Many of us have an intimate familiarity with ashes. My surviving son and I collected his twin brother’s ashes from the funeral home about a week after the funeral. When I described that day to a friend whose daughter had died in a sudden accident, she asked if we had looked inside. “Immediately,” I responded.
Since that day, I have scattered those ashes all over the place, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from a Canadian river to the tip of Florida, and across mountains and waters in between. Perhaps you have done the same. Or perhaps an urn, or the body which remains, rests in a place sacred to you.
No doubt those first days are emblazoned in your mind and heart, whether they took place recently or long ago.
And, unless you have blocked them out, the words you spoke, or prayed, or didn’t, may still echo, as today’s words from the prophet Isaiah do during Ash Wednesday services
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and God will say, Here I am.(Isaiah 58:9)
I don’t know whether you felt God’s answer to your call for help, or whether you did not. I don’t know whether you know a strong faith, or have never imagined any such thing, or have abandoned what you did once believe. I tend to think these days that God’s presence materialized in the form of the friends and family who arrived on our doorstep almost immediately. And since this is a day for pondering the dust to which we shall all return, I am thinking of the friends, already having become sad and yet also sometimes humorous experts, who sat around our kitchen table in those first dark days, sharinging their stories of bodies and ashes and decisions made and questioned and made again.
Perhaps the next few days would be a time to give thanks for those who share so generously out of their own heartache, so that we might not move alone into the depths of grief. May we treasure them even as we wish that none of us know what we know now.