Originally published Feb 3, 2013
I have found the life of a parish priest to be endlessly interesting, drawing me into places and encounters I would never have imagined. Which is how yesterday I found myself, early in the morning, in the memorial garden digging two graves as snow softly and quietly came down. Now, these are graves only meant to accommodate the ashes of the dead, not a full size casket so it wasn’t particularly strenuous, just unexpected. But I’ll share something else I wouldn’t have expected. It was deeply gratifying to do this final task for someone entrusted to my care by God. I have always found the whole foot-washing thing a little creepy and invasive, but I think that in digging out these two small graves I discovered in new and more visceral way what it was that Jesus was trying to show us. There was a dignity in this small service I was able to render, and I found myself thankful.
I should also confess that I had some help, from my daughter. I appreciate that grave-digging isn’t the usual kind of father-daughter bonding experience but it happened something like this.
Me: I have to go over to the church now
Daughter: Can I come Daddy?
Me: Well, I have to clear the snow and dig some holes
Daughter: why do you have to dig holes?
Me: Well, two people died and we’re burying them today.
Daughter: Can I help?
Me: Well… I guess so – put on your snow pants
And off we went. She’s only four so it’s unlikely she will remember the details of this day, but I won’t be surprised if something of it doesn’t lodge within her memory somewhere. I know I’ll never forget.