Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Little White Caskets

I found myself in a graveyard this week about an hour and a half outside the city. I wasn't there to visit anyone myself so I wandered around, reading gravestone after gravestone, thanking God for the lives of each person buried there. As I walked and read the names, subtracting one year from another to figure the age they lived to be, I wondered also what each one was like. I wondered about their smile and their laugh. I wondered if they enjoyed music or nature or church. Some had "beloved daughter/son" or "mother/father". It was sweet to see the care that was taken of the majority of the graves.

There was even a grave there that had a poem in the headstone. It spoke of the beloved dead's smile and her sweet laugh. It spoke of her charming personality lighting up the small town where she lived and died. She sounded like a very sweet young girl, dead at 32.

I remember walking carefully along the paths between graves and noticing how many servicemen were laid to rest there. Vietnam. Korea. World War II. World War I. How brave those men must have been. "Thank you," I would whisper as I ended my prayer. "Thank you for the gift of your life."

As I finished my thoughts at one marker I noticed a small stone in the ground where I thought I might take my next step. There I read only a name and two dates. There was no special message describing service or smiles. Only a plain-font stone rested there and below it lied the body of a child, lost the day of his birth. I remember taking a small step back and catching my breath. "Sweet baby.. you were loved."

In a matter of moments I remembered all of the little white caskets I've known in my day. (In my day... as if I'm so old...) How greatly those caskets have changed each of our lives. You may not realize that you too have been affected by a little white casket. But I'm here to tell you that you have. Each casket is a person who didn't move in next door to you last year, a person who didn't bake a winning apple pie for the local fair, a person who didn't shake your hand during the sign of peace at Mass on Sunday. Each white casket is a life loved and lost. And lives that are loved and lost are changes (for better or for worse) in each person who loved.

And so today I wonder this: if we gave a casket to every child that wasn't allowed even that one hour of life, how many white caskets would we have buried by now? How many lives have been loved (if only by God) and lost due not to natural causes or freak accidents but to a lack of care or concern by those closest to them? How many caskets would we fill with the bodies of our brethren who were not given the chance to change our lives - in one hour, one day, one year?

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Anonymous T. said...

Hey, Laura! I just stumbled across your blog and thought I'd say hi. I'm in Dallas as well, currently attending the School of Ministry at University of Dallas (Catholic) hoping to work in healthcare ministry eventually. It's nice to come across fellow Catholic women here in Dallas!

12/22/2007 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger Laura H. said...

Well thanks for leaving a comment, T! UD is a great school. :)

12/22/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger veronica said...

Hi Laura, I used to enjoy walks through graveyards, too, imagining those that lived and what they have left behind. Thank you for the sweet reminder, of the little white caskets, especially as I read this so close to the feast of the Holy Innocents. What a loss people suffered!

12/29/2007 12:55:00 PM  

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