"There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow." Ecclesiastes 1:11
There is good news and bad news in this verse. The good news is for those people who worry about what others think about them. In the end no one will think about you at all. The bad news is for those who seek some kind of temporal immortality. In the end no one will think about you at all.
If you doubt my words, check out any graveyard. See how many names you recognize. Several years ago I spent two hours on a cemetery walk sponsored by our local historical society. Most people, I suppose, would find the idea of touring a cemetery somewhat depressing, but I found it fascinating. Graveyards have a story to tell for those who care to listen.
Evangelist Billy Sunday is buried in this cemetery. Between 1900 and 1930 he traveled from city to city, preaching to hundreds of thousands in huge tents and tabernacles, calling the unconverted to “hit the sawdust trail.” He was the Billy Graham before Billy Graham. Chiseled in marble on his tomb are these words from 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (nasb).
Along the way we saw the graves of many of the founders of this area. A Civil War general is buried there, along with Ernest Hemingway’s parents.
At one point our guide showed us a monument with two names on it. “Dr.____ usually listens in to make sure we get our facts right,” she said. I thought she meant that metaphorically, as if the good doctor somehow tuned in from the Great Beyond. But, no, she meant it literally. The doctor and his wife are still alive and well. They have already placed their own monument in the cemetery, planning to occupy the ground beneath it sometime in the future.
We stopped longest at the memorial to the Haymarket martyrs. A professor from the University of Illinois told us the gripping story of the 1886 rally in Haymarket Square, the first dynamite bomb in American history, the crooked trial that followed, the hanging of six men, and the 500,000 people who lined the streets to watch the funeral procession.
Many things run through the mind while visiting a cemetery at twilight. Things are peaceful, serene, quiet. Strolling among the graves, you can’t help reflecting on how brief this life is, how quickly the years pass. The professor noted that Emma Goldman and “Rebel Girl” Flynn hated each other in real life (they both hated Billy Sunday) because one was a communist and the other wasn’t. How ironic, he noted, that they now rest some fifteen feet from each other.
The cemetery tour may seem to disprove my point, but it doesn’t. Only a handful of people came to visit a handful of the thousands of graves. With each passing day we forget a little more. If you want to be remembered after you are gone, follow the One who lives forever.
Lord of the ages, remember me. Amen.