On an irregular basis, I walk through three cemeteries not far from where I live. I enjoy looking at the names on tombstones and thinking about the lives of the people buried there.
So the other day -- cool and cloudy -- I was walking through Forest Hill Cemetery, having just passed by the grave of Buck O'Neill, when I noticed that not far from the stone fence along Troost Avenue, a green tent was set up for a burial and that people had begun to gather.
I watched as about 30 cars drove in, carrying mourners to the burial site. I watched as one man got out of his car and hugged first a woman and then another man.
The hearse stopped as close to the grave as it could get, and eventually pall bearers carried the coffin to the tent. Most of 100 people followed and then gathered around. I was about 150 yards away and could not hear what words were said, though for sure I heard three men in military uniforms each fire their rifles three times into the air in a salute.
Several things struck me.
* First was seeing a child in the crowd of people and wondering whether he would always remember this day, the way I have always remembered watching the burial of a great aunt in 1955.
* Second was a reminder of the permanence of death. Just in front of me, for instance, I noticed a grave marker of a man who has been dead more than 100 years. And, of course, will be forever.
* Third, looking at that man's gravestone (I shot the imperfect picture here on my cell phone) I was reminded sharply of the life and death of my own father. The man buried here, Alexander Martin, was born on my father's birthday, Nov. 7 (though Dad was born in 1909, not 1846) and died on my father's death day, Jan. 2 (though Dad died in 1992, not 1908).
Naturally, all of that got me thinking about my own death and the life I'm called to lead before that happens. Which, after all, is ultimately why you think about death at all.
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ARE GOOD ISLAMIC CHARITIES BEING HURT?
A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union charges that the U.S. government's crackdown on Islamic charities as a way of stopping the funding of terrorism has gone way overboard and is hurting the legitimate needs of Muslims to make charitable donations. Giving to charity is one of the five pillars of Islam. And I know Muslims who worry about what Islamic charities to give to now. At the same time, cutting off funding for violent extremists is crucial, and efforts to raise such money should not be allowed to hide behind charity groups. For the full ACLU report, click here.