Driving Through a Cemetery on a Sunday Morn

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I live in a cemetery. Oh, it’s not like I’m immediately surrounded by graves and tombstones, but I live in a little house on the corner of the cemetery property.
Sometimes if I’m running out early on a Sunday morning to pick-up a newspaper, I take a little detour to drive through the cemetery. Usually there aren’t any other visitors there yet, and I have the place all to myself. And I find it quite satisfying, for three reasons.
First, it’s peaceful. When I drive through the cemetery at dawn, the sun is just rising, the grass is still wet, and often there’s just a little fog surrounding the grave sites, creating quite an evocative scene. And usually I find some wildlife peacefully patrolling the grounds – especially deer, turkeys, squirrels and geese. I drive slowly, doing a quick security check, but more importantly, just relaxing and enjoying the moment. It’s a beautiful way to start the day, and the week.
Second, it’s prayerful. As I cruise through the cemetery I say a little prayer for the souls of the folks buried there. They are still members of our Church family, part of the Communion of Saints. That’s one of the spiritual benefits of being buried in a Catholic cemetery – the constant remembrance and prayers of the entire Church.
And I pray also for the families and friends who come to the cemetery to visit. Recently, while walking in the cemetery, I saw a man quickly turn away from a gravesite, walk to a nearby tree, smash his fist against the tree, and fall to the ground in grief, sobbing uncontrollably. His grief was unusually heart-wrenching, but it reminded me of the deep sorrow and profound loneliness that visitors to the cemetery often bring with them. I pray for those folks during my morning visits too.
And third, driving through the cemetery restores a sense of perspective. All the people buried there once had hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, problems and disappointments. But those realities have been quieted forever by death. Those souls have moved on to God’s Kingdom where “every tear will be wiped away.” My cemetery visits remind me that whatever I’m dealing with these days, my challenges and problems, will soon be over and that I have only to keep my heart and mind focused on the future and those things that endure forever.
Peace, prayer and perspective. That’s what I find while driving through a cemetery on a Sunday morn.
Something to think about: When you visit a cemetery, what emotions do you encounter?