The last thing I had to do after Kristen’s funeral was purchase the tombstone above her grave. Since my cemetery plot is next to hers, I went ahead and ordered a double monument that covered both. It was pretty weird designing a stone with my name and birthdate on it, leaving the day of death blank for now.
Below is the letter I wrote to Kristen on Oct. 1, 2013, letting her know all about the marker. Some of my concluding thoughts come after the letter. May these words encourage and comfort you in some way.
It’s been a good day. The cemetery informed me your grave marker had been installed, so I went by to see it. I was actually excited to go. I worked with the staff to design a personalized headstone that would cover both of our plots, and after several months of waiting, I was finally going to see the end result. But emotions are such fickle things, and I was concerned that Satan might try to steal my joy. So I told a few folks about my plans for the day, and I asked one of my dearest friends to pray for me. Then I braced myself for whatever might come.
I took the back way into the cemetery, which I never do. I don’t know why.
Maybe I wanted to fool myself into thinking this was the first time I’d ever seen your grave.
Maybe I wanted to experience a little disorientation to prepare myself for the unpredictable emotions I was about to feel.
Maybe there was no significant reason. All I know is that I couldn’t wait to park the car and see the stone that marks the end of our earthly existence.
I could see our family name, “ROSS,” etched into the back of the stone, so I moved faster towards the front. I had seen various mockups and proofs throughout the design process, but they did not do justice to the final product. I could not have been more pleased with how it turned out.
I let my feelings take over as I stared at it. I dropped to my knee, placed my left hand on the stone, and wept tears of joy. It’s beautiful, my love. Absolutely gorgeous. A fitting tribute to your life and legacy. It was bright out, so I was still wearing my sunglasses, but the tears flowed like rain, and I smiled widely.
You see, Kristen, it was my pleasure to take care of you in this life. You had many challenges, struggles, and obstacles in this world, and I learned a long time ago that if I could ease your burden and make your life better, then that’s what I was going to do. That’s why I was there when you started your first day of teaching, when we bought our first car, when Elizabeth came into this world, when we closed on our first home, when you went to graduate school, when you had gastric bypass surgery, when you finished your master’s degree, when you gave birth to Ian…
…when you lay dying in the hospital.
It was my great privilege to be by your bedside when you passed from this life and entered the gates of heaven. I loved you until death parted us, and even then, I still took care of you.
I planned every detail of your funeral.
I gave your eulogy.
I designed your headstone.
Going to the cemetery today provided closure. It didn’t wipe away all the pain and grief, and I know the tears will always be with me, but God will always be with me, too. I thank Him for His love and strength, and I want to thank you, too, Kristen. You brought immeasurable joy and laughter into my life, and I will always be grateful to you for that.
After more than 10 years, many trials, many tears, and many triumphs, my task is at an end.
It’s been my pleasure to serve you.
Until We Meet Again,
I’ve been through a lot of sorrow and suffering since Kristen died, and there have been moments when I thought my grief would kill me.
But it didn’t.
My grief did not kill me. It strengthened me.
I know one day I’ll face death, but my life won’t end there. Death is just a new beginning, a gateway to heaven where all my sorrows and suffering will disappear in the presence of my savior. Jesus Christ is the only reason I have made it this far. Jesus gives me hope because he understands my pain and sorrow. He’s been there. He gets it. And he overcame it!
Oh, Death, where is your sting? Oh, Hell, where is your victory?
What a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!