Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.
These are the words most commonly spoken at Ash Wednesday services, services of reflection and turning inward; opportunities for us to look upon our lives as finite gifts which will end one day, and to remember the dust from whence we came and to which we shall return.
I spend the vast majority of my free time these days alternating between making centerpieces for my wedding and reading theoretical papers on how I can most effectively serve those people who walk this dusty earth lacking the luxury of being able to remember that they are dust and that to dust they shall return.
Remember. For people living with dementia, this is sometimes a nearly impossible task. Rarely can someone living with dementia remember on command, in fact, the memories overtake them seemingly at random, sometimes creating more harm than good as the painful realization that mother has been gone for decades sets in and is relived all over again.
Remember. Remember what? That aging bodies fall apart and on the series of losses that constitute old age, your life hangs in the balance every day?
Remember that you used to have access to your most treasured memories at your fingertips and now with each passing day they face the threat of extermination?
Nah. If this were all there was to remember, Ash Wednesday would be a sad state of affairs, indeed. We are called to remember our finitude and hold it in tension with our hope.
Yes, aging bodies decline with the passing years, and God is present in that decline. God wipes each tear and feels each ache deep in God’s holy and empathetic joints and bones.
Yes, one day our lives will be no more, and God will guide us through that last part of the journey safely to the other side.
The hope in Ash Wednesday is that, though we come to the altar of the Lord, broken and wearied from our journeys through life,
the love and hope we have in Christ seals our broken shards together like the mortar holding a stained glass piece together in beauty.
Christ’s love holds our mortality, our finitude and our eternity together in beautiful tension that reminds us that
in brokenness we find wholeness,
in dementia, we find imagination and new ways of re-membering ourselves to the body of Christ (I borrowed that one from my pastor’s DMin),
in community we find strength for the journey,
in Christ we find healing love.
Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return; remember that God is with you every step of the way.