As I approached, I noticed that it was a Valentine's bear, holding a little stuffed heart. But instead of putting it up, she was taking it down and moving it to a nearby telephone pole. "Are you waiting for someone special to come home?" I asked, smiling. What a wonderful, thoughtful mom to welcome home a son or a daughter in such a unique way.
I stopped to wait for her happy answer. "Oh, no," the woman softly replied. "I'm afraid not." She reached out to tenderly touch the weathered wooden post. I followed her gaze upwards. I was beginning to understand.
"My daughter was killed in an accident five years ago." She shook her head sadly but bravely smiled. "This is her sign."
The sign read, "Drive safely in memory of Kristy Dawn Overstreet."
My heart skipped a beat as I surveyed her face. She was silent and strong, though I wondered if her sunglasses hid an escaping tear. My own quivering voice gave away the emotional impact of the moment. "Oh, my. I can't imagine losing a child." I felt my own eyes begin to cloud thinking about her child and my two sons. I was glad that I, too, wore sunglasses.
"It's something I can't describe. And, we were the best of friends," she added. She held out a picture of Kristy for me. As she did, her smile was politely forced. The woman's voice was wistful as she recalled happy, blissful days. I had unwittingly interrupted a mother/daughter moment.
What could I say? I offered my condolences again, awkward as it was, before continuing down the road. "You be careful along this highway," she advised. With one last look at the sign, which, incidentally, I had never before noticed, I offered a silent prayer that this woman would be cradled in the loving and gracious arms of the Father.
My mind whirled. That sign, constructed like a cross, is a memorial to the life of a young woman. It serves as a reminder of her youth and vitality. But it also serves a purpose to those who notice: it inspires, memorializes, and encourages.
That sign is not unlike another. The Israelites, under Moses' leadership, wandered about the desert for forty long years. There were good times and bad. Times of honor and dishonor, obedience and disobedience. But as they traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom, they became impatient and discouraged. They got angry at God. So God sent snakes to put things in perspective. The venomous vipers brought death to many. It was only by His grace that God provided an escape. "Moses," God said (and I paraphrase), "Make a bronze serpent and place it on your staff. Lift it high. Whoever raises their head to look upon it shall be saved." Those who looked up by faith, lived.
Several thousand years later, others needed to raise their heads in faith. A cross on a hill. The perfect God-man hanging there. A tragic, painful, unjust death witnessed. But those who looked, lived.
Yet today, that cross still stands. It inspires, it memorializes, it encourages. And yes, it still saves. An empty cross, an empty tomb. The Savior had to die. There was no other way.
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.