When the Cold Winds Blow

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.
Psalm 46:1

The same truths that can help us overcome sadness in a cemetery can also help us overcome the problems that persist in our lives. 

God is.

God loves.

God comforts.

God provides.

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.)

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27 thoughts on “When the Cold Winds Blow

  1. Matt, I have never ever thought about the coldness of the cemetery, and I’ve done a bunch of funerals. You’re right. It is much colder there. Maybe in some strange spiritual way, it’s an atmosphere of the mood around it. I recently led a casket to its resting place as my friend lost his battle with colon cancer. I didn’t perform this funeral and I’m glad because I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. I think in some way, we also realize that we will all wind up in some variation of this (not me, though. I want to be buried at sea.).

    • Yeah–it seems that graveside funerals heighten the atmosphere, whatever it is. When it is hot, it seems hotter. When it is rainy, it seems rainer. Whatever is going on is made…more so. Strange.

  2. I remember when we had to bury our pastor. Man that was tough. It was a cold day (both physically and emotionally). But I cling to the promise that God does indeed comfort those who mourn.

  3. My grandfather passed away in 2002, and while the gravesite wasn’t “cold”, I can relate to the emotional coldness of it. He left behind a legacy of faith, and it was comforting to see that in the family that gathered around the site.

  4. I’m saving this.

    SO many thoughts are running through my head that I think I will just need to write a blog post about it.

    Why are cemeteries cold?

    It’s a compelling question.

    Thanks!

  5. I cannot comment on the Cemetery being cold issue:

    1. I live in Alabama.
    2. Everytime (but 1) I have been to a cemetery, it was going to a celebratory home-going. The other time, I was surrounded by so many family/friends it was still a “warm” atmosphere…and it was 93 degrees….

    But to answer another question, God has been my refuge over the last year, as I have dealt with losing a great job, then being underemployed since. I have to run to God nightly when the pressure hits and the room starts shrinking and the sweat beads on my forehead while trying to sleep…GOD IS MY STRONG TOWER! He has proven to be an amazing Refuge for my family.

    • My wife’s from Montgomery. Yes–I have been to several “good” funerals, but some of them are very sad even if the person was a strong Christian. As for being losing a job and being un/underemployed, I’ve been there. I lost my secular, 40-hr a week job in 2008 and it took almost 2 full years to find full-time employment. It was tough, but God was good.

  6. this is a really neat post, man. I’ve only been in a cemetery for a funeral once — for my wife’s grandfather. It was definitely sad. I didn’t know him well, but the sadness even rubbed off on me.

    God has certainly been my refuge in the past though. I once thought I was really ill, and had to wait a week for results to come back. That was one of the hardest weeks of my life. I kept telling myself that God has a plan for me no matter what, and no harm can come to my soul with he’s in control.

    Thanks for posting, as always!

    • The experience of waiting to find out if you have a terrible illness is a tough one. You want to be optimistic, but the “what-ifs” circle around in your head. God was very present during my week of wonder.

      Thanks for reading!

  7. Actually, I have thought of it. Last year when we buried my husband’s best friend. It was May, so I didn’t think to wear a hat, but then heard my late Mom’s voice tell me to check my pocket. I found a head scarf, and heard a conversation with her in my head from long ago, which warmed me more than the scarf did.

  8. We just buried my great grandmother not too many months ago, and it was blazing hot. I agree that the ominous/repressive feelings are heightened in a graveyard.

    What a good post – God is my refuge and I will hide in his warmth when the world turns a cold shoulder.

  9. I am actually kinda preaching about this tonight. God is always there for us, no matter how painful life gets. God has seriously been speaking to me about this topic all day and your blog is just another of his whispers. Thanks, Matt.

  10. My girlfriend’s grandma died a couple of years ago. It was totally unexpected (sudden stroke), and it wrecked her family for a long time. One of the saddest things was hearing how none of them ever got to say goodbye.

    I told her though that in Christ there will never be ‘goodbyes’ among Christians — only ‘see you later’s. The despair in death can often be overcome by the joy of arriving home forever.

  11. Another factor in the graveyards is that they are usually mostly silent. The only life within them is animals, mourners, and the occasional staffer. And only the animals are allowed to be cheerful. It’s intentional, of course, the idea of a peaceful place of rest. Yet peace and emptiness are really two different interpretations of the same silence. I think a sense of emptiness around you is its own chill sometimes, and standing in an area where there’s nothing but graves for a long ways around you can feel very empty if you begin thinking in the grave rather than beyond it.

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