On the outskirts of Billingham, MN, there is a beautiful cemetery. The graves are lined up in neat rows with different types of markers and stones. If you look in the north east corner, far from the other graves is a single stone monument. It is hard to read; the letters and dates are weathered. Levy L. Larsen. Born on August 22 1896. Died February 27, 1906. That is all the story the stone will tell us. A child, a boy, ten years old, is buried there. The words tell the who, but not the why.
In the days when Levy lived there were a few reasons why his grave would not be included with the rest. Why would anyone have chosen to bury a child at a safe distance from the other graves? None of the reasons are kind.
If Levy had not been baptized, if he was a different race, or if he had been born into a world where his parents were not married, he would not have been welcome to lie with the communities’ beloved dead. Several people had heard stories through the years; there are two versions. One is that his parents were not married, that Levy was born and died in a world that ostracized a child, and the mother of a child, born outside of a marriage covenant. The other story has more detail: Levy died of some plague or disease and was buried away from the other graves to protect the dead from contamination. The story goes that people had to walk along the outside of the fence, not even being allowed to step foot on the sacred ground, as though one could die of a disease so repugnant that the fear of it would necessitate the guarding of the other dead, as if they could die again. The only evidence of the truth is the reality shouted by the deliberate placement of his grave: the 10-year-old body of Levy L. Larsen was unwanted and unwelcomed in his death. We can only pray he was loved during his life.
In John 11:32-44 Jesus Christ demanded that the grave clothes be removed from Lazarus. As they were, the stench of his death, evaporated into the wind, replaced by life and laughter and love. God promises to make all things new. When we confront the things in our world that are permeated with the stench of death, and in the name of Jesus, remove the covering of death, new life springs forth. There are situations today that cry out to us and touch our hearts. Our sighs stretch up to heaven, and they are answered.