I love walking through cemeteries. This may sound strange but some of the names and comments inscribed on those stones can teach and inspire. This is especially true in older ones.
For example, during my youth my father served a congregation in central Kansas. In the cemetery that surrounds the church there stands a grave marker which is quite unusual. A large ship's anchor marks the grave of a Swedish sea captain who, at the age of 40, decided to settle down, raise a family and become a wheat farmer. Swen Haggman became the father of 12 children and of these, one became a doctor, another a nurse who became the superintendent of nurses of Augustana Lutheran Hospital in Chicago - another an Army nurse during World War II, who upon being discharged went back to school and became a pharmacist so that this small community could keep their drugstore open. Of the other children who grew to adulthood three became farmers in the area. Whenever I visit this small cemetery I recall the influence this sea captain had upon his world and the generations that followed.
When I became pastor of Chisago Lake Lutheran in Center City, I many times walked through the three cemeteries operated by the congregation and those walks gave me hope and inspiration. While visiting Glader Cemetery I would remember the earliest pioneers buried there who denied themselves in order to come to this country and build a place of worship before building their own homes. Going through the Chisago Lake Cemetery, your eye is drawn to a large and imposing Tombstone with the name "Magney" engraved upon it. He was the first student to attend Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, reminding me of the influence my college and seminary has played in my life.
The largest monument in Glen Cemetery in Paxton, Ill., is that of my great grandfather. Peter Larson, who came to this country in 1853 and died 30 years later. His imposing tombstone has scripture verses engraved upon its four sides. What I know of him was that he was a wealthy man who owned and operated 19 tailor/clothing stores in central Illinois. The only reference to his life was one I found in a history of Augustana College and Seminary, which was founded in Paxton, that the "students were encouraged to buy their suits from Mr. Larson and he would give them a generous discount." That is all I know of the influence of great-grandfather Peter Larson.
In the adjoining section of the cemetery is a plain marker with the name "Minnie Geiger" inscribed on it. Minnie was a school teacher in Chicago who taught and lived there all her days. Her goal in life was to put a doctor through medical school, a teacher through graduate school and a minister through seminary. I was the recipient of her generosity and a seminarian. Besides doing this for three young men, when her will was read she gave one farm to her faithful tenant and the second was given to the hospital in Paxton allowing the community to add a much needed surgical wing.
Cemeteries can teach us the meaning of life. When someone looks upon your grave marker will your name be simply engraved in stone or will you be remembered by what you have done to make this world a better place and live on in the lives of people you have touched?
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