A Nice Day for a Walk

There’s a lot to be said for procrastination. Knowing that I had a blog post due today, I did the first thing that came to my mind. I convinced myself that I needed a walk to “clear my head.” To be honest, I was playing hooky. I had a serious case of writer’s block and let myself be distracted with a sudden interest in exercise. Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways. This walk ended up being quite a spiritual eye-opener and the basis for today’s post.

First of all it was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining and the air was cool. Fall is gorgeous in northern Virginia and today was a classic example. The air was just warm enough to not need a jacket and just cold enough to keep me moving. One of the things I like about the DC suburb where we live is that a lot of the sidewalks are not the typical cement paths on the shoulders of the road, but rather tree-lined asphalt trails that veer away from the street and give the impression of walking through a forest or a park despite the fact that you can hear the traffic whizzing by not too far away and you’re probably not more than ten minutes away from a Starbucks or McDonald’s. The beauty of God’s creation is preserved in the midst of man-made development.

Along the way I passed a Presbyterian church with a cemetery facing the street. The cemetery was over a hundred years old with headstones for multiple family generations. I thought about the souls that once inhabited the bodies now buried on hallowed ground. I wondered who among them had lived lives of piety or arrogance, charity or cruelty. I decided it didn’t matter. Their burial in a holy place meant that they were loved on this earth and that at the time of their death someone prayed for them to be with Jesus. Some people think cemeteries are creepy or gloomy. I felt a sense of peace as I walked past.

I kept walking until I arrived a McLean Central Park. It’s a beautiful suburban park with tall trees, pretty walking paths, and a playground with young moms watching their toddlers discover the joys of the jungle gym. Everywhere I looked there was the beauty of creation and life. The McLean branch of the public library is next to the park and I can never turn down a chance to browse! I found myself drawn to the parenting section. (Lisa Helene and I are not expecting but we are planning…) I saw books on everything from potty training to homeschooling and every parenting subject in between. My head was spinning with all the titles and topics I would (hopefully!) be learning about in the not-to-distant future.

I decided I had “wasted” enough time and headed back. As I passed the cemetery again, I had the impulse to touch one of the headstones that was near the sidewalk. I don’t know why. I just felt the urge to reach out and make a gesture of communion with a departed brother or sister. On the back of this headstone was engraved the words, “brother, son, friend, partner, father, aids educator.” On the front of the headstone was his name and the dates of his birth and death: October 1954-January 1999. He died at the age of 44. Did he die of AIDS? I wondered. He was of the generation that was hit hardest by the early years of the epidemic. Was he gay? Was he straight? Who knows? Who cares? He spent at least part of his life helping people deal with a very painful and frightening part of our history. He tried to make the world a better place. I placed my hand on the headstone and said a little prayer.  When I removed my hand I definitely had a feeling of connection. I felt the presence of God in that cemetery and a feeling of communion with a departed brother. I’m very glad I took that walk.

Have a Blessed Week!

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