When No Graveyard Wants Him

The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed in a shootout with police has remained at a Worcester, Mass funeral parlor since April 19.  Tamerlan along with his younger brother are charged with the two bombings at the Boston Marathon, resulting in three deaths and the maiming and wounding of 200. 

Since that horrific day, no cemetery has been willing to accept his body for burial.  In keeping with Islamic law Tamerlan Tsarnaev is required to receive a proper burial.  What do you do when no one wants a body?

This raises political, cultural and theological questions.  Is it possible to respect the cultural requirement for a proper religious burial while being repelled by the act of the deceased?  Is it possible to believe that the compassion of God and God’s people can be offered to someone who has taken part in such a heinous crime?

Entering into such turbulent water wades a wise and  courageous writer, Noelle Rene’.  Noelle in her  20’s and a Christian, offers wise words as we explore the parameters of the human heart and imagination.  I invite you to read her article and then see a postscript that I’ve added:

 No Graveyard Wants Him ~ by Noelle Rene’

No graveyard wants him
reads the headline as I click the keys to cnn.com
I can’t get myself beyond those four words
They don’t read
no father wants him
no mother wants him
no friend wants him
no lover wants him
no school wants him
no job wants him
no church wants him…
They read

No graveyard wants him

To be unwanted in life
is one of humanity’s greatest tragedies
To be unwanted in death…
I shake to hold the thought 

We are talking about a human body
dead
buried deep
surrendered
and returned
to dust

No graveyard wants him

We are talking about ourselves
dying
yet to be buried
but well on our way

No graveyard wants him

There is not much I know
these days
about god
I wrestle, daily, with our tragedies
and how they reflect such a deity
But while I may not know
where I stand with god
in life,
I will be damned
if I don’t know that
I stand with god
in death

because isn’t that it?
isn’t that what this gospel they read
they speak
they live
they breathe
is all about?

that we are wanted.

in life? yes.
but in death?
especially.
and that these deaths that we fear
so
much
ultimately bring us life.

so bury me next to the terrorists,
the rapists,
the murderers,
the abusers,
the addicted,
the inmates,
the violent
and the shamed.
bury me next to the blacks,
the whites,
the rich,
the poor,
the justice seekers
and the evil doers.
bury me next to the Christians,
the Muslims,
the Buddhists,
the Jews,
and the Gentiles.

bury me next to the wanted.

Tamerlan, I do not believe much,
but I believe that you are wanted.
you are wanted by a god
whose love I shake to hold.
You are wanted by
a father god
a mother god
a friend god
a lover god
a god of life

a god over death.

And something deep in these bones
dares my soul to believe
that this god just might have you.

Postscript:  In early May, Martha Mullen of Virgina was at a coffee shop and heard a radio news report about the difficulty finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.  Mullen a Christian, contacted an Islamic funeral service and arranged for a funeral plot at the Al-Barzakh cemetery, a small Islamic cemetery in rural Virginia. 

Ms Mullen’s action has led to criticism and threats against her.  Her response?  “My first thought was Jesus said, love your enemies.  Nobody is without sin.  Certainly this was a horrific act, but he’s dead and what happened is between him and God.  People were making an issue and detracting from the healing that needed to take place.”

… How big is our concept of God?  How big is God’s willingness, capacity to receive the most horrific parts of us?  If we believe these two women, Noelle and Martha, God’s embrace is bigger than many are willing or able to imagine.   I am grateful for their wisdom and courage.  

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