Yesterday–A Testimony

Yesterday I drove to Ellijay, Georgia–the city of my wife’s birth, upbringing, marriage, death and burial. She died around 2:00am on April 30, 1980 while convalescing in her parent’s home from back surgery twenty days before.

Yesterday I drove to her graveside alone. I had not been there alone in some years, perhaps decades. It was time for me to sit with her, pray, reflect, and meditate.

When I arrived, I sat my portable chair near her grave.  Praying, I began journaling as my counselor suggested.  Journaling is often difficult for me, but this time I wrote for almost two hours.

The cemetery is a small one; it is nestled in a small depression with a country white Methodist church building rising above it. The church sits on Highway 52 which rides a blue ridge in north Georgia.  One road makes a short circle within the graveyard–so short that you have to keep your hand turning the wheels as the car moves among the gravestones. The graves are well-kept. It is a serene atmosphere as the cemetery is surrounded by trees and one large fir tree rises near the center.  All of this in sight of the surrounding ridges of the north Georgia mountains. It is a calm, peaceful setting.

Sheila was the first to be buried outside of the circle but today she is accompanied by aunts and uncles on her north and south side.  As yet she has no immediate family lying beside her.

When I sat down, the clouds were ominous. They were dark and brooding.  I anticipated rain and the forecast called for it. I wondered whether I would have to sit in the car and journal.  As I began journaling I wrote that the dark clouds were a metaphor for how I felt sitting next to her. Sadness filled my soul and tears flowed.

As I was writing and thinking about that metaphor–feeling my way through it, the sky changed. The clouds were still there, but a hole had opened up among them. The hole was situated directly above the cemetery and the sun lit Sheila’s grave. It was as if the whole cemetery was engulfed by the blue sky and its bright sun.  At the same time I felt a gentle, cool breeze flowing over me–a calm wind, a peaceful breath.

“God,” I wrote, “is this for me?”

The dark clouds began moving to the northeast, but the blue sky stayed directly over head. The sun was so bright at times that I could barely write. I needed sunglasses but had none. There were still plenty of clouds, but not over Sheila’s grave. The bright sunlight continued unabated.

“God,” I wrote, “are you telling me something?”

As I was driving down Highway 52 to turn into the parking lot of the Methodist church, I noticed how dark the clouds were and I thought to myself “how fitting.” It was how I always anticipated coming here–sad, depressing, upsetting. Consequently, I tended to avoid the grave.

“God,” I wrote, “are you telling me my life has been dark too long? that it is time to see the light?”

The trees whistled with a pleasant wind. The sun dispelled the darkness. The warmth of the sun and refreshing breeze renewed me. The sun’s warmth sent my heart to God’s love and the breeze felt like the breath (Spirit) of God. My father was blowing fresh grace on me–a fresh joy in that painful place with such painful memories.

“God,” I wrote, “you are here now–you are with me. There is peace. The dark clouds are moving away.”

I know not whether you believe in such experiences. But that was mine yesterday. It was as real to me as typing this sentence.  I’ve had them before and this one was simply amazing, wondrous and beautiful.

Is my grieving over?  I doubt it. But I think it reached a new stage yesterday. It was a moment of grace and joy when all I expected was fear and sadness.

“Is this God’s grace?” I wrote with tear-filled eyes.  Yes, indeed, it was.  Thank you, God.

I then visited with Sheila’s parents for a couple of hours. They are godly, good folk. They still love me and I love them.



13 Responses to “Yesterday–A Testimony”

  1. Profile photo of Tim Archer  Tim Archer Says:

    My Father and my God, I thank you for blessing John Mark in this way yesterday. May he always know your presence and your peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

    Your story moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Thank you!

  3.   Wes Says:

    Thank you for your courage to share your heart, scars and faith. Thank you God for you grace.

    You will never know the hope both offer.

    Grace & Peace,

    Wes

  4. Profile photo of Janice Tharp Garrison  Janice Garrison Says:

    What you have shared is moving and heartfelt. I absolutely believe in such experiences and have had them myself. I treasure them and I always pray I will have them again.

  5. Profile photo of Wendy Scott Cayless  wjcsydney Says:

    John Mark, thank you for blessing me by sharing. I too was moved to tears.

    Agape
    Wendy

  6.   Lynn Says:

    John Mark, I was moved to tears as well. My sister’s bestfriend was Sheila. I know how wonderful she was while she was here. I wonder if it wasn’t a sign from heaven telling you that Sheila is fine and; that her light and love frees you to fully live here. Yet knowing the hope and the future that eternal life holds as well for you both. Knowing that you both can share in the free flowing love to everyone in eternity one day. In other words, love will not be confined there but overflowing to all and; you both will share in that together with others. I say that because of what I know about Sheila from a distance and; what I believe about you from reading your writings only. It seems to me that she might be saying yours and her overflowing love remains intact only in a better form there. So carry on until that time of bliss in Heaven……… Just my thoughts about two wonderful people. Lynn

  7.   james Says:

    I believe your experience is a testimony of how the only thing that exists in this life is relationships.

  8.   Jack Hicks Says:

    I miss Sheila!

  9.   rich Says:

    ya know john mark
    raising 6 six kids, has taught me to look back a my “rebelious” self and see the nuturing hand of the lord in my life nudging me away from the doom i was headed for. so as god has done for me i have learned to do for my children.
    being raised in the church as we have been i think we have all been told emphaticly in so many words, “don’t go sailing off into the mystic”…
    once i learned that those words are a “compaired to what”,i learned to accept and now i take for granted that god will use any thing to gide me if i will but open my eyes un-clog my ears and do a little foot work,in a blind deaf and crippled world.
    so if i can see god’s good,if i hear god’s good,and if i do god’s good…as a true son
    how my brother could you ever doubt that a loveing father would not send you a little light on a rainey day.
    you know john mark the father may have had a few more tears of joy around you and you might not have noticed them for the rain…

    BOY OH BOY JOHN MARK GOOD NEWS

  10.   WesWoodell Says:

    Bless you, brother :)

  11.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Those with God-bent eyes and ears may find themselves seeing and hearing beyond explanation. I praise God for your experience.

  12.   Mary Cunningham Says:

    John Mark –

    Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing this account of your quiet time in the cemetery. Having not been in contact with you very much for the last few years, I don’t know much about your life of late. I knew that you had lost Sheila early in your marriage, and understood how terrible that must have been. That you are making a time NOW to grieve all that transpired so many years ago is a very good thing. Some people who have experienced a great loss just dig in, lower their heads and push forward with all their might to get through it because it is so painful. Then years later they are again confronted with the pain and don’t understand or know what to do. When we lose anything, or anyone, that is is valuable to us, eventually we MUST take time to grieve that loss. Otherwise it is like an unseen heavy weight we continually drag around. Though not visible to others, or perhaps even to ourselves, that hidden sorrow still encumbers us — prohibiting us from experiencing many of life’s joys that God desires for us to know.

    So, dear brother, continue to grieve and let those signs of God presence with you IN your grief bring you comfort and the courage to press on.

    God bless, Mary

  13.   Lynn Says:

    John Mark:
    Carry on continuing to feel that light to help you along! In His Great Love,Lynn

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