With You | 03.29.19

In the middle of a recent run, I decided to make a detour and scale a steep hill behind the city’s cemetery. I danced across the protruding rocks and steadied my short breaths as the incline steepened and the thick thatch incurred the frantic wrath of my shoes.

After reaching the summit, I regained my composure and embraced the arresting silence yet again. Ironically, I ran through the quiet graveyard with loud music. But instead of pressing pause on the iPod, I let “Can I Lie Here” by the David Crowder Band precede without interruption.

Like others, I don’t dwell on death much. As a first-time father, I long to behold his forthcoming milestones. I long to see him become a father one day. Still, the psalmist exhorts me to let God “teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.” Death is a stark reminder that life is temporary, and every pile of fresh dirt at the cemetery attests to that truth.

I didn’t notice any new heaps of Georgia red clay in that run up the ridge, but I did realize afterwards that I like running through the cemetery. Cortland Gatliff agrees. “I find cemeteries surprisingly comforting. Being in the place of the dead has a sobering effect. Walking among tombstones, I often think of the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, where thousands of skeletal remains are accompanied by a sign that reads, ‘What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be,’” he eloquently writes for Christ & Pop Culture.

As I ran through the cemetery, I repeatedly tilted my head left and right to take in the sights: flowers, flags, wreaths, and the occasional toy. I pondered the people who have departed and wondered whether I knew them. “No man is an island entire of itself,” writes the English poet and cleric John Donne. I sensed humanity in those solemn moments with every footfall. In the midst of death, I leaned into the David Crowder song and the promise of life after death. “Oh the brightness of Your face,” he said of the Almighty. “To be with you,” he added moments later.

Yes, to be with God for eternity. That’s good stuff. That’s a balm for this frayed, weary soul. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” writes the apostle Paul. I desire many more years with my wife and son, but I must remember that numbering my days is a worthwhile exercise. Speaking of which, any future runs that traverse the cemetery are an easy reminder to do that.

Photo courtesy of Eddie Howell

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Austin Bonds