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A Time To Gather Stones

March 24, 2011

This is the fourth story in my series based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, A Time For Everything.

Click here or the A Time For Everything tab at the top of the page for a complete list of stories.

Photo by Angie La Paglia Mc Neill
Jacob leaned on his shovel staring out at the vast prairie. He squinted his eyes against the sun shimmering in the wide open sky. A breeze whispered through the grass, sending waves of bowed stalks rippling across the field. The smell of dust and dry brush blended with the sharp scent of cattle grazing nearby. The burdens of life weighed heavy on his shoulders as he soaked in the heat of the day.

“Look, Dad. This one’s perfect.” He closed his eyes and remembered his son holding up a stretch of rope with a newly tied lasso.

“It sure is,” he’d said, tugging on the end, testing the stopped knot.
A proud smile lit his son’s face and danced in his eyes.

Jacob wiped sweat from his brow and a tear from his cheek as he turned to the pile of earth behind him and dug in. Scoop after scoop, he filled in the hole where his boy lay in a crude wooden box.

“My turn!” his son had yelled, but Jacob knew he should have gone first. It was foolish and now his son was gone forever. Jacob labored in the sun for hours, replacing the earth then gathering heavy stones for markers, wishing this day had never come.

Please read the sister-story, A Time to Scatter Stones.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2011 8:57 AM

    A pain worse than any in the world. A parent shouldn’t have to face that, especially due to an accident.

    My heart broke for him. Well done, sis.

  2. March 24, 2011 1:21 PM

    I agree. You truly feel this writing and, as a parent, it is a horrifying feeling. Your word choice is exquisite.

  3. March 24, 2011 1:27 PM

    A terrible depth of sadness here.

  4. March 24, 2011 1:45 PM

    I pray you never go first. I could not bear it. I love you so much.
    Your mom.

  5. FARfetched permalink
    March 24, 2011 4:03 PM

    What Misty said. The Boy came close once or twice, and I thank God I didn’t have to go through what the man here did.

  6. March 24, 2011 7:31 PM

    “Look, Dad. This one’s perfect. Let’s mail it to Uncle John so he can scatter it.”

    I can dream, right?

    It took me two readings to grasp what was going on, since Jacob seemed to be his son and active, while his son also appeared to be in the hole. Leaving it largely to procedure rather than description of his emotion does better than any internal dialogue could.


  7. March 24, 2011 7:57 PM

    wow this is an incredible piece i love that i can count on you for a good read

  8. March 25, 2011 4:41 AM

    Wow – this bought tears to my eyes – I’m all hopped up on post-preg hormones and with a new baby boy myself I found this hitting close to home! Well done!

  9. March 25, 2011 6:02 AM

    After reading this, I can only pray for all those parents who had to let go their children.

    • March 25, 2011 7:10 PM

      Gabriela, thank you for always taking the time to stop by and comment. I truly appreciate your support.

  10. March 25, 2011 6:20 AM

    This one weighs as heavy as a stone. A parent’s worst nightmare. This is a poignant addition to your series.

  11. March 25, 2011 6:34 AM

    A poignant reminder that we all have our own stones to gather.

  12. March 25, 2011 7:09 AM

    Several others have found the best word for this: poignant. And the worst thing a parent could go through.

  13. March 25, 2011 7:52 AM

    That’s so sad. I want to give Jacob a big hug.

    Well done.

  14. March 25, 2011 8:09 AM

    Everyone’s said it already, this is absolutely heart-wrenching. And I don’t have the excuse of post-partum hormones for my tearing up.

    I’m going to go hug my kid now.

  15. March 25, 2011 8:58 AM

    Very powerful piece, Danielle. Wow.

  16. Carlos permalink
    March 25, 2011 9:19 AM

    Something about the tall grass and the wagon wheel marks made me feel like I was there witnessing this. I agree “Poignant” is the adequate word (I had to look up its definition) very powerful, I loved it. Great job!

  17. Deanna Schrayer permalink
    March 25, 2011 9:44 AM

    Another powerful read Dani, and yes, it brought tears to my eyes too. I almost lost my son to the Atlantic Ocean when he was six and got caught in a riptide. That was enough to cause a near nervous breakdown, I can’t imagine having to go this far….and hope I never have to.

    Beautifully written!

    • March 25, 2011 7:13 PM

      I can’t imagine witnessing that, Deanna–my worst nightmare.

  18. March 25, 2011 11:17 AM

    Excellent, well-written story. Your descriptions both bring this one to life and show the sorrow in a true light.

  19. March 25, 2011 6:22 PM

    K, thought your flash was going to push me to tears but I managed to hold out, then got to your mom’s comment and lost the battle. So loving! 🙂 You are a lucky girl. Great post, great story.

  20. March 25, 2011 7:15 PM

    Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read and comment. I’m touched that so many of you were moved by the story.

  21. March 25, 2011 7:41 PM

    Terrifying, actually. Well done.

  22. Lisa Forget permalink
    March 25, 2011 9:35 PM

    Heartbreaking and beautifully written.

  23. March 26, 2011 5:18 AM

    The sadness this piece brings to the reader is a mark of just how well written it is. Very nice work.

    One of the saddest things in this world is a parent burying their child.

  24. March 26, 2011 10:11 AM

    Tremendous piece of writing.
    Very poignant – I could clearly picture the father piling stones onto his son’s grave.
    I always feel that the mark of a really good story is when the words create strong pictures in the readers mind – you certainly did that for me. Thanks.

  25. March 27, 2011 9:06 AM

    Very sad story. It must be the hardest thing in the world to bury your own child.

    Just one question – in this sentence “remembered his son holding up a stretch of rope with a newly lasso” – is there supposed to be a word after newly?

    • March 27, 2011 9:26 AM

      Thanks for the comment and, as a matter of fact, there is a word missing. Fixed! Thank you for pointing it out and why the heck didn’t somebody tell me sooner! 🙂

  26. Michelle Muto permalink
    March 28, 2011 8:47 AM

    The memory of death weighs far too heavy.

  27. March 28, 2011 11:18 AM

    Beautiful story; i particularly liked this line:
    “The burdens of life weighed heavy on his shoulders as he soaked in the heat of the day.”
    Really evocative.
    Well done.

  28. March 28, 2011 2:20 PM

    oh wow…


  29. Ian O'Neill permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:45 PM

    Nice. I see, smell, hear it all. Well done.

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