Ash Wednesday

“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19

After my mother died on July 13, 2012, her body was cremated before burial. Her bodily remains were dust, but her soul had moved on to heaven. “And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

For me, seeing my mother’s ashes gathered in a tiny box and then buried, brought this day, Ash Wednesday, alive for me. It is this day that I will go to Mass and have dust put on my forehead. This dust will be a reminder that one day I, too, will be dust and my soul will be with God. The daily remembrance of this fact changes how I live my daily life. 

For any of you who have put your mother to rest, you know the pain. The first time my eyes caught site of the hearse that carried my mother’s body, I screamed aloud. Our choice as a family was to have my mother’s body viewed at the visitation service and then cremated before the funeral. So I saw her body in both states — with no life and then as dust. 

Upon seeing her in an open casket, I was joyful because she was so beautiful. Her body had been ravaged with cancer, but that part I did not see. What I saw was the beauty of her face, her fair complexion, her slight smile and her hands. She was wearing the pale pink Chico’s outfit my dad had bought her for Christmas. It was the first and last time she was to wear that suit.

My prayer is that through this Lenten season, you and I will be aware of the shortness of this life and look to that which lies ahead.

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