Photo: Elieen Benthal

I like to walk and pray in the cemetery next to one of the churches where I attend daily Mass. One of my dear friends is buried there and it helps me to feel closer to her when I need to chat.

In the last three years, I have lost my mom, my sister and two of my best friends. It’s been a heart-wrenching time filled with a lot of grief. Walking and praying in the cemetery helps me to feel closer to all of them, especially because most of them are buried in other states.

When I go to the cemetery, I always visit my friend’s grave. I feel a consoling sense of connection as I remember her laugh, her smile and how well she listened to my heart in our conversations. I tell her about everything and nothing. I tell her that she’s still gathering people together — even in heaven.

I walk through the cemetery and pray my rosary and the chaplet of Divine Mercy for all those who have died. Then I ask for their prayers from heaven. It’s kind of like an eternal family and friend reunion.

It may seem like a strange way to spend an hour — walking and praying in a cemetery — but in truth, I think it adds balance to my life. Grief is a kind of pervasive experience which can cloud our thinking and seep into every area of life — unless you give it an appropriate time and place. Walking in the cemetery gives me that time and place to grieve and to continue on in hope.

Somedays when I walk in the cemetery, I’m overjoyed at the beauty of this life — even as memories of the deceased linger. Other days, I cry a little. But I always leave with a sense of peace, of God’s omnipotence and the promise of eternal life.

These walks remind me that in heaven there will be no more tears — we will see God and our loved ones who have gone on before us who will be there to welcome us home.

Walking in a cemetery is good for the body and the soul. It’s also an exercise in perspective.

The Psalmist put it like this —

“Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

There’s nothing quite like walking through a cemetery to remind one that all of our days are numbered by God.

Everyone dies.

Rather than seeing this as a depressing thought, facing this truth can remind us to cherish the days that we have here on earth and use the time that we have to live for God and love one another.

My walks in the cemetery are also a comforting reminder that we are never alone.

The apostle Paul talked about the faith of the Old Testament believers, including Abraham, who inspire us to live our lives for the Lord. After detailing some of their testimonies in a previous chapter, Paul writes,

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” Hebrews 12:1

To be clear, Paul isn’t suggesting that we contact the dead for guidance or worship any gods besides the one God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. There are numerous verses in the Bible which warn against contacting the dead.

But Paul is reminding us that the saints in heaven surround us to inspire us to live for God and to pray for us as we run the race towards our heavenly home.

As a Catholic, I am a firm believer of turning to the intercession of the saints in heaven for assistance here on earth. There are many scriptures which point to the continual prayers of those in heaven for those on earth.

In the Book of Revelation, John shares visions of heaven and the worship of God that continues beyond this life on earth.

“…the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8).

Some people misunderstand the practice of asking the saints for their prayers as competing with turning directly to Jesus. But those same people are unafraid to ask for the prayers of people on earth.

If we gain strength and inspiration from the prayers of those on earth and we believe that life is eternal in heaven, then why should we stop asking for the prayers of those who have gone before us?

The saints can also serve as an inspiration to us on our journey. I love reading about the lives of the saints who struggled through similar trials as mine or recalling the words and wisdom of loved ones who have left this world for heaven. These are the heroines and heroes in faith who remind me to persevere and trust that the Lord is with us on this journey.

The saints and our loved ones can pray for us from their vantage point of heaven. Sometimes there are even reminders of their prayers.

Before my dad died, I told him about an inspiration the Lord gave me in my prayer, “You take care of the dimes, I’ll take care of the dollars”. My father, a firm believer in the old adage — “ little leaks sink big ships” laughed out loud and assured me it was a word from God.

After Dad died, I found dimes everywhere and in the most unusual places. And since then, especially when I’m worried about money, I find dimes. It reminds me of Dad’s wisdom on finances and to trust the Lord for provision. When my friend battled cancer, she promised to send feathers from heaven as a reminder of her presence and prayers. Only hours after her funeral, a cloud clearly shaped as a long feather tapered down the blue sky to the horizon as if heaven was touching the earth. Eighteen months later, I’m still finding feathers — especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

These experiences and prayer are consoling signs to remind us that we don’t walk alone on this journey — a heavenly cloud of witnesses surrounds us and covers us with their prayers before God’s throne.

If you need to find some peace and perspective, take a walk in the cemetery. Turn your mind and heart to the Lord. You may find a touch of heaven and wisdom for living a Godly life here on earth.

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