I bought a wool overcoat, long and heavy, just to wear to cemeteries. According to the Seeking Pastor Weather Service (SPWS), cemeteries are at least 20 degrees colder during the winter than the temperature in surrounding areas. In the interest of full disclosure, the SPWS relies solely on the opinion of one man and not scientific data. And that man is convinced that he is right.
Going to a graveside service is normally not a pleasant thing, winter time or not. To me, it is the saddest part of the funeral experience; there is a sense of finality there that is not found inside of a funeral home. And there are usually fewer people gathered for a graveside service, which can make those mourning feel more alone. Watching the casket being carried and placed over an open grave while the family walks slowly behind it is sacred in its own way. The only way to make this scene more emotional is by having someone play Amazing Grace on a bagpipe. Hearing a bagpipe at a cemetery is like taking a heart that is already broken and squeezing it to get all of the sorrow out. It sounds like beautiful grief, angelic wailing. And it seems to make a cemetery feel even colder.
I’ve spent a little bit of time pondering why cemeteries feel so cold and the main reason that I can come up with has to do with a lack of protection from the wind. Cemeteries are usually flat and (around here) are located on hills that feature virtually no trees. The wind flies through the graveyard unimpeded and straight to your bones, piercing through to your soul. There are no places of refuge from the cold air. There is nowhere to hide.
The same is true in an emotional sense, as well. Saying goodbye to someone you love as his or her body lays in a box can bring a much more bitter type of coldness. At that moment everything is laid bare, all of your emotions and memories striking you deep inside. Your family and friends are of little comfort, some because they are hurting, too and some because they simply are powerless to prevent the waves of despair that come crashing down. The grief comes with various levels of force leaving you feeling unsteady and unsure.
Is there somewhere to go that can provide refuge from this emotional coldness? No, but there is someone.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
The same truths that can help us overcome sadness in a cemetery can also help us overcome the problems that persist in our lives.
When the cold winds of despair hit hard, we have a place of refuge. His name is God. We can hide in Him.
(Have you ever noticed how cold cemeteries can feel? How has God been your refuge in past? In the present? Share away.)