Three small-town friends signed up to save the world. The year was 1941 and they were young and idealistic. Joining the war effort in Europe seemed an adventure. They were soon sent to Italy where fighting was fierce. Tragically, one of the friends was killed.
The two survivors determined to honour their friend’s sacrifice and, when night fell, they carried his body to a nearby cemetery. During the darkest hours before dawn they began digging his grave.
Somehow the priest responsible for this parish discovered them.
“What are you doing?” he asked the young men.
“We don’t want our friend to be forgotten so we are burying him, here, where we can come back to when the war is over.”
“Is your friend Catholic?” the priest asked?
The two exchanged glances. “No,” they said uncertainly.
The priest sighed. “Then I am sorry, but you cannot bury him here, in consecrated ground. You will have to burry him outside the fence.”
Dawn would soon begin and the friends had to be back with their platoon. They hastily dug in a new spot, beyond the fence, and buried their friend.
The next day their disappointment weighed heavy. Why did they bury their friend in an unmarked, weed-infested grave? How could they dishonour his sacrifice and their lifelong friendship by leaving him there?
That night they returned to the church yard to remove their friend’s body and bury him in a place more befitting. When they got there, however, they couldn’t find his grave. They paced up and down the the fence line, looking for the grave they’d dug the night before.
The priest spotted them, again. “What are you doing?” he asked as he had the night before.
The two friends paused their search. “We can’t leave our friend in an unmarked grave. He deserves a proper resting place, a place with honour. Not a forgotten mound among some weeds. We’ve come to move him someplace else. But we’ve searched and searched and we can’t find where we buried him!”
The priest, who wasn’t much older than they, laid his hands on the young men’s shoulders. “I was distressed, too. After you left I could not put the situation out of my mind and I knew God was speaking to my heart. You are right. Your friend does deserve better.” He extended his hand, pointing. “So, I spent today and moving the fence.”
This is a story I first heard at an uncle’s funeral and its simple yet profound message has stuck with me. I realized that, like the priest in the story, and my uncle who spent his life in missions, I want to spend my life moving fences. It is why I write and I pray that simple message shows through in everything I produce.
How about you?
Is there a message you want to share though your words?
What truth has God laid on your heart to share?
Jayne E. Self is a Canadian mystery writer.