On Father’s Day, we spend the morning walking among the dead.
It’s the last thing we plan to do before we head back home from D.C. and we make a wrong turn and have to loop all the way around the city again and our legs are tired and sore from walking all over the city for two days and Jeff and I have not had any coffee yet because of a debacle with cream and the boys aren’t really sure about the appeal of a cemetery.
But when we fall in with the other visitors and get our first glimpse of that sea of 624 acres of white stones…it stops us all where we stand. We are on sacred ground and when Jeff bends to slip off his shoe to extract a pebble hidden there, I think shouldn’t we all? I have an urge to slip off my shoes and ease behind this little chain fence and fall to my knees between these markers.
Freedom is not free said an inscription on the Korean War Veterans Memorial we saw yesterday and I feel the weight of the cost in these headstones undulating over this land. I tell the boys a little of the history—how Robert E. Lee married into this land but lost it during the Civil War. We eavesdrop on the tour guides and their groups as we walk by.
We drift through the grounds, tired and quiet, our calves aching as we wind upward. We see the eternal flame, shake our heads at the shame of it all. We continue walking past all these sleeping ones and I can’t help wondering about them.
There are fathers buried here. And mothers. Daughters and sons. Real people who were wept over and missed.
We stroll through the amphitheater where all that light makes me squint. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and I can hear the robins in the trees through these marble columns. I feel my blood slow and I wonder how many grieving souls have found comfort here. Behind the amphitheater is The Tomb of the Unknowns and we arrive just in time to watch the changing of the guard. We marvel at the precision of each step and I wonder aloud how long these men train for this privilege.
On the way back down Jeffrey is struggling with it all. Why do they do this, he wants to know. What does it mean?
I tell him more about the tomb.
The soldiers buried here represent all of those who gave their lives, I say. So many die who are never found. So many unable to be identified…this is our way of saying they are not forgotten. God knows who they are. This tomb helps us remember.
He has seen a lot of hard things on this trip and he is quiet. I watch him run to catch his brother and his father. His dad turns to him with a smile and though I can’t hear what they say, my heart twists with love.
I think of all the fathers and sons buried here. I think of the unknown, the unnamed entombed on the hill. And I wonder—if one lost soldier represents many…what does one living father represent? And me too—this weak mother—where does my parenting point? If my days with my children don’t point to the One Perfect Parent, what do they point to?
I give thanks for all these parents buried here as I watch my children with their father. I give thanks for the good example their father gives and pray for strength in our weaknesses. There are so many. There’s nothing like a few days cooped up in a tiny hotel room with two growing boys to bring that to light.
I’m standing under a canopy of oak and maple tree witnesses and I wonder how many tears their roots have been watered by. A tiny squirrel bounds across my path and those three people I love more than anyone are getting further away from me.
So I give thanks for Grace. And then I run to catch up.
How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us: