From dust we came, and to dust we shall return.
That’s the merry message of Ash Wednesday.
We’ve debated before, and we’ll debate again, whether death is a friend or a thief or somehow darkly both. Today, all we’re asked to remember is that we’re made of earth and time, and no amount of kombucha or intermittent fasting or positive thinking will save us from our own skin.
We face this far too often at Tabby’s Place. Over and over and over again, we do “everything right,” only to lose the lives that have become entwined with ours. Death ravages but can’t unravel that cord, and so we ache across the veil.
Max. Ali. Jackie. Sabine. Abalone. Most recently, a feral pearl named Joan.
A thousand thousand names known only to you and to me and to God.
From dust they — our precious ones, our little ones, our whiskered healers — came, and to dust they shall return.
Whether we rage against the dying of the light or claw our way to acceptance, we can’t wrest death from the ones we adore. We are limited creatures, free-willed but unable to free ourselves from the dust that clings to all. Incapable of evading death, there’s only one way to escape the ache.
We can choose to clutch our dusty hearts to our chests, terrified, hummingbird-thrumming, quarantined from the certain risk of love.
We can. But we won’t.
No. Over and over and over again, we stare into the swirling dust, we count the cost, and we fling our hearts down on the altar, knowing full well that they will be disintegrated. Over and over and over again.
And somehow, from that sacrifice, comes something stronger than death.
By laying down everything we have, we are given the only thing that precedes and outlives dust.
In dying, our love becomes eternal.
I don’t presume to understand any of this even dimly, dear ones. We are needy, feeble, hapless and holy creatures, and we need great, mysterious assistance to make it through even a single day of feeling and being.
But I do know — and I’ll stake my heart on the claim — that assistance comes, that we are never alone, that love is stronger than death, that many dust storms cannot quench it.
May we feel our feebleness today, but rest in a promise greater than our hearts. We are not alone. Love will not die. Dust will rise in magnificent light.