Fourteen years ago we moved to Southern Oregon. Our first home was in Medford, but after three years we moved to the neighboring historic community of Jacksonville. This was before the housing bubble began to swell and we could actually afford the little one thousand square foot home we eventually purchased.
Shortly after our move we were visiting the Applegate Trail Museum in Sunny Valley, Oregon. I was fascinated with the early history of Southern Oregon and the facts surrounding the first wagon train into our area. After our visit to the museum, I was researching the Applegate Wagon Train of 1846 and came across the manifest listing those present on that historic journey. On the manifest, I found something that amazed me beyond belief. There on the manifest were some of my relatives. I began to get emotional as I discovered this piece of my history.
On the manifest was listed a man named Alphonso Boone. Alphonso was a grandson of Daniel Boone, the historic figure from the early history of our nation. I am also a descendant of Daniel Boone. I am one his nephews. My mother’s maiden name is Boone.
Alphonso eventually settled near Portland, Oregon and his family set up a ferry business along the Willamette River. That ferry business operated through the mid-1950’s until bridges were built over the river. Today, Boone’s Ferry Road is a well-known roadway in the area.
Shortly after buying our home in Jacksonville, we purchased burial plots in the historic Jacksonville Cemetery. We feel the Rogue Valley is our last stop on our earthly journey so buying the plots made sense to us. Our plots are located on a sloping hillside overlooking the valley.
After finding my relatives on the Applegate Wagon Train, I also discovered some of my other relatives are buried in the cemetery in Jacksonville. One of those buried here is Alphonso Boone’s son, George.
As you read this, I hope you don’t feel uncomfortable talking about death. As a believer in the promises of God, death is something that should not sting us with its reality. We will cry when someone we love dies, but in the end, our physical death will usher us into a promise of something wonderful beyond our wildest dreams.
Jan and I love each other. We have loved each other for the last 40 years of marriage. She is my girl and I am her guy. We only have eyes for each other. I honestly don’t know where she ends and I begin. That is what oneness is like. However, a reality exists in our future – someday one of us will die.
Several years ago, as Jan and I walked through the Jacksonville Cemetery we talked about some of the beautiful words engraved on the tombstones we were passing. I said to Jan, “I think I know what words we should put on our tombstone.” As we continued to walk I said, “We should put the words, ‘together in His presence.’”
I said we should only capitalize the word, “His”, because we want people walking by our graves someday in the future to know that we were talking about Him – the Lord Jesus.
I shared with Jan the scripture that says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. When the remaining one is left here alone, and they begin to worship the Lord, He promises to inhabit their worship. The one who went on ahead will also be in the presence of the Lord because the Word says that when we are absent from this body we will be present with the Lord.
In other words, both the one left behind and the one in eternity will be together in God’s presence. They may not see each other, but they will be together in His presence. The closest we would ever be to each other after one of us dies is when the remaining one chooses to worship.
Last week, I was walking alone through the cemetery. The cemetery is not a spooky place to me. I love the history and the tender remarks carved into the old headstones by loved ones left behind. The inscriptions can bring you to tears. Some were about little babies taken from life who were not yet a year old. Others were killed in the Rogue Valley Indian Wars of the 1850’s. Some lived long and faithful lives. Each one tells the story of a life.
As I walked down the hill to where our plot is located, I saw a doe deer. She was standing atop where our physical bodies will someday be buried. I made a remark in jest to the deer about her taking care of our place until we arrived and then I was reminded of a future reality.
Someday either Jan or I will walk past this same spot – alone. In those moments when we will surely miss each other the most – the remaining one will make a choice to worship and in that moment become together again in His presence.