Some of you may recall, that Annie’s body has been laid to rest in a beautiful woodland burial site in the nearby Worcestershire countryside (http://www.westallpark.co.uk/).
Due to the nature of natural burial grounds, unlike cemeteries, there are no grave stones or ornate boundary markings. Each plot is marked with an engraved wooden plaque and may be gardened and maintained by those to whom the loved one belonged.
It is a beautiful setting but it does take time to come to terms with the fact that those formal aspects of traditional graveyards are missing. One may – at times – even wonder if it lacks the respect given to the body that lays to rest. The tradition of the graveyard is engrained so deeply within us and takes time to see beyond. In no way is this meant to be a criticism of traditional graveyards! I did not come to terms with a woodland burial site to the detriment of a graveyard; and at times, when I go and visit the place where Annie’s body rests, I do miss – just a little – those cemetery traditions.
It took me some time to come to terms with it but the Living Word of God helped me to receive it well.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! – Luke 24:1-6
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; – 1 Corinthians 15:43
I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far – Philippians 1:23
I am not one that goes to the burial plot often. I don’t see it as a place where Annie is. She, by her spirit, is now with Christ – which is infinitely better and lovelier and more peaceful and joyful and exciting than any location upon or within this planet. What is in that ground is just the shell, the coil, the container that once held (and will one day again hold) her spirit. She does not lie coldly waiting. She does not float around or above or near me yearning for me to die and join her; neither is her burial plot some underground waiting room for Jesus’ return.
The choice of a woodland burial plot was much more for my benefit and the benefit of those who come to visit the place where her body lays. When you next visit and take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and meadows, just remember, from Annie’s vantage point, we’re the ones that are really underground! We’re the ones that are beneath the dirt. This earth, in all its green and yellow spring and summer splendour, is a fallen and cursed earth. It is scarred by sin. With autumn and winter comes decay and darkness and death.
Annie is not there. Annie is with Christ! And where He is in heaven, there is no death, no curse, no tears, no decay, no darkness, no disappointment, no distress, no despair, no tears of sadness, no curse, no cancer.
One day, He is coming again. One day that grave will give up Annie’s shell and she will enjoy the both spiritual and physical experience and excitement of a new heaven and a new earth in a body designed to last for eternity; a body that will never suffer the effects of sin or the edge of the surgeon’s scalpel. But though her present experience is spiritual, it is better by far than anything we experience here!
I have included a few photographs from my visit yesterday afternoon. You will notice that the wooden plaque has not yet been planted. The plaques are often very simple but I was able to negotiate with the burial ground management team the idea of me producing my own – with the help of designers and craftsmen. Tim (Annie’s brother) has kindly produced a design based around the words I have chosen. Hopefully, by next week the plaque will be ready and I will take some more photographs.
In His Arms,