Daily Liturgy at Jeremy’s Graveside

John C. Rankin (October 2, 2020)

Since Jeremy’s passing into the arms of Jesus on January 24, 2020, I am at his graveside virtually every day. The foundation for the gravestone is now in place for the family plot of four, where his earthly remains occupy the northernmost site. Its design will soon be decided.

At the beginning, I stood so often in prolonged silence, and with many thoughts for Jeremy that we can start to talk about on the resurrection morn. Now, I mainly worship the Lord in the liturgy as it has developed, and even though I know he has completed his race, I hurt in his absence, and I realize I will deeply grieve until my race is done. Sometimes I say out loud, “Jeremy, you didn’t have to die.” Or, “Jeremy, forgive me for my failings as a father.” Or, “Jeremy, why was I so blind and harassed in daily life that I missed how wisely to reach into your deepest fears.” Or, “Jeremy, why were you so private in your fears that you did not receive my attempts to reach in, embrace them and learn what they were?” All the “what if” questions that melt into God’s goodness, for as Adam’s life was interrupted, and all of our lives too, our identities and fullest joys in relationships and creativity are found in the eternal Kingdom of God. But still I hurt.

I rejoice that his sufferings are over, and how he finished his race with such excellence. We are all mortal, and the temptation in early March was to want to rejoin him prematurely, not by design, but in saying to the Lord, “You can take me home anytime.” And I eye the ground next to his grave site and imagine my remains six feet down. But no, I choose to live vitally — in honor of Jeremy — to rejoin the human community as fully as possible, to love my dear wife, our other children, our grandchildren and on outward.

A liturgy has grown over the months, one that is the deepest and most costly act of worship I have ever known. It’s pace is always halting …

1] I sing two verses and the chorus of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, the great Negro Spiritual, with its yearning for freedom in this life and the life to come. And I tweak some words: “If you get toi heaven before I do, tell all our family I’m comin’ after you …”

2] Jeremy’s Ballad: I have most recently rewritten the eighteenth century Scottish ballad: “The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond.” I have yet to memorize the verses, but I presently open with three rounds of the chorus.

Verse 1:

In yon bright and tender days of ye youth, How did the darkness enter in? O son of adoration imbued with such hope, Days of laughter twisted by years of fear.


Must I take the high road and ye take the low? For ye are in heaven ‘afore me; For O ye my dear son we’ll never meet again, In the gloamin’ ‘afore the resurrection.

Verse 2:

Such joy as ye had in all ye acts of giving, And ye beauty of smile afforded all; Stolen by schemes of which I knew not, Ye wanted to tell but knew not how.


Must I take the high road and ye take the low? For ye are in heaven ‘afore me; For O ye my dear son we’ll never meet again, In the gloamin’ ‘afore the resurrection.

Verse 3:

Ah! My last gaze into ye very soul, O eyes full of light and such a smile; Against gaunted frame with ne’er a complaint, Ye finished so well and in such kindness.


Must I take the high road and ye take the low? For ye are in heaven ‘afore me; For O ye my dear son we’ll never meet again, In the gloamin’ ‘afore the resurrection.

3] I sing “Jesus Loves You This I know,” looking at the ground under which his head is positioned — and think of his early childhood in all his innocence and smiling wonder.

4] I sing “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” and recollect when I first decided to follow Jesus with the divine epiphany in 1967. I take a deep breath, for in following Jesus I now stand above my beloved son’s grave, and I will follow Jesus carrying the gaping hole in my heart until my race is done.

5] I recite the Lord’s Prayer in its comprehensive beauty, from the Greek test: “Our Father, the One in the heavens, holy (holy, holy) is your Name. Your will be done in heaven and on earth. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” O Jeremy, forgive me for not grasping your fears and knowing how to reach you at the deepest levels I desired; O Jeremy, I forgive you for your costly stubbornness in holding onto those fears. We are all sinners, saved only by the grace of God. O how I miss you! In so doing I look at him eyeball to eyeball as it were, as I imagine much deeper than his remains, and remember the last time I was able to look into his eyes, where I spontaneously said, “You have the most beautiful eyes.” He smiled deeply against his emaciated frame. I will never forget.

6] I sing the Doxology with my own word arrangement and added antiphonies: “[Praise God] Praise God from whom all blessings flow [let them flow, let them flow]. Praise him all creatures here below [down here below]. Praise him above O heavenly court [the heavenly court]. Praise Father and the Son, Praise Father and the Son, Praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit One. Amen.”

7] I give the high priestly blessing, slowly: “Yahweh bless you and guard you; Yahweh cause his face to shine toward you and be gracious to you; Yahweh lift up his face toward you and provide shalom.” I am looking at the ground under which his head is positioned, and say, “And you now have that shalom, O Jeremy, O Jeremy, my dear, dear son.”

8] I continue and conclude: “God bless you, God bless you,” turn away toward his Jeep which I now drive, saying, “My beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy” and am filled with his smile as a three or six year old. My steps are halting and my eyes are prone often to welling up. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back. I will live a life worthy of him, vitally, loving my wife, children, grandchildren and on outward to a broken world until my race is run, and then to rejoin his company forever.