Tag Archives: life-story

Remember, Man, That Thou Art Dust

Ash Wednesday


I was never impressed with the whole idea of Lent, a 6-week season of deprivation in the name of spiritual growth.  But growing up Catholic, there was always something just a lil bit badass about having ashes smudged onto my forehead with the forbidding admonishment: Remember, Man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.  

I remember other kids would rub their foreheads clean in the bus on the way home, embarrassed. Me? Well, even then, I guess, I had an appreciation for symbolism and ritual.  I took it in stride.  It didn't seem to bother me that I'd been marked for inevitable death.  I felt that something special had happened to me that day and I wanted it to linger.

I never associated that smudge with sin. I associated it with mortality.  The ash was death-stuff, not a mark on my soul. I couldn't have articulated it then, but looking back I recognize that I felt the truth of that inexorable cycle as the organic thing it is.  For the living, death is a required course. It didn't weigh heavily upon me.  For the first time writing this, it occurs to me that they were trying to frighten me into good behavior. At the end of life comes judgment and sinners face the flames.  Except I've never believed in the whole lake-of-fire thing.  Ha! the tactic was wasted on me.

From the first time I read it in 4th grade, I knew that "God is Love" is the most powerful statement in the bible.  By middle school, I had realized that hell is a separation from God or Love (same thing) - a state we can experience right here on Earth.  I've never feared hell. I've never feared God. Love is not something to be feared. There was a time when I did fear death.  As I passed from my 20's to my 30's, I felt the acceleration of time that comes with age.  I became acutely aware that my life was not on track with my destiny.  I was not really afraid of dying, but rather the unlived life.

Now, very much aligned with my Spirit's calling, I am down with Death.  It doesn't frighten me.  I happen to love the idea of mortality. Don't get me wrong: I'm no middle-aged Goth-Girl, brooding on the morbid and the morose. I'm certainly not welcoming my demise, but I'm not resisting it either.  I trust that it will come in its perfect time.  Until then, I want to live.

The crisp awareness that this too shall pass brings life into focus.  The finite gives life its contour.  Limitations of time, energy, resources and awareness shape our choices.  Choices shape our life journey.  In the end, these outlines form the boundaries of our lives. Within those boundaries, lie our accomplishments, our contributions, our creations, our joys, our love received and expressed and the markers for continued evolution in our next incarnation.  These boundaries beget the magic and the measure of our lives.  Mine will be a life well-lived.

When I shuffle off this sweet mortality, my body will indeed return to dust.  I hope that some beloved someone will take that burnt ash and spread it on the winds over Canyon de Chelly.  Let my dust return to to dust, replenishing the Mother.  My spirit will fly!