Thursday, March 6, 2014

We know what we know

I never observe Ash Wednesday without remembering it.
He was 5 ½.
His father died 6 mos prior to the start of Lent that year.

On Ash Wednesday evening, 
our minister asked all the children in the congregation 
to gather at the altar steps 
while she explained the meaning 
of what they were about to see – 
the imposition of ashes.
She instructed them it was to help all of us remember 
that we are from the earth,
given life by the breath of God 
and that, upon our deaths, 
our bodies,
our 'earthly vessels',
 would return to the earth.

With that,
my son stood up and started to walk away.
Our minister questioningly said his name
in an attempt to gather him back into the fold.

My son turned and told her
quite clearly 
that he had just seen his father
placed in a box
and buried in the ground; 
Thanks, but he didn’t need any more reminders; 
that was as big as it got.

His father died 27 years ago at the age of 39.
Yesterday was my father’s birthday.

He’s been dead for 38 years – 
and the overwhelming thought in all my ponderings 
was the realization
that I’ve already had 
a decade more time on this planet 
that my father did.

I’m 64.
He died at 54.
Some of us don’t need reminders 
about the finality and inevitability of death.

We’ve had plenty of reminders; 
we've sadly had plenty of chances 
to contemplate not only our own demise, 
but the deaths of everyone we love.

Yesterday though,
I saw the symbol of the cross in ashes
on my forehead 
in a different context.

I saw it as a reminder  - 
that since life is so fragile and so transient,
we mustn't squander it;
even if it’s as common as dust.

We just don’t have that kind of time.
None of us do.

We are dust – 
and to dust shall we return.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Your son sounds awesome. He needed no reminders, love that he said that. I'm sorry for all the loss you have had.