Voluntary self-isolation during this current COVID-19 crisis can be considered an opportunity to celebrate an extended “Sabbath”. That was the suggestion made by one of our favorite pastors in his virtual sermon this past Palm Sunday. He reminded us that a “Sabbath” is supposed to be a time of detachment, rest, and reflection.
The pastor drew a useful parallel between the Holy Week leading up to Easter and the stay-at-home rules that are in place for COVID-19. Pushing the analogy further, we could say that our new normal after this pandemic will be a fundamental change similar to the spiritual changes that some people experienced after the first Easter.
Exactly fifty years ago on Lone Tree Farm, our family experienced a crisis that resulted in a “Sabbath” time that changed our lives forever. On April 13, 1970, Robert J. Shurr was killed in action in Viet Nam.
Our “Sabbath-like-Holy-Week” came over the next several weeks after we got word of his death. We went into a self-imposed exile on the farm while we waited for his body to return home. Of course, there were family and friends trying to provide comfort. But, most of the time it was mainly just the immediate family dealing with the tragedy in their own way.
The late Sixties and early Seventies were similar to today in many ways. Fear and distrust and polarization were extreme. The “hard hats” hated the “hippy peaceniks”; capitalist economies were scared of Communism; and many Americans did not believe our Federal government’s propaganda about the Viet Nam War. The country could have used a “Sabbath” time of reflection and regrouping, but it never came. The war just dragged on.
While we waited for Bob’s body, we missed out on some history. The Apollo 13 accident and recovery happened from April 14 to April 17. We also had very little idea that the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. Here’s a link to the blog post last year dealing with Earth Day on the farm: https://lonetreefarm.blog/2019/04/22/earth-day-on-the-farm/
During our ‘Sabbath” time of waiting, we planned the funeral and interment. There’s a hill slope down in the Creek pasture where several large boulders are eroding out. These two pictures above show how that hill slope looks today. Back in 1970, we found one particularly large boulder at that location to use as a headstone for Bob’s grave. The monument company refused to carve words directly into the rock because they were concerned about internal fractures. However, they did suggest a metal plate fastened to the boulder as an alternative.
And, that’s what we did. The pasture rock was mounted on a slab of commercial red granite and the plate was fitted into a flat surface cut into the front of the rough fieldstone. The tree design was done by one of the priests who officiated at Bob’s funeral. It’s intended to represent the Lone Tree that gave the farm its name. He initially didn’t have leaves on the tree, but then decided to add them as the symbol of hope in new growth. The final design was used on Bob’s funeral folder. About forty-five years later we used the same tree design for my parents’ headstone.