Buried facing east

by Lynette Carnahan Gray

“My grandparents were such faithful Christians they even wanted to be buried facing east,” she said.

Hmmm. That was a concept new to me. So, I asked a friend if he’d heard of people wanting to be buried facing east. He said, “The only time I’ve made sure that I was stretched out facing east was when I got a West Texas motel room. A door facing east meant that wind didn’t drive sand in under it.” We chuckled.

Evidently, he likewise didn’t grasp some people’s dedication to be buried facing east. So, I used my concordance for the eastern reference that instigated their preference.

“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27 HCSB).

Next I put “buried facing east” into my search engine. Up came an article by Fred Smoot, Sickness and Death in the Old South: Facing East, the Traditional Burial Position. He writes that graves of Virginia’s first settlers faced east. Based on Matthew 24:27, some readers feel compelled to be buried facing east so they will be the first to see Jesus return.

When I was a student at Freed-Hardeman, unbeknownst to us, a new fire alarm was installed beside our dorm room. When the alarm shockingly blared its alert in bone shaking, ear splitting volume, we were jolted! After that drill, we realized that one friend never made it out. The volume had been so convulsing she believed it was Jesus’ return! She fainted!

“Brothers, I tell you this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption. Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality” (2 Corinthians 15:50-53).

“In the blink of an eye” indicates that no matter what direction you face or even for the dead who have no face, no one will be slow to see Christ’s coming! Far more important than the direction we’re buried is the direction we’re living! Metaphorically, we are to live facing east –  ready for his second coming. It’s our “facing” that’s metaphoric, not our “living.” Heaven should be in our hearts, minds, and outreach.

//Lynette Carnahan Gray is a writer and illustrator living in Tennessee with her husband Morgan. They have two adult sons.

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