HomeCommunity NewsA Memorial to God’s Faithfulness

A Memorial to God’s Faithfulness

First published in the Nov. 4 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.

By Skip Ober Miller
Special to the Tribune

On the last visit to my hometown in Illinois, I participated in the historical society’s first ever “cemetery walk.” As we trekked from grave to grave, several residents — ­many in period costumes — stood in front of family headstones and shared stories of their ancestors’ lives.
It was moving to hear tales of early founders and important members of the community. We heard stories of our entrepreneurs, some who made canny decisions, and several who served valiantly in wars from the Civil War, World War I and World War II. We were especially moved by the life of a 21-year-old nurse who succumbed to typhoid fever while caring for a patient in 1923.

Skip Ober Miller

The trip spurred a deep dive into my own family history. Documents I began pulling together revealed a brief history of one of my colorful ancestors, my grandmother’s great grandfather, Dexter Severy, who was so eager to get that very cemetery started, he vowed he would go out and shoot someone if there wasn’t a death in town soon.
Memories often slip away without a little help. Some of us set reminders on our phones. My grandmother often suggested tying a string around my finger. More publicly, we put up memorial plaques to help us honor those who are generous or who have made sacrifices for us all. We build monuments to honor great people. We write biographies and histories. All to help us remember what we might otherwise forget. We even set aside Nov. 11 as a day or remembrance for those who served our country.
When the People of Israel passed through the Jordan River as they entered Canaan, God told Joshua to bring 12 large stones from the riverbed and erect them on the bank. They were to be a sign of God’s faithfulness to future generations. The passage in Joshua 4 instructs, “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them.”
It’s helpful to have a physical reminder and inquisitive children to prompt the storytelling.
As the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic nears, I wonder what memories we will enshrine. What memorials will we leave from this very strange time for future generations? What stories will be handed down to our descendants of those far-away days when we had to wear face masks indoors to stay safe?
I pray that the stories will be about how we cared for each other. How those with more helped those with less. How the lonely were visited and the sad were cheered.
I hope my grandchildren will tell tales of how those of us born in the 20th century overcame our fear and embraced new technology. How we learned to Zoom and live-stream worship. I hope they tell stories of how people of faith got the job of following Christ done, in ways we never even dreamed were possible two years earlier.
I hope those who come after us point to the early 2020s as the time when we finally overcame issues of gender and race and class and creed. And how we were quiet and listened for the voice of God.
Let’s pray that when the children of 2120 walk through local cemeteries and tell stories of our lives, they will be proud of how we confronted the challenges of our day with faith and humor and resilience. Hopefully, the monuments we leave behind will be signs of God’s faithfulness, who, just like the Children of Israel, is leading us out of this wilderness we find ourselves in.

Skip Ober Miller is the business manager for San Marino Community Church.


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