The Resthaven Cemetery of Lubbock

Smith’s cemetery and funeral home corporation operated under the name Resthaven of Lubbock and occupied ninety acres of land well located two miles west of Texas Tech University and just inside the twenty-six mile loop around the City of Lubbock. Within the central part of the cemetery, visible from the loop, stands the Empty Tomb feature that crowned Smith’s artistic legacy, through Resthaven, to the community.

The Empty Tomb was conceived by Smith a few years before its completion when the disposition of excess dirt accumulation from ground interments began to create problems both internally and in complaints from neighbors to the east from its blowing dirt. Lubbock is on the South Plains with semi-arid flat terrain. Loving the mountains, Smith dreamed of building a mountain and placing an Empty Tomb feature upon it. Together with his capable park superintendent, Ron Hillis, the project was planned and initiated early in 1990. Originally planned for the top of the feature to stand some seventy-five feet above the surrounding cemetery, Federal laws pertaining to access for the handicapped mandated that the mountain top be lowered. The dirt, which had already been moved to location and piled in a “mountain” some fifty feet high was lowered so as to cover the entire five-acre, circular Empty Tomb section.

Prior to that time, to the west of the Empty Tomb tract, in what is called the Garden of the Prophets, bronze statuary had been sculpted for Resthaven by a young farmer-turned-sculptor, Terrell O’Brien, of nearby Lamesa, Texas (see the Prophets). In the spring of 1992, a contract was completed with O’Brien to sculpt an angel for the top of the tomb. The angel was to be consistent in size with the bronze Christ figure kneeling in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before the image of his Cross. This Gethsemane feature is located in the five-acre cemetery section immediately to the south of the Empty Tomb section. The bronze Christ is six feet high in a kneeling position, and is placed atop a mound built with large rocks imported from the hill country of Texas a few hundred miles to the southeast. This feature was sculpted by Zeckendorf from New York City and Cortina, Italy, and was completed in 1975.

Consistent with that bronze feature, it was determined that the bronze angel should be some nine and a half feet tall above the Empty Tomb. Resthaven’s local engineering firm advised that the angel’s wings could not be elevated above its head because the angel could not then be adequately secured against the West Texas winds, especially at this elevated position. O’Brien proceeded to complete the sculpture and monitor its casting at Lubbock’s prominent bronze foundry. The angel feature was fully completed in 1992. Completion of the tomb, to resemble the topography near Jerusalem, presented even greater challenge. (See the Angel)

The sale by Smith of Resthaven was closed in February, 1993. But the contract of sale contained a condition that Smith remain in control of the completion of the Empty Tomb feature. Between Smith, Hillis, and the purchaser's landscape architect, Tim Hansen, the tomb, crafted by artisans out of concrete, was completed prior to Easter, 1994. It features an interior with bench for the corpse, and a stone (concrete) door weighing eight hundred pounds that rolls on a gravel track so as to close the tomb on Good Friday evening and open it on Easter morning. (See the Empty Tomb)

From 1994 to the present, local ministers of different confessions have conducted interdenominational Easter Sunrise services at the tomb. Typical, for instance, were the services in 1999, when the Lubbock newspaper gave front-page Saturday coverage four columns wide, including an article by its religion editor, Beth Pratt, and a colored photo of the tomb that dominated the page.
Edward R. Smith's Music Career