“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I spoke those words a few nights ago as I traced an ashy cross on the foreheads of people I love. Someone also spoke them over me, which started me thinking not only about my death, but also my life.
The dust language crystallized something I’ve been thinking about in recent days. It made me think about the words we say at the grave: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, says the Spirit. They rest from their labors and their works shall follow them.”
That’s been stuck in my mind of late. While I didn’t know her beyond a brief introduction many years ago, Aimee Wallis Buchanan lived the sort of life for which many of us long. She died early this month at the age of forty-four. Ever since, voices from around the world have borne witness to the ways Aimee’s life made a difference in the world. She was loved beyond telling, and she will be missed.
I am also mindful that, even as I write these words, my Uncle Harry’s death is imminent. While he has lived a long and full life, he has left many marks on my life, as well as the lives of others, and he will be missed.
Aimee’s recent and Harry’s nearing death make me consider the ways I am living my life, and I’m not liking much of what I see. So many things undone; so many relationships diminished or forgotten; so many hopes not realized.
The dusty cross is no longer visible on my forehead, but it has done its work again this year.
The truth is, I am painfully aware of the reality of death, including my own which will one day come. What I often forget is that I am not dead yet, which means I still have a chance to live the kind of life I long for–a life of generosity and caring, of love and friendship, of shared hopes and simple joys.
I guess I just want to live in such a way that goodness and mercy are the works that follow me when I once more return to dust. And it wouldn’t hurt to be missed.