Wednesday, February 9

Ashes to Ashes

Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. A day we remind ourselves of our mortality. I recall still quite vividly an Ash Wednesday 10 years ago when our ritual of the imposition of ashes, struck a deep chord with me. The note it sounded was not perhaps the message intended, but I think it was a good note nonetheless.

On that Wednesday, my eldest daughter was just a few months old. She had been hospitalized a week after her birth with a blockage of her intestine, and spend 14 days in the hospital. Now, in church I brought her in my arms for the imposition of ashes. Our priest daubed ashes on her forehead intoning (something like), ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I felt a little of the response a mother grizzly bear displays when her cubs are threatened. That is to say, my paternal protective impulses were aroused at the idea of the tender life of this little child of mine, ... ending. In the subsequent 9 Ash Wednesday services, this feeling has never come back like it did at that moment, even though I looked for it.

Now the point of reminding us of our mortality is not to press home the message of our responsibilities and what we are called to give to our children. But overall I think it was a good lesson for that new father. It shows that while the lesson being taught is not always the lesson learned this isn't always a bad thing.