You never know what will wake you in the morning—a reminder of something you forgot to do the day before, a cherished memory that rests against your chest, or a word that turns into a call to action. On a foggy summer morning, I woke with the word Go in mind. I got up and drove to the cemetery.
When I arrived at the sloping green grounds dotted with bouquets of flowers, I walked to a tiny slab of stone and gave my usual greeting: “Hey, honey.” Taking a lemon-scented wet wipe, I cleaned my son’s marker of bird poop and brushed away twigs so his name and dates were clearly visible.
Daniel P. Wisler
August 25, ’92 - Feb. 2, ’97
Our Darling Boy
Continuing with the rituals I’d developed over the years, I ambled across the grass, pausing to read familiar epitaphs. Both Audrey and Taylor had only one date on their graves; they were born the day they died.
Solomon’s grave was new to me and drew me in. The Scripture passage on his marker was well known: I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. The line, from 2 Timothy 4:7, was quoting a version of the Bible that reads “my course,” not “the course.”
My first response to this stranger’s epitaph was “Well, Solomon, you had 75 years, so the passage makes sense to put on your resting place.” Daniel, Audrey, and Taylor didn’t get that much time.
Images of Daniel cycled through my mind. There was the day he wore a Jesus Loves You pin to the hospital and said that Jesus was his friend. Once he told me that you give gifts to your friends, so he handed out stickers to his. When we crossed the mile-high swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain during a family vacation, he held my hand because I am afraid of heights. I saw his little face and the way it lit up when his siblings entered his hospital room or when I bought watermelon.
From memory I recited another part of the verse. I have fought the good fight. Or to put it in Solomon’s style: I have fought my good fight.
As a cancer patient, Daniel had fought through rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation treatments, infections, and invasive needles.
I stood immobilized for a few minutes. Then I walked back to Daniel’s spot. “You were created for a purpose, and you lived it,” I said in the way a mama talks to her child’s grave. “I don’t know why you had to leave for heaven at 4 years old, but your life was every bit as profound as someone who got to live to see 75 or 85 or 92.”
The mist still hovered; there was no burst of sunlight, no sound of angel wings or trumpets, absolutely no physical indication that I had had an epiphany. But I knew that God had spoken to me through the words on Solomon’s grave and that the comfort of the Scripture verse would stay with me always.