The Tomb Sweeper

When Sasha, a young girl from a remote community, arrived to work on the farm, no one in the community realized how she would change their world. 

One morning while taking a walk, Sasha encountered an abandoned graveyard that was choked with weeds.

The following day, she gathered an arm full of flowers and a hand sickle and made her way back to the graveyard.

Sasha bowed before entering and asked the dead to pardon her for disturbing their slumber. 

Next, she sprinkled a small amount of milk, water, and wine at the gate as an offering of refreshment to the dead.

Then, at each grave, she bowed, cut weeds, and placed a flower at the wooden marker.

Once finished, she made a final bow and placed the remaining flowers and a small cake at the gate. Sasha returned to the farm and resumed her duties.

The following Sunday, a great uproar occurred when a woman excitedly rushed up to the preacher during services and told him of the cared-for plots.

The preacher and his congregation hurried to the graveyard to see for themselves. They were stunned to see the transformation of the neglected yard and immediately bemoaned the community's fate due to this vile act of cleaning graves belonging to criminals and unholy persons.

Sasha did not admit responsibility for caring for the graveyard. Instead, she quietly went about her affairs.

As the weeks passed, strange things happened. The rains came more often, and long-gone birds returned to sing in the trees. The crops grew tall and strong, trees were full of early ripening fruit, and flowers bloomed out of season.

Later, when Sasha returned to perform her cleaning ritual at the graveyard, she was seen by a church elder.

On the following Sunday, Sasha was brought before the church council. She was sentenced to be stoned for her disregard for God's will. 

Word quickly spread of Sasha's punishment. A boy and girl arrived at the church carrying giant ripe apples from a long-dead tree. They were followed by a farmer whose cows began giving milk even though they had been dry for months.

Hushed talk spread among the crowd. 

Sasha turned to the church elder and explained that all dead are treated like family in her home village. In turn, they care for the land.

An uncomfortable silence overcame the congregation. 

The church elder reminded the community that church law clearly stated that Sasha should be punished by stoning for her actions.

Fearing God's vengeance, they bound Sasha for the stoning. As they prepared for the ritual, a wagon arrived carrying the pastor's daughter, who had been in a coma for months following a tragic accident. 

Overjoyed by the sight of his awakened daughter, the pastor rushed to her and lifted her toward heaven. Suddenly, the girl pointed toward a rainbow stretching across the sky.

The pastor, overcome by these events, turned to the church elder. "Do you still believe it is God's will to punish Sasha and forsake the dead?"

Humbled and ashamed, the elder conceded her mistake.

Gently taking her hand, Sasha guided the elder to the grave of an unbaptized baby, where she placed a single pink rose.

Since that day, the trees surrounding the graveyard bloom year-round, reminding the community that love and compassion are our greatest gifts. © Christopher Johnson 2021