Where I grew up, when someone died, older men would simply take off work and younger men would skip a day of school to dig the grave. It was my privilege to help dig several graves. Almost all of them were for people I knew.
Grave digging starts our relatively easy. Someone with some know-how and experience marks out the rectangular shape of the grave on the surface in the exact spot where it should be. Then you go to work removing the dirt with a spade. You are on the top of the ground in the beginning, so you have plenty of room to work. Tossing your shovels full of dirt into their designated place away from the grave is no problem.
The deeper you go, however, the less room you have to move about, and the further and higher you have to throw the dirt. Since you are now throwing that dirt up and out, you wind up with some of it down your collar. It is sweaty, dirty, exhausting work, and there is only room for one digger at a time in a grave.
Care had to be taken to maintain the straightness of the sides and ends of the grave and to keep the dimensions consistent from top to the bottom. Long levels would be pressed against the sides until the bubbles were plumb. Trimming was done with a broad-axe, the handle of which was curved to one side so you could gently “slice” dirt from the vertical walls without skinning your knuckles too badly. The floor had to be absolutely level and clean and cleared of all loose dirt. And yes, a grave (at least in those days) had to be 6 feet deep at its shallowest end.
Regardless of how well the work is done, you still end up with a hole, into which you are going to place a dead body, and you cannot help but consider that someday, someone else will dig such a hole for you. Standing in a finished grave will give you a view of your mortality unlike any other experience. I highly recommend it.
Though Jesus’ grave was very different, being essentially a small room hewn out of rock, it was still the same thing, but for one very important difference. He came out of his grave with a glorified, eternal body on the 3rd day. All the graves we dug still hold the moldering remains of those lowered into them.
But even they won’t stay there forever. The one who rose on the 3rd day also said that he will return and call all who are in the graves up and out of them to face the judgment; some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting condemnation (John 5:28-29).
A grave is sobering, but thanks to Jesus, it is not depressing. In fact, the sure hope of a resurrection to life transforms the grave into a step closer to glory, and total victory over death.
So you can see why I now regard my “GDD” so highly. Wouldn’t you?