“Where’s the spot exactly?” I asked Fred. I didn’t want to wait for the marker. “It’s right here, along the fence,” he told me as he drew on a napkin. “The road comes around in front, but back near the fence there’s a gate that’s right by the spot.” He mentioned that her grave marker was still being prepared.
We were having lunch a couple weeks after Fred had said his final goodbyes to Debbie, his beloved wife, a stalwart mother and grandmother, and a true pillar of our local Catholic community. At lunch, I had told Fred how important Debbie’s ministrations were to my young family way back when. We were new parents and had just moved to the area, and we didn’t know how to cope.
Debbie showed up to help us, and she did it with so much grace and good cheer. What’s more, she lent us a heaping portion of her confidence. “You can do this,” she silently communicated. We believed her. It was easy to believe Debbie.
The Slight Depression on the Ground
A couple days later, on my way home from work, I followed Fred’s napkin coordinates and found the small sign that I was entering the Catholic area of the cemetery.
I guesstimated where to stop. Since there were no other visitors, I left my vehicle in the middle of the drive. It was cold, and there were deposits of snow along the tombstones and memorial markers. Piles of leaves from last fall peeked out from corners here and there; old, dried flowers randomly adorned the frozen grounds.
I saw the gate along the fence, near an outbuilding that no doubt sheltered a backhoe and mowers. I tromped past areas encompassing several generations of Catholic families — weathered stones from the 1800s with flattened inscriptions side by side with crisply engraved markers of more recent vintage.
And there, just in front of the gate, was a slight depression in the ground covered by a collapsed display of shriveled flowers. Next to it was an undisturbed plot of the same size, and I deduced I was in the right place. “Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,” I prayed, “and let perpetual light shine upon her.”
Birds were landing to peck at the grass clumps exposed by the melting snow, and there was a muffled din of nearby traffic. Otherwise it was silent and still and peaceful. I asked Debbie for her prayers.
As I returned to my car, I made a mental note to return soon. By then, the marker will be in place, but I’m glad that it wasn’t there for my first visit. Its absence, for me, corresponded with Debbie’s extraordinary vocation of selfless hiddenness. I trust that her new hiding place in Him will serve to expand her reach.
Richard Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He serves on the nursing faculty at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. “Her Grave Had No Marker” is a shorter version of his “Hallowed Ground: A Wintry Visit to a Fresh Grave,” published on his weblog God-Haunted Lunatic https://godhauntedlunatic.wordpress.com/. It appeared also on Catholic Exchange.