“The Living and the Dead”


The beautiful old Methodist church boasts a sign as the ‘first church in Spartanburg.’ It sits next to a stately white building that houses a funeral home, making no claims as being the first of anything. Indeed, it is the last place the living sees the dead.

As I walked past these two neighboring structures, I couldn’t help but notice the bright red shirt of the young teenage boy waiting on the porch with who I assumed to be other family members. The stark contrast of red against white tripped my eye, as the sight of a family in mourning tripped my heart.

As my heart wondered, my mind began to provide questions, with my imagination attempting answers. Who was lost? What was left? Was this first time the red shirted boy faced the loss of the living?

It won’t be the last time the living faces the dead.

I found it interesting, this architectural metaphor. In this beautiful old Southern city I was reminded of the grandeur of life, and the finality of its antithesis, death. I was reminded of the state of my heart.

I walked on past with these thoughts pushed backwards, the necessity of my journey through unfamiliar streets at the forefront. These days I’ve been trying to capture memories through the lens of my Hipstamatic camera app. Downtown Spartanburg is quaint and beautiful and old. Probably a defense mechanism against my ever-increasing oldness, these buildings make me feel almost young. Almost alive.

The afternoon wound on, with the promise of rain beginning to emerge. It was time to retrace my steps. Could I go back the same way, or was a different route in store? Invariably the path back to my lodging took me past the church and the funeral home. The family was long gone, having said their farewells.

And the living faced their dead.