“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return…”
Our priest comes to my seventeen-year-old, my firstborn, and I look sideways and up to watch her press her charcoaled thumb to his forehead beneath the swoop of his bangs. Then it’s my turn.
“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
“I remember,” I whisper. Then wait, still kneeling, while she marks my other two boys with ashes. Were they dust once? Floating in sunlight? Kicked up from a hard dirt road? Rising from the pages of an old book? Did I breathe them in before they entered the dividing cells, inhabiting flesh and bone of my flesh and bone? Are we not each other’s to keep?
No, I remember. Dust to dust.
I return to our pew with tears treacherously close to breaching my lashes, not from morbid sadness, but from the stark beauty of the liturgy, and the release of surrendering to what is. Ash Wednesday brings me around to face what I spend most days of the year frantically trying to outrun: the truth that all things must pass away–are passing away. I kneel down and assent to life’s terms, and in return I get a glimpse of what it’s like to be fully present in the present moment. To briefly feel as connected to everyone else at the altar rail as much I do to those I call mine. To see how we all belong to each other, and to God, for keeps.