There is an old, small, weathered headstone in the 1800s cemetery that reads simply, “Wife.” No name, no dates, no other inscription, it reads simply, “Wife.” As a young girl, I used to walk among the tall prairie grass and lay wild flowers there.
“Wife” probably had a name, although I used to wonder if her husband knew it. Wife was also somebody’s daughter, and perhaps somebody’s mother, grandmother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, niece, or friend. She was probably Christian, or she would not have been buried in the cemetery alongside the old, Swedish church that used to stand there.
Yet when her body was laid to rest, her name to those who knew her was either not known at all or relegated to “Wife.” She could have been anyone.
It has been decades since I last visited Wife’s grave and laid wild flowers there. Wife’s headstone is barely legible anymore, although the old cemetery can still be found off the main road near the junction of County Road C.
The country church that used to shadow Wife’s simple headstone is long gone. To the best of my knowledge, children no longer play among the old headstones, singing Bible songs and placing wild flowers on forgotten graves as I once did. Yet Wife’s grave is not neglected; God has adorned it with red cardinal flowers, yellow coneflowers, dandelions, and nodding onions that grow wild there. Red-wing blackbirds serenade this isolated place, and endless blue skies and colorful wild flowers testify to the fact that Wife is known to, loved and valued by her Heavenly Father – as we all are.
Jesus teaches that God knows and loves all of His children – everyone of us, whether named or unnamed, whether Christian or non-Christian, and whether remembered or seemingly forgotten by our physical world. Jesus teaches that our Heavenly Father is a loving Creator; a Creator who cares for all His creation — and clothes the grass of the field with the glory of wildflowers. (Luke 12:27)
As a young girl, I remember feeling love for Wife. Her anonymous grave pulled at my heart. As a young girl I had not yet learned to hate or doubt. I had a childlike love for everyone and unshakable faith that Jesus loved us all. It seemed easier to love God and others when I was a child because I had not yet been hurt and my faith had not yet been tested.
Returning to this place after all these years reminded me that although my trials have grown increasingly difficult and I’ve seen the world through adult eyes, I can still find comfort and strength in the unquestioning faith of my childhood relationship with Jesus. The natural beauty of Wife’s resting place reassured me that I am known and precious to God, even when my relationship to the physical world seems anonymous and relatively insignificant. Even when my existence may seem without purpose.
In this place of wild prairie grasses and solitude, I received a great gift: The gift of a childhood memory with Jesus. I re-experienced the peace I felt then by believing in Jesus without complete understanding; obeying Jesus without challenging God’s will or methods; and, trusting that I am loved and cherished by God. To not fear worldly anonymity or death, but to live with Jesus beyond them.
In this place of wild prairie grasses and solitude, my childhood beliefs have been rejuvenated. I have made a decision to “unlearn” the skepticism, hate, fear, negativity, and lessons of the physical world that seek to derail my faith and undermine my relationship with Jesus. To set aside the cynicism of my worldly education and experience in favor of Christ’s knowledge and a parent-child relationship with God. A relationship that I’ve always carried within me, and that has always competed with the physical world to be heard.
In this place of midsummer prairie grasses and solitude, I am grateful. I celebrate that we are all known to God, we are all loved, and we are all cherished by Him. No one need fear spiritual anonymity or death if we choose to trust in Jesus and invite Him into our lives — into our hearts.
I celebrate that we need not be afraid of a world that ignores us or can inflict on us only physical harm or physical death. Jesus teaches, “Don’t be afraid of those who can kill only your bodies – but can’t touch your souls! Fear only God who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Not one sparrow (what do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31
In this holy place, I no longer walk among the old headstones, placing wild flowers on abandoned graves as I once did. Our heavenly Father is doing that now, far better than I ever could. And neither do I worry, as I once did, that Wife will ever be forgotten. For she was, is, and always will be known to her Heavenly Father — and to me.
God’s will be done.
Photo by Edwin Butte