My son wants to go for a walk. C’mon, Dad, he says, let’s go to the place where the dead people are buried. I nod and we take our leave of the apartment. Our apartment complex is next to a shopping center which used to house a grocery store called “Winn Dixie” witnessed by the fact that there are fifteen or twenty old grocery carts down by the creek behind the building. It looks like when they heard the store was closing they tried to make their getaway and got lost in the woods. Either that or a few of the neighborhood kids were taking rides down the sloping paths leading to the creek. Amidst the jumbled mess of rusting shopping carts, one can clearly make out the Winn Dixie signatures in several places.
This grocery store was converted into a fitness center a few years ago apparently, and now people go there to sweat. I’m sitting on the other side of the fitness center in a new coffee shop. Just across the street from the apartment complex, nestled in the corner of the fitness center and its vast slab of asphalt, guarded by three or four Oak trees is a small graveyard. The cemetary is surrounded by a small wall of stacked stones which the red ants have claimed as their domain, swimming around the rocky moat in their endless, industrious procession. There are probably fifteen gravestones sticking out of the ground in the Hawkins Cemetary. There is a wooden sign that stands outside the hallowed ground, proclaiming this family name, and one more recent memorial marker indicates the names of two of this family, one of which was actually buried somewhere in Texas. Except for this one recent memorial stone, there are two or three gravestones on which faint names and dates can be deciphered, marking the burial places of a Hawkins and his first and second wives who all died in the late 1800s.
So I sit in one corner of the cemetary and my son sits in the other. Someone has set up a couple of slabs of stone to resemble something of a seat, and so we oblige these nameless benefactors and we sit. My son explains to me that there are people buried beneath the stones. I ask him what will happen to them. He says that Jesus will raise them up and give them new bodies. Then what will happen? He says that the ones who love Jesus will get to be happy. They’ll build stuff and play with their toys. I nod. And what about the ones who don’t love Jesus? He says that they will go to the bad place.
Now my son wants to play a game. He suggests that he will be David and I will be Goliath. There are plenty of stones on hand, and my son is not much for pretending niceties. After I have received a pebble to the head and (dutifully) fallen to the ground, he cuts my head off with his stick and explains that I have to stay there until Jesus comes back.
After a few moments, he realizes that this might take a little while so he says that I can get up. I ask him what we should do next. After a moment, he says that he will be wicked Saul and the bad men and I can be Stephen. I’m beginning to see a pattern to these stories: rocks and people getting hit with them. But I oblige him. And the first martyrdom is re-enacted in the Hawkins Cemetary before a crowd of shiny SUVs. I ask my son what happened to Saul after he was hurting the people who loved Jesus. He says that Jesus told him to stop. But after he did, some of the people were still scared of him.
My son turned three yesterday. He loved his birthday, he tells me. What was his favorite part? Chuck E. Cheese. What was his favorite thing at Chuck E. Cheese? It was the slide, he says, and he invited all the boys to play with him. The “slide” was the playland-like series of tunnels that the kids could walk/run through which had a slide on one end. Apparently, he had begun systematically inviting the other boys to begin playing with him. Of course they were already doing that, but that didn’t stop him from just making sure they knew they were invited.
Well, here’s to River: May you always slay the dragons and the giants, and may you have many more years of faithfulness.