An old song by Peter, Paul and Mary asks the question, “Where have all the flowers gone?” All the flowers are picked by young girls, who in turn are picked by young men, who ultimately end up in their graves. The graves all give themselves over to flowers, and the cycle begins anew.
While we can’t break the cycle, most of us hope to delay the inevitable. No one really wants to die young. We prefer to live a long, experience-rich life. And the contrast between those two extremes was on display this past weekend at the funeral of Melanie’s father. He passed away at age 96, and was buried right next to our son Elijah, who died at age 19 this past Fall.
Our family visited Elijah’s grave for the first time since his funeral. It was one of the most difficult milestones I have personally faced during these months of grieving his loss. I don’t know what I could have done to add years to his young life, but I would have done almost anything to extend the cycle of life for him. Then I thought of what Jesus said about trying to extend our lives:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26).
That’s a perspective adjustment. We strive so hard to manage the events of our lives. We work all day so that we can have money. We need money so that we can have a place to live and a car to drive. We use the house to rest a few hours so that we can use our car to drive to work. We drive to work so that we can work all day, and we work all day so that we can have money. And so our cycle of futility continues.
On Saturday afternoon my thoughts of futility were replaced with thoughts of carefree delight. Our extended family had gathered for a bonfire following the funeral for Melanie’s dad. As our kids posed with their cousins to take pictures, I was asked to watch their young children for a little while. What I wanted was a distraction from the emotional events of the day. What I learned from those kids went far beyond distraction. It brought a peace to my soul. I watched the young boys pick flowers for my granddaughter Ellie, and they were determined to pick every flower they could find. Ellie was running around with her large bouquet of flowers, giggling and laughing. And then they laid down in the clover together to just relax and enjoy the moment. I quickly took the following picture.
The words of Jesus echoed to me: “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you” (vs 27-28).
Flowers and graves will always be intertwined. We will never break that cycle. But we can find peace along the way, when we slow down and enjoy our simple moments. And we will break the cycle of futility when we slow down enough to seek the actual Peace Giver. In the end, that’s all that really matters anyway.
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