Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

April 27, 2003


We laughed and prayed around a small grave in the cemetery


            Good Friday, April 18, was a special day for our family. My wife came up with the idea that the two of us would put flowers on David’s grave. Had he not died with leukemia at age three, he would have turned 50 on Good Friday.

            The more we talked, the more it seemed wise to invite our sons and their wives to go with us. Good, we thought, and perhaps some of our special friends might like to join us also.

            With the plan mushrooming, Dean wrote a very special letter and mailed it to a few close friends. I describe it as a “special” letter because some of her letters are so beautiful and inspiring that they deserve my highest praise. This one, complete with artwork highlighting ideas, was one of her best, and three pages long.

            By now, she was pumped by the whole idea. The two of us had decided earlier that we would send five hundred dollars this year for the work of our friends in Zambia, Alfred and Muumbe Kalembo. “Why not,” she said, “give this money in memory of our David?”

            I quickly agreed. We would ask Alfred to use the money to help poor children in Zambia. He will know where it is most needed.

            Alfred, Muumbe, and their five children live in Ndola, where Alfred serves on the faculty of Theological College of Central Africa. Muumbe has begun a small school for children that she named the “God Is Able School.” The name of the school is a witness to their strong faith!

            With five other families, the Kalembos are helping to plant a new church in Central Ndola. I would not be surprised to hear that they have named the church the “God is Great” Church!

            Dean and I were not prepared for what happened in response to her letter. Her letter, after all, was simply informing our family and friends about our plan to gather at David’s grave on the morning of April 18, offer a few prayers, and go to breakfast. She wanted family and friends to come if they could, but mainly to pray for us, and to join with us in thanking God for David’s brief life.

            A dear friend in Auburn, who has also lost a precious child, sent a check for one hundred dollars, earmarking it “for David’s children.” That inspired family and friends to make donations also.

             Several dear friends, who could not be with us at the cemetery, wrote letters, and sent checks “for David’s children.” Some telephoned us to express regret they could not be with us.  When the dust settled, we were stunned that the total was now over a thousand dollars!

            So this week a check is going from the treasurer of Matt’s church, Trinity United Methodist Church in Weoka, to Alfred and Muumbe, for $1,030.00. We were brought to our knees by the generosity of our family and friends. Our hearts have been stirred to consider that children in faraway Africa will be blessed because of a little blond, blue-eyed boy who died 47 years ago.

            That morning in the cemetery, we laughed, shared, and prayed with about 25 people. None of us had ever heard of such a gathering before. Dean insisted that the occasion be more of a celebration than a time of sadness. And it was. She brought along a picture of David, taken when he was laughing, and well, on his second birthday.

            The picture Dean placed on the gravestone, beside two beautiful Easter lilies that we bought for the occasion. The lilies have been wilted now by the sun and the heat, but for a few minutes, we enjoyed their splendor.

            We shed a few tears, in the midst of our laughter and sharing. We realized, as we looked into the faces of our family and friends, that each of them had also felt the sting of sorrow. But that morning, they had taken time to share both our pain and our joy, and to remind us that we were not alone.

            One verse we shared that was special to us both, the fifth verse of Psalm 30 – “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

            After a time of sharing, we gathered around that small grave, held hands, and prayed together. It was an unforgettable moment for us all. And I believe we all felt the presence of Another there with us, the One without whom none of us can ever walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

            We will remember that Good Friday as long as God gives us breath. And we will never forget the faces of those who stood with us, laughing and praying around a small grave in an old cemetery. + + + +