there...she was in a much better place. Everytime I went out there all I wanted to do was wish her back...and I couldn't wish her back from where she was. I would also get really angry at what had happened, and I know she wouldn't have wanted that. So, almost daily, I remember her/visit her in my heart, where it is much more peaceful.

    I liked your quote from Sittser. I have often told many people who had to suffer loss that they won't "get over it," they'll learn to cope with it, it will simply become a part of who they are. Thanks for your post.

    By Blogger Josh, at 12/09/2005 10:07:00 AM  

  • I just don't even know what to say. But thank you for being so open about some of your greatest heartache, Mike.

    By Blogger Jana, at 12/09/2005 10:54:00 AM  

  • Joyce, I too was in Portland 13 yr ago. I remember going to the military hospital in San Antonio for bone marrow transplants for Peter. Peter was the first child I was involved with that suffered so much. I will always remember how you and your family dealt with such an unimaginable heartbreak. Your faith was so strong it gave me hope. I know that no parent would trade his or her child to give someone hope (well maybe One) but through your faith I was able to see God a little more clearly. Not to say thank you but to say I love you. Tell Steven and all I said hi.
    Clint Logue

    By Blogger Clint, at 12/09/2005 12:42:00 PM  

  • Greetings from England, thankyou for sharing your thoughts, I can't imagine.
    I pray that God will continue to strengthen you and give you peace and be to you your Everything always.
    Helen.

    By Blogger Helen, at 12/09/2005 02:38:00 PM  

  • My grandmother is buried between my grandfather and her best friend. When they were alive and buying their cemetery property, my grandfather used to joke about how he didn't want to be buried next to them because he'd "never get any rest." I guess he's been tossing and turning for 17 years now.

    Graves are weird in the sense that they can be personal and impersonal at the same time. I never felt close to Chad's sister at her grave. I felt better in her bedroom surrounded by her clothes and stuffed animals. But the grave of my high school sweetheart -- the few times I've been there -- knocks the breath out of me. If I went today, I would still have to trace the letters of his name in the granite to believe they are really there. The same name I used to write over and over on my notebooks in school is now etched on his grave marker with TWO dates below it. Still unthinkable to me.

    By Blogger Deana Nall, at 12/09/2005 02:44:00 PM  

  • (Excuse me while I hijack your comments for a second, Mike.)

    Clint! How wonderful to see your name and read your note. It's been a long time.

    Gateway was wonderful to us during Peter's illness and after his death. And you and Alanna were a huge part of that. God blessed us through you all.

    I will pass your greeting on to the rest of the family. If you have time to drop us a line, we'd love to do some catching up. Our e-mail is:
    kramars AT mac.com.

    Much love,
    Joyce

    (Mike, just in from seeing The Chronicles of Narnia. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts on it.)

    By Blogger reJoyce, at 12/09/2005 03:18:00 PM  

  • There is something very holy about a cemetery. I found my birth father's grave a few years ago after I found his obituary after doing research on his death. It was the closest I had been to my father since I was three years old.

    Thank you for sharing "Megan's grave."

    By Blogger David Michael, at 12/09/2005 06:25:00 PM  

  • My Mom died in February, on my 41st birthday, in Alabama. I am married to a military man, and Uncle Sam has us in Texas right now. There were many times just after Mom's death that the urge to drive 900 miles to the cemetery was almost too much to resist. For you, a quote from my Mom who buried a child, "It is hard to lose a parent, but it is unnatural to bury a child."

    By Blogger Lynn, at 12/09/2005 07:06:00 PM  

  • The graveyards of my beloveds are scattered all over the USofA.

    My mother in mid-costal California, my husband in the military cemetery [Rosecrans] in San Diego next to my dearly loved mother-in-law, my Dad and 13 year old nephew in San Antonio, my grandparents and two aunts in Oklahoma, uncles in upstate New York and my dearest friend in Ft. Collins, CO.

    There have been so many goodbyes in my life! Gravesites are difficult for me. I stomp on each one of them and decry their absence - how dare they not be here where I need them!! Then I catch my breath, remembering that God has promised our eternal reunion when He returns for us all and peaceful hope returns. Praise Him!

    Today is my birthday. One that reminds me I'm much closer to joining them to await Jesus' return than I might like to remember. But that doesn't disturb my peaceful hope, it just fills me with greater gratitude that He will bring us back together. So I wait in that hope.

    Mike, I join others in thanking you for sharing so openly your thoughts about Megan with us.

    Have a great trip. Hope you're enjoying Missouri!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 12/09/2005 09:34:00 PM  

  • Mike

    Thank you for being so open about your deep feelings for Megan. I was at graveside that cold and rainy day. I have visited Megan's grave site a few time since her passing. The memories of her radiant smile and simple trusting faith still inspires me.

    My first wife passed away nearly 18 years ago a few years after we had brought our son to Abilene State School to live; I was left with a young 4 year old to raise. I visit her grave site less often now as I married again. My mother passed away six years ago this Christmas Eve. She had experienced the tavages of dementia but was clear and sparkling on the details of the past right up to two days before she died. I find comfort in visiting her gravesite when I go to San Angelo. One of the biggest turning point in my faith walk was to conduct the funeral service for Mom. Unfortunately, the minister forgot about our family in a time of need. At just the right time, God allowed me to lead others to view Mom's passing as a blessing. I will never forget the experience.

    Bless you as you keep Megan alive in the hearts of so many people that love and respect you.

    Pat White ABILENE

    By Blogger Pat White, at 12/09/2005 10:49:00 PM  

  • I love Sittser's book. I have read it several times and purchased several to give away. I used it to grieve the loss of the dream though my divorce.

    When I go home to Neosho I always go out to see my Dad's grave. I know the Holy Ground feeling. Dad died 36 years ago. We just laid Mom beside him in September. I did the graveside service and it was neat to think about them being together again (theology gets a little fuzzy in the pain of loss). The next trip home will be my first time to see the new joint stone. I wonder how that will feel.

    By Blogger Paul, at 12/09/2005 11:25:00 PM  

  • Friends - Thanks so much for sharing parts of your stories, too. Wouldn't it make a bonding small group exercise to say, "Tell us about important graves and cemeteries in your life"?

    By Blogger Mike, at 12/10/2005 04:43:00 AM  

  • Mike -

    As usual lately, I'm "a day late and a dollar short" in commenting, but read your post on Megan's grave more than once yesterday and all of the comments and was very moved at many things that were said.

    My thoughts at the time didn't seemed to be of any use or purpose in adding to the discussion, but later I was led to comment on David Bartlett's blog about when Laura and Gary's baby son died and about his burial in Abilene (I think where Megan is buried)and you might want to read it.

    Then, this morning before I got up I remembered the most profoundly moving story I think I've ever heard about these things and have spent all day here in front of my computer praying for God to give me the words to describe the events in a way that will bring blessings to those who read it.

    It is now the latest post at Grace Notes and I'd be honored if you would read it because when I learned of it, it had the strongest impact on me I think I've ever had with respect to what a life here on earth means and is all about in hearing what what this father did and the actions he took.

    Those are my thoughts now cohesed for what they're worth. Maybe it's not too late for someone to gain some blessings from what I try so earnestly to share. I hope not, anyway.

    Dee

    By Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews, at 12/10/2005 04:17:00 PM  

  • By Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews, at 12/10/2005 04:22:00 PM  

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