I keep thinking back to Ash Wednesday, when I received ashes on my forehead. I walked to the front of the silent church, and as the pastor marked the sign of the cross in ashes, tears came as my eyes met hers. "Remember you are dust," she told me, "and to dust you will return."
There I was, marked for death.
I kept the ashes on my forehead for a good 5 minutes before I smeared them off. Accidentally at first, but then with great vigour finished off the job. I wanted it off. I was finished with that curse of death.
It's not something I think about often. I don't think that I fear death (not too much, anyway), it just doesn't usually hit me square in the face. There are more messages out there that remind me of my possibility and my life than my mortality. Or the mortality of those closest to me, especially my children.
We visited a young friend in this hospital on Friday, and each day has brought more questions about mortality. Why do children get cancer, Mom? Why were some people in the Bible healed and others weren't, Dad? Mom, why can God bring Jesus back to life but not our guinea pig?
There is nothing like visiting a children's hospital to remind me of frailty and of our ultimate lack of control. I get choked up imagining my own children in their place - an uncertain future, lives cut too short, and I desperately want to protect them from it. I don't want them to be marked for death. I want to control.
That's a piece of Lent for me - giving up control, and surrendering my living and my dying. Realizing that I'm not just a giant dust bunny, but a beloved creation of God, made by precious, God-infused matter. The ashes remind me of my mortality, but also ask a simple question of legacy:
what do you want to do with this one, glorious life?