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My very quiet neighbors

Living next to the town cemetery

A few years ago, our parish community purchased a small home apart from the parish offices to serve as the pastor’s residence, while the building that had been the rectory is used to house our growing parish staff. The pastor’s residence is located next to the city cemetery, just a short walk from the church. Soon after I moved in, a number of parishioners asked me a curious question that had never crossed my mind: Why would you want to live next to a cemetery?

At first, I responded tongue-in-cheek, noting that the neighbors on that side of the house would always be very quiet. While some may have asked that question based on scary movies or tall tales told around the campfire, I soon began to realize that their queries revealed a deeper concern that most of us wrestle with at one time or another – the question of our own mortality.

The thought that my living next to a cemetery would strike such a deep chord in some had never crossed my mind. In truth, I find the cemetery to be a place of quiet hope and a witness to faith. As I walk among the markers, I find a number of familiar names, either because they are known to me as part of our parish’s history, or because I was the presider at their funerals. As I see their names, I can sometimes call a face to mind, or, more often, I recall a story from their lives. Those stories – their lives – often tell how life and God’s goodness intersect. I think of mothers or fathers, husbands and wives, who lovingly labored to raise and care for  children, to build a home or tend to the needs of an ailing spouse. I think of children who loved their parents, whose smiles brightened the day, whose accomplishments brought pride, and who tried to make the best choices they could. I think of people of faith, who trusted in God’s goodness and who sought to reveal that goodness in their daily lives. I think of people whose profound faith permitted them to serenely walk the path home to God, doing so in ways that inspired deeper faith in God in those they met or those who gathered at their bedsides.

My walks through the cemetery are opportunities to honor and pray for those who have died – whose lives, in their own unique fashion, made a difference and revealed their faith and trust in God. In its own way, I find living beside the cemetery a comforting and reassuring experience.

The church’s November calendar encourages us to take the time to reflect on the lives of those who have died – those whom the church recognizes as canonized saints and all the other saints, those people of good faith, whose lives have touched and inspired our own. In our shared faith, and in the quiet witness of the final resting places of our beloved dead, we find hope in the knowledge that death is not the end. As we take the time during the month of November to pray for our departed loved ones, we also know that they join together in the communion of saints to pray for us. And so our journey in FAITH continues.