Pre-Christmas Sleepover

Dust to Dust


"In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother Elbert; and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him and give him peace. Amen."




Last week, I had the privilege of sharing in one of the most poignant and beautiful life celebrations I have ever experienced. My dad's first cousin Elbert went to be with the Lord and his unembalmed natural body was laid in a lovingly handmade casket to rest in a small country cemetery just a short walk from his home.



His entire life, Elbert had been a man of the land, a nature buff who strived toward self-sufficient living from the earth God created.  Elbert spent most of his life outdoors... collecting maple sap and cooking it into syrup, growing heirloom vegetables to eat, encouraging and enjoying wildlife living around him. So this simple earthly farewell orchestrated by his adoring family was perfect.



After Elbert's death on Friday, his family poured their grief into preparing for the celebration of his life. Elbert's sons spent hours together building a simple yet beautiful pine casket. They lovingly dug the grave together. A lot of healing takes place working together like this, and through the sound of hammers and clank of shovels, laughter was mixed with tears on the sawdust-coated faces of the five children he left behind. Memories were shared and all were reminded that family is everything here on earth. Family was a huge part of Elbert's legacy.



And so they came, those closest to the family braving the cold December Indiana morning to come together to say good-bye.




His widow, Wilma, flanked by Mama on her left, and my sister Barb and her daughter Lisa on the right, with one last look at the body of the man she's loved and shared her life with for 65 years. Even though the past few years the husband she knew and loved was slowly fading away as Alzheimer's ravaged his mind, it is still heart-wrenching to say that final good-bye.



A simple yet stunning hand-crafted pine box...



...atop which were affixed the lyrics of a song Elbert had written about his Savior.



I love these two precious women, Mama and Wilma, the dearest of friends for over 60 years, both having hopelessly watched Alzheimer's steal the men they love and ultimately make them widows. I'm so very glad they have each other and that I have them both!



Pastor Brian, of the local Brethren church, read from the King James Bible some traditional and familiar passages. Faith. Love. Charity. Humility. All qualities that defined Elbert's life here on earth.




Closing the service with words I've heard so many times in my life, yet still bring tears to my eyes.

"In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our brother Elbert; and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth; ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The Lord bless him and keep him, the Lord make his face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him and give him peace. Amen."




The children nailed the casket lid closed...





...and slowly and carefully it was lowered into the earth.



No concrete vault. No fanfare.

Earth to earth. 



I found out something new about my family. My Aunt Raellen is the one who got Elbert and Wilma to begin dating so many years ago. So much history between these two!



Finally, family members young and old began covering the grave together.

Ashes to ashes.



Life for all of us must come to an earthly end, and I can't think of a more fitting farewell for this dear man in our family.

Dust to dust.




Wilma Stockberger

Dear Terry, The hectic month of December, 2017 is almost gone and I have time to think about all that has happened. The first week of the month was filled with apprehension as Elbert failed to react much to things around him even sleeping most of the time, not responding when I said his name and spoke to him. I think it was the day before he died I washed sleep from his eyes and opened them one at a time and he wasn't really there then. I tried to believe the nurses when they said. "He is just sleepy these days." So I wasn't shocked when they called to tell me he wasn't doing well and I should come right away. He had passed before I got there. He looked very peaceful, no more lost looks or questions about going home. He was there now. I am so grateful for my children, their support, planning, doing all the things that needed to be done for Dad. The only regret is that we didn't cover him with a blanket-we did not expect to open the casket at the cemetery!
Thank you so,so much for these memories- many of which I would not have except for the pictures because I did not see all that was happening! Love you, Wilma

Sondra Simmons

Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. I have so many happy memories of your family.

Donna Cronk

This is an incredibly moving post. Rarely do we ever see a funeral shared and discussed in this way and I'm glad you thought to recognize it as a significant LIFE moment and a tribute to a man of the land, and a chance to address that for believers, the grave is not the end. Thank you for letting us in on this poignant view.

Cindy Stockberger

A beautiful tribute. Thank you.

Fred Stockberger

Terry, Thank you so much for creating this tribute and for so accurately reflecting the values that dad held dear. Luv you

Bill stockberger

Thank you Terri, this is very touching. What most people don't know is that since the age of 42 after dad's massive heart attack he only had 23 percent of a heart. He did more with that small percentage of a heart than most people do with 100 percent of a heart. After becoming disabled because of his condition he provided food by raising vegetables, beef, rabbits, catfish , and chickens with the help from us boys . I will admit we were not much help in the garden. Mom would cook us the best meals and I never realized how poor we were because we ate like kings and were happy and loved. The man was the definition of resilience. He loved living and loved what he did. A lot of people in his shoes would've given up but I will tell you that he gave more than 100 percent most of the time until he was wore out and would to have to rest and then he would go at it again . Just doing simple things with him was rewarding because he taught every step of the way. Whether we were building fence or using a two bottom plow or making maple syrup we always enjoyed what each day brought us. "The ways of a man are deep waters, a man of understanding draws them out". Proverbs 20:5- I am glad that I understood him. (Most of the time) lol- Bill Stockberger

Terri Chapman

Beautiful !!

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