In Minnesota March is greeted with snow-covered fields of frozen earth. April snowfall is not uncommon. When we lived there, I once planted our garden on May 1 only to have it freeze. But we are back in Texas where spring comes early. The first of March finds nurseries overflowing with flowers and vegetables begging for a place to grow. Whether in Minnesota or Texas, there is something about digging in the earth, sowing seed and burying plants in the freshly turned soil. It is an act of faith, of hope and expectation. It is an ancient ritual of believing. It is a way of interacting with life’s mysterious miracle. When I was in Minnesota, I wrote a poem about the experience.
I have bedded them,
laid them down to sleep,
dug shallow graves
and buried them
beneath soft soil,
dark, moist, rich dirt,
gently padded and patted.
They have been accepted
by the earth,
their burial signified by stick-markers
on which are written their names,
not in remembrance but in expectation,
waiting for them to wake,
to spring from dormant death into full flower:
pink and red and lavender,
yellow and white
the funeral-ritual of spring.
Cemeteries are like gardens, the name markers signifying the faith and hope with which the bodies of those who have gone on before were laid to rest. What is buried appears to be dead and lifeless. But is it?
Paul had this image in mind when he wrote, “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. … So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ … thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:37-54).