Today Mrs Phil and I went down to Highgate Cemetery to have a look round. (The title of this post, by the way, is a reference to “Cemetry Gates” by The Smiths). Although you can’t get into the West cemetery without going on a tour (and there were no tours today), we had a look round the East Cemetery.
It was really interesting – I took a few photos (on my phone, sadly – forgot to take my proper camera) which you can see above. It was nice to see the grave of Douglas Adams (pictured, above) – it’s probably one of the plainest graves in the cemetery! Fans have left lots of pens in a jar next to it, there’s a piece of paper with ’42’ written on it as well as a few other little bits and pieces. We also saw the grave of the East Cemetery’s most famous inhabitant – Karl Marx (also pictured above).
One of the things that struck me whilst wandering around the cemetery was the fact that … 100% of the occupants were dead. Rich and famous rubbed shoulders with the poor and lonely. Those at the top of the pile died just the same as those at the bottom. Death is the ultimate statistic, isn’t it? 1 in 1 people die.
It put me in mind of Psalm 49:
Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me –
those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches? …
For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses for ever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.
People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd …
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself. …
People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish.
It caused me to reflect on what really matters in this life. Building up wealth, building up our bank accounts, nice houses, even lands which we have conquered – all of it means nothing if we ‘lack understanding’. If we do not know the God of our salvation, we are like the beasts that perish.
When I walk around cemeteries, I always like looking at the graves which have scripture verses on them: it gives me hope that those people are now with the Lord. Those people, who trusted in Jesus, are now alive with him and will be raised up at the last day. If you haven’t given much thought to death, I think it’s worth thinking about: ultimately we know that everyone dies on earth. What hope do you have?