Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor
The day we moved into our house in Edgewood, the real estate lady who represented the sellers came by to pull her sign out of the yard. We exchanged pleasantries for a minute, and then she said something that no new homeowner wants to hear.
“Did they tell you about the grave?”
My immediate thought was ‘oh, gosh…we bought the Poltergeist house.’
I said something like “no—i don’t remember seeing anything about that on the disclosure notice and i really think i would have noticed something like that on the paperwork and we’re getting out of here before sundown ‘cause blood dripping down the walls is not something i’m prepared to deal with right now!”
She then pointed to a solitary tombstone across the road from our pasture and explained that the previous owner had gone over with his weed eater periodically and cleaned up around it, out of respect for the body laid under the earth there. The dead man’s name was Mr. Tracy.
I decided that since it was across the road, it was not the deal breaker i had first imagined. But for several days, every time the house creaked, we blamed it on Mr. Tracy. The kids giggled, nervously.
A few days that felt like dog years later, when our Internet finally got hooked up, i did some Googling and found a website that features “graves in weird places in Texas” or something along those lines. And there on the website was a picture of the tombstone that sits in front of our property along with the pieced together tale of Thomas Tracy.
Back in the day, the section house for the railroad was located on what is now our land. The story goes that he was a section foreman for the Texas and Pacific and was last seen in Wills Point, possibly intoxicated, boarding an eastbound train. His mangled body was discovered on the tracks the next morning, right across the road from his destination. The other railroad workers just decided to bury him right there next to the tracks, dug a hole and put him in it.
I’m assuming that T&P put up a tombstone since it’s on their right-of-way and people still stop there periodically to take a gander at it. It was even geocached a few months ago, and called The Iron Horse Tragedy to spice up the destination for folks who like to drive around and look at weird things. For some reason, Cracked Tombstone on Front Street wouldn’t sound nearly as interesting to the geocaching community.
History is funny like that, and i guess i’ve been thinking about it and where i fit into it all morning, as i’ve started three blog posts, all dealing with death and legacy, like some sanitized, faith-based 70’s Woody Allen movie.
It’s full of people who fell off trains, but also those who gave their lives ‘for the greater good’—expanding the horizons of mankind by connecting our country through the railroads, or building highways and bridges. Think of the 22,000 men who died linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through Panama, or the 100 who died building the Hoover Dam so the Southwestern US could have drinking water and keep the golf courses in Las Vegas and Phoenix nice and green. None of them started those jobs thinking they’d end up as tragedies, but knew there was risk involved, and somehow believed a steady paycheck was worth it.
So what are you living for? Is it your job? I sat in an office for half my life making sure paper came out of machines. Watching architects and engineer’s visions print out, so that eventually people could have nice hospitals, which seems noble enough, and even nicer places to sit and watch millionaires play baseball, football and basketball, and ridiculously extravagant vacation resorts, hotels and casinos, which does not. Places i would never see or set foot in.
Someone had to make sure things printed, and it was going to happen whether i was there getting paid well to do it or not, but after a while, it just seemed so…pointless.
It wasn’t hard labor like the railroads or the canal, or treacherous bridges spanning a body of water, it was office work. I basically sat there making sure my employees did their jobs and the paper kept coming out.
But back when people worked the land by the sweat of their brow, they also saw the futility of it. Slaves sang songs about the glories of the life to come, as they worked someone else’s field under duress and hardship, in clear opposition to the lives they were living here on earth.
With all of our luxuries, we don’t see that anymore.
Are you living for something more than the (hopefully) seventy or eighty years you have here? Do you see an eternal purpose in raising your children or grandchildren? Can you pour that eternal life view into them and help shape their futures as people who see their jobs as just a way to pay bills, but not defining who they are?
James 4 says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Who are you pouring something that has eternal ramifications into? Something bigger than this earth can hold, that points to the life beyond this one.
This life is short. Ask Mr. Tracy.