As I walked through the cemetery one day, I noticed this little stone not far from where Rob is laid to rest. The writing is faded, the features of the little lamb now worn with time and weather. I am drawn to this lamb and to the precious one who rests beneath its stone. I do not know the loved ones who once designed this marker, but I know this for certain. If we were to meet on that gravel path, we would hold one another. They would understand my sorrow, I theirs. We have both lost ones we cherished.
When I think of lambs, the word “lost” evokes images of the Good Shepherd (and this song I love). Though now lost to me, my precious Rob has never for a moment been beyond the reach of his Shepherd. Even in that terrible instant as he fell, Rob was not apart from Jesus. My heart breaks over and over as I think of that moment. Even there, your hand will hold me fast. Even there, as Rob closed his eyes to this life and opened them to life eternal, Jesus held him tightly.
When Rob was a hospice volunteer, he visited with a dying man who talked to someone in the room whom Rob could not see. Rob talking about this experience in The Art of Dying and shared that before modern medicine, many people testified to loved ones being met on their deathbeds by Jesus. 19th century obituaries even mention some of the conversations the dying had with predeceased loved ones or Jesus as the veil lifted to eternity.
I believe that Jesus welcomed Rob into eternity with that same kind of attentiveness. Jesus had shepherded Rob his whole life. He hiked beside Rob that morning. Jesus attended Rob atop Barrier Peak as he enjoyed what would be his last views of this world he loved so well. And Jesus was there to hold Rob when it was time to take him home. In His arms He will gather the lambs.
I trust that Jesus is my Good Shepherd too and I am his precious lamb. I believe that, just as Jesus walked Rob, He walks with me. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I believe that nothing can separate me from Love Himself. Still, many days now, I feel more lost than found. I wander from my Shepherd, and I start to feel the frightening darkness of grief and death and worry closing in. Sorrow is teaching me that, for all my days, I will be happiest if I stay near. If I rest as He carries me close to His heart.
As I think about this stone with its little faceless lamb, I wonder if the loved ones who placed it there needed that reminder too. Perhaps they chose that stone to remind them of that truth each time they came to visit the cemetery in sorrow. That those lost to us are always found in Him. That neither death nor life nor anything in all creation can separate us from the love our Savior has for us. That the Good Shepherd who carries our precious loved ones also carries us too. Even so, come quickly, Shepherd Jesus.