In December, 2008, Marji thought we should swing by Rock Island, IL, on our way to Chicago to meet with one of our Hispanic congregations. The idea was we would make a brief stop to put a bronze ribbon on the ground level marker for her mother’s burial plot.
Neither of us stopped to think that there were three inches of new snow on the ground. Normally, I would have blamed my wife for that, but if you have read “Navigating Change,” you know the author teaches us 100% responsibility for our actions.
So, we arrived at this beautiful and undefiled snow-covered slope overlooking the Rock River in Moline. The weather was unbelievable with a wind chill of seven below zero. And, I was not a bit enthusiastic because this stop was never really a team decision. On the other hand, Marji was her normal optimistic self. I was only willing to get out of the car because I love Marji and I don’t like the consequences of saying “NO or no” to her. And, this would have required a “NO!”
Not even a rabbit or a squirrel had ventured to make a foot print in the new snow. The drive into the cemetery was treacherous since it had not been plowed. As we left the car Marji said, “We can do this.” I was not so expectant, but one passage of scriptural prayer did come to my mind: Luke 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.” Or something like that.
Realistically, we were modestly lost. We knew we were in Rock Island, Illinois and we knew that Marji’s mom’s body rested there. In fact, we knew she was in the cemetery somewhere close to where we had parked. My first question was, “How are we going to move this snow?”
Marji quipped, “Don’t worry, this won’t take long. You have your size 14 tennis shoes to kick snow with and I have this three-inch plastic ice scraper. I think it is over here, straight north of the flagpole.” I wanted to say, “Oh, great, so are 50 other dead people.” It was sort of like her saying “It shouldn’t be too hard to catch the one fish with a tag in its tail in a farm pond. It’s right down there.”
We knew our goal; we just didn’t know where it was. Well, after scratching around for one hour and kicking more snow than I had scooped in three years of Iowa winters. We froze out, gave up, and left.
However, as we slid down the driveway out of the cemetery, things were mighty quiet. And, that is kind of unusual when Marji has just been on a field trip. I know my wife by her expressions but also by what she doesn’t say and how she holds her head. As I glanced at her, I could tell that she was entering a major funk of unacceptable failure. I knew immediately that I didn’t want to travel for the next four-hour drive to Chicago any more than I wanted to eat liver and onions.
I didn’t say anything; I just headed for Lowe’s that I noticed across the highway from the cemetery. And, Marji came back to life when I said, “I think we need a snow shovel.”
Upon return to the cemetery, we began to chart the parallel lines of graves and the distance between each grave thus limiting the amount of shoveling. Following our uncovering of about 40 more graves, we finally found the mother lode or should we say the “mother-in-law” lode.
This little adventure proves that tenacity and partnership do what many would consider impossible. And, it also demonstrates just how far I am willing to go to make people happy.