Six years (almost) into ministry, I preached my first Ash Wednesday sermon and for the first time placed the ashes on the foreheads of my congregation. (Why not before--I'm not really sure.) I had to/got to(?) mark the sign of the cross on my precious Baby Girl's sleeping face and say, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." It didn't choke me up then as much as today.
It's been a rough week here...
How many breaths, how many days, how many years are enough?
On Thursday last week, we celebrated the funeral of a 95 year old woman, who up until a few months ago was full of life. I saw her just before Christmas and took Baby Girl in to the nursing home to see her. She had recently moved to the home and hadn't seen Baby Girl yet. She told me how beautiful my girl was/is, "the only baby more beautiful was mine," she said.
On Monday this week, we celebrated the funeral of a 73 year old woman, who has had health problems for years, such that I assumed incorrectly that she was much older than she is. 73--that's only 4 years older than my mother and I thought of her more like a grandma. She's struggled, yes, but death was a shock--a sudden downturn after my most recent visit to her in the hospital when she was going in for an angiogram (routine stuff for her).
Just now I returned to the office after sitting for an hour with a 90-something year old woman whose family called to say that she was now on hospice care. She had a stroke a few weeks ago and has given up. They said that she had been looking good but today looked bad. Unfortunately, no family was there when I was. I left a prayer shawl made by members of our congregation and a note. I agree--she didn't look good and I don't expect her to live very long.
But on the way home, it hit me hard. "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." And I thought about my Baby Girl. I realize that I don't think about the future much...I think about today. Maybe it's because I know the fragility of life--both from this line of work but also from losing my dad when I was young. I love her so much and don't want to smother her as she grows, but I want to make the most of whatever moments we have. Perhaps that is why this trying to be pastor and mother is so hard for me. I don't want to spend every second with her; I know that's not healthy for either one of us. But we're dust--we only have now.