Sometimes I do a mental search and try to reconnect to my earliest memories. When they do return it is often in very simple bits and pieces. Perhaps a mental picture of a face, or just some words.
One of my earliest memories is of the death of my grandfather, in 1942 when I was four years old. He died that September, the results of a serious stroke. He collapsed a few blocks from his house, on the way to work one morning. A few days later he died in the hospital.
His funeral is the first I can remember. His was the first dead body memory brings back to me. He had been a foreman for the Chesapeake and Ohio steam engine repair shop in Huntington, West Virginia. The church was full of the men who worked for him. During the service someone played a xylophone , very somber, beautiful.
After the church we traveled to a country cemetery about twenty miles away, located at the top of a West Virginia hill. Very vividly, I remember the open grave, a pile of dirt at the side. And then after scripture was read, words were said, and prayers offered, the casket was lowered into the ground. There was not a vault, as we see today. Just a deep hole in the ground, the casket , and men standing around to refill the grave with dirt when we left.
During this Easter Season I have thought about just what it means, or should mean, to us as followers of Jesus. What is it we believe, and what is it that is any different from what everyone else may believe? What happened to my grandfather that day? What is it that will happen when Jesus returns?
Over time I have come to view what we believe as Christians is radically different from that of everyone else about “afterlife.” For what happened as Easter was much different from the ordinary. We believe that Jesus, though dead, rose bodily from the grave, was seen by many people, and ascended to God the Father. And when He returns, the dead will be raised and we will have a body like Him.