My Mother-In-Law was Lost on the Mountain


“You can’t find her?” I asked.

“I looked all over the place. She’s not there. I was hoping you picked her up,” my father-in-law replied, a tinge of anger in his voice. “Did you show Wendel where I left her? Did he or Jim come and get her?”

“No. I gave you my word. They don’t know where she is,” I said.

“Maybe her cousin came and got her. Oh, I don’t know. What am I going to do? I can’t leave her here, and I won’t be able to come much longer,” he said with a sigh.

“We’ll come help you look on Saturday. She will be okay until then, I’m sure. I’ll have Wendel call you when he gets home.

That night I told our home group that my mother-in-law was lost on the mountain about an hour out of town.

“Oh no!” exclaimed one of the women. “Is there a search party? How long has she been missing? I hope she is all right.”

Giggling, I explained, “She will be fine. She’s in an urn. My father-in-law can’t remember where he buried her, that is all.

Okay, so sometimes I can be overly dramatic. This was too good an opportunity to pass up!

We arrived at the cabin just before lunchtime. My father-in-law was both upset that he couldn’t locate her urn; and angry because he was certain someone had come and collected her remains. We reassured him that she would be found, even if we had to search the entire range. Then we headed for the steep incline that was the foot of a foreboding mountain.

A little while later, we were standing before the rock that my father-in-law had originally shown me.

A couple of years earlier, he’d walked me up to this place. As we leaned against the rock, he took his walking stick and thrust it into the ground between us. “This is where you mother-in-law is,” he’d said. “I don’t want anyone else to know where I put her because I don’t want them to take her away. She loved it here, and this is where I want her to rest.”

We’re not irreverent people, disrespectful of the dead…we just have a little different understanding about “remains,” because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When the time comes for Jesus to come collect us, He will know right where to find us. Consequently, I was positive that neither my husband nor his brother were going to come “steal” her ashes.

“I promise not to tell a soul,” I had reassured him.

Now keeping his secret didn’t seem like such a good idea. Only we two knew where she’d been buried…and I hadn’t been back since the day he showed me the place. Besides, I’m a girl. I get lost walking around in my back yard!

We began to dig at the base of the rock. Sure enough, nothing was there. We glanced at the mountainside. It was speckled with  boulders and rocks of various sizes. This was going to take a bit of doing.

“Maybe it wasn’t this rock after all,” my father-in-law said.

“Well, that must be the case. I’m fairly certain she didn’t walk off,” I replied, trying to lighten the atmosphere a bit.

We dug around the base of every rock for a hundred yards or so. Nothing. He was getting tired, so I suggested that Wendel take him back to the cabin and the two of them get some lunch. I offered to continue looking.

As they turned to go, my father-in-law said, “Oh. I put her urn in a blue plastic bag before I buried it.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll see you two in a little while.”

I turned once again to the mountain and sighed. So many boulders. Such a tall mountain. Where should I begin?

Of course. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Where should one always begin?

Ask – then seek.

“Oh, Abba Father, You know the exact location on this mountainside where my mother-in-law’s remains are placed. I really need Your help. This is a big hill and there are hundreds of boulders. Would You please lead me to her?”

Looking around, I realized that we’d only looked to the right of the trail we came up – and not to the left.

Hmm. Why not check over this way?

I poked around a couple of large rocks, but to no avail. I walked a bit farther to the left. My heart skipped a beat. In a hollow under a medium-sized boulder I saw something blue. It looked like it might be a tarp, though. I tried not to get my hopes up as I cautiously stuck my hand into the tiny cave.

Woohoo! I felt the hard, smooth container through the plastic.

“Oh, Lord! This is awesome. You totally rock! – uh, no pun intended.

Thank You for taking me to the right place. This is great!”

My father-in-law had selected the downhill side of the boulder as her resting place. Neither of us had considered the amount of snow that fell there every year – or the effects runoff would have on the terrain. I glanced back at the rock, and the little cavern beneath it. One more winter, and the dirt around the boulder would have eroded, causing it to crush the urn beneath.

With my prize in my arms, I gleefully skipped my way back to the cabin and presented it to my father-in-law. I excitedly told them how I’d found her – but only after I asked for God’s help.

Looking into my father-in-law’s eyes, I said, “God loves us even more than we love our children. When one of them lost something, we would help them search until it was found. Our heavenly Father knew your wife’s urn was important to you, and was delighted to show us where she was. Isn’t He so good?”

(Oh, Lord, please let him hear what I’m saying.)

Jesus told us that we need to become like little children. After meditating on this for a bit, I realized that when my kids were little, they depended on us for everything – food, shelter, clothing, help when they hurt, care when they were ill, and all the rest. I began to understand that this is how our heavenly Father wants us to relate to Him as well.

God is no “Genie in a bottle” that I conjur up whenever I want something, but a loving Father who cares for me. He is pleased when I depend on Him to meet my needs, be they spiritual, physical, mental or emotional.

Time and again He has helped me locate important items that I’ve put away and forgotten where they were stored – insignificant things, not unlike helping a child locate a beloved stuffed animal. I matter that much to Him.

Valued – um hmm, that’s how I feel when He demonstrates His interest in the little details of my life.

John 17:3 reads, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

How do we get to know someone? We spend time with them. Through the course of life, we ask things of them. By the way they respond to those requests, we begin to understand how they think; what kinds of requests we can make of them, and which sort are a clear,”no.”

We also learn what pleases them, and what behaviors hurt or offend them. As the relationship grows, and we come to know and love them more, we naturally desire to bring them pleasure and not pain.

It took several decades for God to finally break through my defenses. By showing His tender care for me – even in the small matters – I’ve come to see that He truly is good all the time, completely trustworthy, and worthy of all my praise.

What an honor and great privilege it is to call Him “Father” and “Lord!”

By the way, we won’t be losing my mother-in-law again. She now has her own little “home” in a memorial park! My father-in-law has since joined her there, along with my brother-in-law.

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