We Met in the Cemetery

Walter Albritton


Thursday, Dec. 16, was the first anniversary of the death of my wife, Dean. As we neared that date, my four sons, their wives and I decided to meet in the cemetery at four o’clock to commemorate that sad event together. Our game plan was simple. We shared, sang and prayed, laid flowers on the grave and then enjoyed supper at a restaurant together. Afterward we agreed it was a unique and beautiful experience.

We knew, of course, that Dean was not in that grave. Only Dean’s body, the shell in which her soul had lived, was there. When Dean’s body died, her soul was set free to enjoy the gift of eternal life her Lord Jesus promised her when by faith she became a child of God. No one in our family has used the phrase, “Rest in Peace,” when we think of Dean. While we know she is at peace with God, we feel sure she is not “resting” now but full of life, celebrating the joy of her Savior’s presence in “a house not made with hands.”

We met in the cemetery not to share our sorrow but to speak of how the Lord had helped each of us deal with our first year without Dean’s physical presence among us. Steve, now 57, spoke of how the void created by his mother’s death was being filled with memories that bring laughter and tears. When Steve said, “I miss my Mom,” he expressed the heartache we all shared while acknowledging that memories of “Granny Dean” are helping to fill the void in our lives. 

Mark spoke of his gratitude that his Mom had become his best friend during the year he stayed in our home following back surgery. “She loved me just like I was, always encouraging me and helping me believe in myself. I’ve spent the last year talking to Mom in heaven and thanking her for all she did for me. I thank the Lord every day for Mom and for helping me become the man Mom always encouraged me to be.”

Amy, Steve’s wife, spoke of Dean’s many talents, especially the gift she had for making people feel special. “She always made me feel special and I saw her doing that all the time for others. I miss her love, laughter, reflections about life, her hugs and smiles. She was one of my best friends.”

Karen, Tim’s wife, shared her admiration for Dean’s generosity. “That was one of her best qualities. Whenever she saw someone with a need, she always wanted to help. It seemed like it was impossible for her not to jump in and try to do something to help others.”

Tim shared that he had thought more about heaven this year than ever “because I know that is where Mom is.” And he said, “I have thought more too about my legacy because I realize that Mom left such a wonderful legacy for all of us.” Tim got our attention by asking if we remembered the name Edward Everett. Everett, Tim reminded us, spoke for two hours just before Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address — in two minutes. “It’s not the length of a speech that matters; it’s the content,” Tim said. “And when our Mom spoke, the valuable content was always there!” Tim had us all thanking God for the times we heard Dean speak, for she could have her audience laughing one minute and crying the next. Her “content” was powerful.

Matt shared how this year he had been reminded of Mom by simple things like a poem about a tree or Stevenson’s poem about how he loved to swing high on a swing. “I could be in my daily routine when something she said to me years ago came to mind. For me Mom was the Equalizer. Whenever things became unbalanced in our family, she did whatever was necessary to stabilize the situation. I miss her advice, her humor, her no-nonsense attitude when it was time to be serious and her hugs. She showed me how to love like Jesus and how to love others unconditionally. I hear her every Sunday reminding me, ‘If you are going to talk about my Jesus, you need to be ready to do your best.’ God is helping me with my sorrow by reminding me of important things Mom said.”

Cathy, Mark’s wife, shared a precious memory of Dean befriending Cathy’s young grandson Brody. Dean asked Brody to help her start a fire in the fireplace. Brody gladly helped Dean as she taught him how to place the logs and start the fire. “Brody sat beside her and talked a while and Dean loved that,” Cathy said. We were all remembering with teary eyes how Dean loved to help children put on a “smiling face.” Cathy, who has been in our family for six years now, touched us deeply when she said, “I loved Dean like my second Mom.”

Tammy, Matt’s wife, shared how she had been inspired by the way Dean handled the grief of our son’s death. “She spent her life trying to bring joy to the lives of other children. Dean showed us how to handle grief.” Tammy has inspired our family by the way she has handled the grief of her own life.

I shared a verse sent me that day by my friend Ed Williams — Proverbs 3:15 – “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” I urged my sons to believe that about their wives and to care for them as the precious jewels that they are. Dean was, indeed, the most precious jewel of my life.

I thanked the boys and their wives for the way they have cared for me. I could not have made it through this year without the encouragement they provided. I admitted to them that whenever I began feeling sorry for myself, rambling around in our big home, I could hear Dean saying, “Walter, you can’t go there; God still has lots for you to do, so dry your tears and get busy doing things for others who are hurting.”

At Dean’s grave we sang one song, a chorus based on Psalm 63:3  – “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” That about sums up why we met in the cemetery — to let our lips praise the Lord for the legacy of a godly woman named Dean, the wife, mother and friend we all loved more than you know.


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